Sen. Al Franken erupted Wednesday during a Senate hearing considering the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.
The Democratic senator from Minnesota attacked Sessions for what Franken said was misrepresenting his participation in civil-rights cases when he was an attorney and riled against Cruz for allegedly distorting Sessions’ voting record. He ended with a fiery rant skewering Trump for claiming he would have won the popular vote.
In one of the most contentious exchanges during the eight-hour grilling Sessions received during his first day of Senate confirmation hearings, Franken suggested the Alabama senator had exaggerated his involvement in some civil-rights cases. And on Wednesday, Franken criticized Cruz for what he called “shading” Sessions’ record.
“Look, Sen. Cruz is a brilliant attorney. But he doesn’t have a case here. And the fact of the matter is that Sen. Sessions has misrepresented his record by claiming to have personally handle cases that he simply did not handle!” Franken said. “Sen. Sessions would not have tolerated that kind of misrepresentation from a nominee before this committee, and none of us should either.”
Franken then turned his ire to Trump’s claims that he won the popular vote if “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
“Let’s pause for a fact-check,” Franken said. “President Trump lost the popular vote to the tune of 2.8 million votes. That’s a fact. It’s not an alternative fact — it’s a fact.”
Franken said this was relevant because in the original confirmation hearing, he asked the senator about Trump’s claims, and Sessions said he hadn’t discussed voter fraud with the president “in any depth.”
“The Department of Justice under the attorney general’s leadership and direction is tasked with protecting the right to vote and with prosecuting fraud,” Franken said. “It seems unusual to me that the president-elect would make such a bold claim asserting that a fraud of truly epic proportions had occurred, and that he wouldn’t bother to discuss it with the guy he appointed to be the nation’s top cop. But that didn’t seem to bother Sen. Sessions.”
Franken then cited a study from the Brennan Center at New York University — which analyzed 1 billion ballots cast and found just 31 incidents of in-person voter fraud — as evidence that Trump’s insistence there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election was wrong.
He continued his tirade:
“Last week after obsessing about how many people attended his inauguration, President Trump again claimed that he lost the popular vote because millions of undocumented immigrants cast illegal votes. Only this time, the president got more specific. It wasn’t just ‘millions of illegal votes.’ This time, he said it was somewhere between three and five million votes. I wonder how he came up with 3 million illegal votes. I wonder if it could have anything to do with the fact that he lost by 2.86 million votes. This is beyond outrageous. This is profoundly disturbing.”
“When the president of the United States lies about the existence of widespread voter fraud, it is the job of the attorney general to call him out on it. The attorney general has an obligation to tell it like it is,” Franken concluded. “Before this committee votes to advance this nomination, it’s important that we know whether Sen. Sessions is able to separate fact from fiction and speak truth to power. I am not confident that he is and I will be voting against him, and I thank the chairman for the indulgence.”
After all the fireworks, the committee approved Sessions’ advancement to the full Senate along party lines.
— CNN (@CNN) February 1, 2017