Jeff Sessions and Al Franken during the Sessions confirmation hearing on January 10, 2017.
Sessions and Franken go at it again
01:57 - Source: CNN

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Sen. Al Franken grilled Jeff Sessions during a Senate judiciary hearing Wednesday

The now attorney general was a top advocate for Donald Trump's candidacy

Washington CNN  — 

Jeff Sessions told Democratic Sen. Al Franken Wednesday that he had no “improper discussions” with the Russians in a tense exchange during the attorney general’s hearing with the Senate judiciary committee Wednesday.

“Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, ‘I have not had communications with the Russians,’” Franken said. “The ambassador from Russia is Russian. And how your responses morphed from, ‘I did not have communications with the Russians’ to ‘I did not discuss substantive, I did not discuss the political campaign’ and then finally going to, ‘I did not discuss interference in the election.’ That, to me, is moving the goal posts every time. … By the end, we’re going to a 75-yard field goal.”

“Let me just say, without hesitation, that I conducted no improper discussions with Russians at any time regarding a campaign or any other item facing this country,” Sessions started his answer, before an aside about time.

“Mr. Chairman, I don’t have to sit here and listen –” Sessions continued before being interrupted.

“You’re the one who’s testifying,” Franken responded.

“Without having a chance to respond, give me a break,” Sessions said.

Franken grilled him during the hearing on reported meetings between Sessions and Russian officials during the campaign.

The Minnesota Democrat recalled Sessions’ confirmation hearing when the former Alabama senator, a top advocate for President Donald Trump’s candidacy, said he didn’t have communications with Russians, but it was later revealed that he did.

And in a June hearing with the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions raised his voice in indignation as he rejected claims that he had colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election as an “appalling and detestable lie.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, Franken pressed hard on Sessions’ response at the time and what he talked about with the Russian ambassador.

Sessions maintained throughout their exchange that he gave his answers during his confirmation hearing in “good faith” and that he had no “improper discussions” with Russians.

“I don’t think it’s fair to you to suggest otherwise,” he said.

Sessions met last year with top Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak in Washington. Kislyak’s interactions with Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department in March.

CNN’s Meg Wagner and Tal Kopan contributed to the report.