Mr. President, I rise today to express my deep concern about this administration's ties to the country of Russia. We are just three months into the 115th Congress, and I have come to the Senate floor multiple times to discuss inappropriate contact between Trump Administration officials and the Russian government. This is truly unprecedented.
Our constitution was set up to guarnatee that our democracy would be free of influence from foreign powers. For months, U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia used covert attacks, espionage, and propoganda to try to undermine our democracy. Reports show it, and the facts prove it.
As I learned from my trip at the end of the year with Senator McCain and Senator Graham to the Blatics, Georgia, and Ukraine. This is not unique to our country, our elections, and our democracy. This is something that has gone on for years. Russia shut down the internet in the little country of Estonia simply because they had the audacity to move a bronze statue to a public square. Or in Lithuania where they invited members of the Ukrainian parliament that were in exile from Crimea in Kiev to Lithuania to celebrate their 25th anniversary of independence from Russia. And they attempted to hack into the computers of the members of parliament in Lithuania. This is not just--as Senator Marco Rubio noted--this is not just about one party or one candidate. Well, it's not even about one country. This is an assault on democracies across the world.
Last month, we learned that the very day President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for its unprecedented attacks on our democracy, General Flynn, a member of the Trump transition team, spoke to a senior Russian official regarding those sanctions. The National Security Advisor, the person charged with the most sensitive matters of U.S. national security, misled the Vice President of the United States, and in turn, the American people. He resigned, as did the former chairman of the Trump campaign. He resigned.
And now we have learned that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian Ambassador. Fine. Members meet with ambassadors. We know that happens. But in fact, he met with the Russian ambassador only three days after our then-President, President Obama, was at the G-20 Summit. He was at the G-20 Summit, and he met with Vladimir Putin himself, and he told him to stop the cyber attacks. But he also told him that America was not going to back down from the sanctions. In fact, President Obama told the whole world that day in a press conference that we were not going to roll over and back down on the sanctions against Russia imposed because of their illegal invasion of Ukraine. What happened three days later? Then-Senator Sessions, now our Attorney General, in fact met with the Russian ambassador.
Senator Sessions was then asked about contacts with the Russians from Trump officials during his hearing. And I was there. I serve on the Judiciary Committee. And as Senator Franken himself, who posed some of those questions--in addition to Senator Leahy--has noted at best the answer was misleading.
And that is why I feel so strongly that a press conference today is not enough. That Senator Sessions must come before under oath the Judiciary Committe and answer the questions that we now have. What are those questions? What was actually said at the meeting? Were sanctions discussed? Remember, three days--this meeting occurs three days after President Obama has said he won't roll back the sanctions. Were the sanctions disucssed? Why did the Russian ambassador, by the way, not meet with many other members that day?
We may not have a full accounting, but it appears that many of the Armed Service Commitee members did not meet with the Russian ambassador that day. Number two, what were the discussions with the Trump Administration then-campaign officials back in September before that meeting occurred before Senator Sessions and the Russian ambassador? What were the discussions leading into it? What were the discussions after the meeting? Those are things that we truly need to know.
For weeks, Senator Sessions could have corrected the record. For weeks, during the time in which this Russian issue and the contacts with the Trump Administration were discussed thoroughly. For weeks, I have been calling on Senator Sessions, now Attorney General Sessions, to recuse himself from any investigations into Russia. There are clear Department of Justice guidelines about conflicts of interest. And as I have said for weeks, when you read those rules, there is a clear conflict of interest. Today, Attorney General Sessions agreeed to a partial recusal. He recused himself on the part of the investigation that relates to the presidential campaign. Well, guess what? The American people deserve a full recusal.
Think about it. The meeting between General Flynn and the Russian ambassador took place after the campaign ended. The meeting that we've just learned about today between the President's son-in-law and Russian officials happened after the campaign ended. We need a full recusal and an independent counsel to manage the investigation of contacts between the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and the Trump Administration.
I believe, as I've noted earlier, that Attorney General Sessions must come before the Senate Judiciary Commitee under oath and answer these questions. Were sanctions discussed? What were discussions leading into that meeting with the Russian ambassador? What were his discussions afterwards? And I'm sure my other colleagues on the Judiciary Commitee have many, many questions.
I know when I asked about Russia at Senator Sessions's nomination hearing, I asked him very specifically if he had any reason to doubt the evidence put forward by our 17 intelligence agencies that there had, in fact, been an attempt my a foreign government--the country of Russia--to influence our election. He said he had no reason to doubt those findings. He had no reason to doubt those findings. So, he clearly understood when you read that report how important this is. Both the $200 million funded propoganda by Russian TV, as well as the hacking, as well as the attempt to influence the election.
So, we have these facts. We know that the meeting took place just three days after the President, our then-President--President Obama--met with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit. We know that is a time when Putin was told by the President of the United States to stop undermining the U.S. election system with cyber attacks. Remember, this is back in September before the election even occurs. We saw General Flynn step down over his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Then we have that meeting. To me, it seems like a pattern.
I want to not only see the facts through the investigations that are ongoing, but also hear from the Attorney General himself. That's why I'm calling for the Department of Justice Inspector General to investigate the actions of the Attorney General and whether the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign and Administration contact with the Russian government has been compromised in any way.
We know that Russia attempted to interfere with our election. Russia tried to undermine our democracy. This is not fake news. This is as real as it gets. Aides and surrogates of thei Administration during the campaign and the transition were in contact with officials from a foreign government that was actively working to bring our democracy down. They were actively working to influence our election. And as a Senator Rubio noted, one time it was one candidate and one political party. The next time it will be another candidate and the other political party unless we all come together in a bipartisan fashion to get to the bottom of the facts.
So, how do we do that beyond the recusal and independent counsel and having Senator Sessions come back before the Judiciary Committee to thoroughly answer my questions and the questions of my colleagues? Well, the other way we do it is by having an independent commission. And that is why I introduced--along with Senators Cardin, Leahy, Feinstein, and Carper--the bill that was announced by Senator Cardin and myself and Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, the bill that would create an independent, nonpartisan commission to uncover all the facts and make sure future elections and political campaigns are safeguarded from foreign interference. Now, in addition to it, because this committee and experts appointed by this Congress from both sides of the aisle--just like the 9/11 Commission so successfully did--could actually not just uncover some facts publicly that aren't known publicly. But most importantly, they can make recommendations to make sure that this doesn't happen again. By the way, there are upcoming elections in Germany and in France and getting the information out there not just helps our democracy, it also helps democracies in other parts of the world.
We also need--and I touched on this earlier--we need an independent counsel and special prosecutor to look into all the contacts between the Trump Administration and the campaign and have a full recusal. But what else can Congress do besides the independent commission? Well, we have to make sure that the intelligence committee proceeds with its investigation. I am pleased that Senator Burr and Senator Warner have come together and announced that they're going to do a full and thorough investigation and that they will also be looking into the contacts with the campaign. Incredibly important.
Now we have the issue of sanctions. As I mentioned, the day that the Obama Administration was imposing additional santcions on Russia and the Trump Campaign, General Flynn was actually meeting during this transition day with the ambassador to Russia to perhaps undermine those sanctions. I was with Senator McCain and Graham in Eastern Europe. As I noted, when were in the Baltics, we heard and met with leaders, prime ministers, presidents of these countries in Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia who have seen this movie before. We went to Ukraine. We went to Georgia. We heard from Ukraine. 6,500 attempts to hack into their country's systems--computer systems alone. Shutting down access in Estonia. Trolls in a building in Moscow. Nearly 1,000 people that are right now working and have been working to undermine democracies all around the world. So, this isn't just about defending our own democracy. It's about defending the world's democracies.
It's about saying to our country that thinks they can get us to roll over and say, hey, you can influence our election. No. That's not not right. That's why we worked for expanded sanctions. That's why we introduced on a bipartisan basis with Senator McCain and Senator Graham--and I was one of the original sponsors with Senator Cardin and others--the Countering Russian Hostilities Act. It's legislation that would impose stronger sanctions against Russia. The sanctions would address Russia's cyber attacks, its human rights violations, and its illegal annexation of land in Ukraine and Georgia.
Just this weekend on Sunday afternoon, I met with my Ukrainian community. Hundreds of people showed up on a Sunday afternoon in Minnesota because they are so concerned about their friends and relatives, and they so believe in our democracy. Right down the road from the Ukrainian Center where we held our meeting and where I listened and answered questions from my constituents is a deli owned by a Ukrainian immigrant family. And the parents came over to our country and fled oppression. And they came over to our country, and they bought this deli, and they put this beautiful mural. It goes across an entire wall. It's a beautiful photo, picture of our Statue of Liberty, that beacon of democracy. And because of that, the Kramarczuks, they believe in our country. They believe in America. They believe in a country that's going to stand up for the freedom of the press, that's going to stand up for freedom of religion, that's going to stand up for them and their rights as immigrants to be citizens in this country. They believe in it because they've seen the worst of it. They've seen dictatorships, oppression. They expect our country--as they serve Ukranian food to people from all over Minnesota in front of that big mural of the Statue of Liberty--they believe that our country is going to stand up for democracies. And that was the message that Senator McCain and Senator Graham and I brought to the people of Ukraine. We not only, of course, were in Eastern Ukraine on the sea--cold, snow coming down, hundreds of Ukrainian troops--hearing the stories of a mother so young who had just lost her son a week before to Russian separatists snipers. Heard the stories--10,000 people killed just since the conflict began, standing up for democracy just like we have stood up for our democracy.
So when all of these discussions go on about recusals and about who should resign and what should happen, let's remember what this is all about. This is about saving our democracy and making our democracy strong so we can continue to be the beacon that those Ukrainians put on their wall in their deli because they believe in this country so much that this isn't about partisan divides. This is simply about being a democracy. Getting to the bottom when something goes wrong and a foreign country is trying to influecne things, you have to be able to say, I want to what happened here. If I'm a Democrat or Republican, I want to know what happened so it doesn't happen again. I want to be able to protect our citizens and our election system and our democracy. That's what this is about.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.MS. KLOBUCHAR: MR. PRESIDENT, I RISE TODAY TO EXPRESS MY DEEP CONCERN ABOUT THIS ADMINISTRATION'S TIES TO THE COUNTRY OF RUSSIA. WE ARE JUST THREE