Attorney General Jeff Sessions has served as a controversial national figure since President Donald Trump nominated the former Republican Alabama senator to serve as the nation's top cop. Now, less than four weeks since assuming office, a majority of Americans already want Sessions out.
According to a majority of voters polled in a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday, Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing about his contact with the Russians while serving as an emissary for the Trump campaign and should resign. Reports emerged earlier this year that top aides and allies to Trump’s 2016 campaign were in constant contact with senior Russian intelligence officials before election day.
Unsurprisingly, that number breaks mostly along partisan lines. More than eight in 10 Democrats said the attorney general should resign, while only 11 percent of Republicans said Sessions should step down. Additionally, 43 percent of American voters already had an unfavorable opinion of Sessions' job performance. The poll of 1,123 American voters took place from March 2 to March 6, and has a margin-of-error of +/- 2.7 percent.
Pollsters also found more than half of those surveyed believe Sessions lied about speaking with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at his January hearing. According to the poll, 52 percent of voters believe Sessions committed perjury when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians” during his Senate confirmation hearings.
In January, Sessions was under oath when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had not been in contact with any Russian official. However, as reports from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal at the beginning of this month revealed, Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met twice ― once at a Heritage Foundation event in July, and another time in Sessions’ Senate office in September― while Session served in a senior surrogate role for the Trump campaign and now the attorney general is being probed by federal investigators for those communications.
"The gavel comes down hard on Attorney General Jeff Sessions," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "He lied and he should quit because of it, say Americans, who are clearly very concerned about the Russian affair and all the administration personnel involved with it."
A majority of Americans voters are expressing a sentiment that only one U.S. senator has dared to utter, so far.
“Listen, I’ve been cutting him a lot of slack. I’ve been refusing to say that he lied," Democratic Minnesota Sen. Al Franken told CNN's Jake Tapper on Tuesday. It was a question asked by Franken at Sessions' confirmation hearing that got the loyal Trump supporter tripped up. Even as he recused himself from any Department of Justice investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, Sessions insisted that he had not lied when he told Franken that he “did not have communications with the Russians:"
SEN. FRANKEN: If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SEN. SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment.
Thirty-four percent of voters said Sessions did something illegal by making that claim, and 29 percent said his testimony was unethical but not illegal.
Following his recusal, Sessions followed-up with a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday insisting his statements were correct all along and that he would not return for any additional testimony.
"I wanted to wait for this letter to come out. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion that he just perjured himself,” Franken said, accusing Session of committing a crime in order to be confirmed as the nation's top prosecutor:
Sixty-one percent of respondents also said they were either very or somewhat concerned about Trump’s relationship with Moscow, with 54 percent of those polled said they disapprove of Trump’s handling U.S. policy towards Russia.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has launched an investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. Quinnipiac's poll finds that 66 percent of Americans actually want an “independent commission” to investigate, however.