AG Jeff Sessions curious use of executive privilege -- for Trump

Owen Stevens
June 14, 2017

Sessions vigorously denied having an undisclosed meeting with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. He also declared it a "detestable and appalling lie" to suggest he was aware of or took part in any collusion between Russian Federation and the election campaign that sent Trump to the White House.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions infuriated Democratic senators Tuesday by repeatedly thwarting their efforts to shed light on the firing of James Comey, as he blasted secret innuendo and leaks over his own conduct. Afterward, Comey asked his boss to make sure that wouldn't happen again, but Sessions showed no reaction to his plea.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. He cut his teeth as a federal prosecutor in Mobile, Alabama, at the height of the drug war, and numerous policies he has tried to implement as attorney general have roots in that time period.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn't sought any information on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, he said.

Sessions defended his decision to participate in the firing of Comey, even though he had recused himself from the Russian matter and Trump later said that the probe was in his mind when he pushed the Federal Bureau of Investigation chief overboard. He says he has confidence in the Mueller probe. Sessions could assert it on Trump's behalf, which would trigger a court battle over whether he can be compelled to answer.

"I think it depends on the scope of the questions", White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.

"The suggestion that I participated in any collusion that I was aware of, any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie", Sessions said. It was an honest mistake.

The reason the deputy attorney general is in charge is his boss has recused himself.

"My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering", Comey said last week. The FBI Director was ostensibly fired over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

In his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he did not have "communications" with the Russians during the presidential campaign. Trump only brought it up in a interview a few days later.

But, more than that, if the attorney general allowed himself to be used as a pretext to give justification for a firing that was made on other grounds, that not only violates his recusal.

But, also, we need to get answers to the questions about what went into the firing of Director Comey.

"I'm not able to invoke executive privilege, that's the President's prerogative", Sessions reiterated.

JOHNSON: Well, Democrats were trying to find out. I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice and basically backed him up in his concerns.

"It is really unclear what he is going to say, and I am a little bit surprised because in the past, he has gotten into trouble when he said things and they turned out not to be entirely true", said Jens Ohlin, a professor of law at Cornell University. And he said even though the president did not assert executive privilege today he might in the future.

Sessions said he had no recollection of speaking with Kislyak at the meeting, but said nothing inappropriate would have been discussed if they had met. And Senator Angus King, an independent from ME, says Sessions was just trying to have it both ways.

And for more on the attorney general's testimony, I'm now joined by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

During the two-and-a-half hour hearing, he engaged in testy exchanges with several senators who pressed him for details on his discussions with Trump - which he refused to provide in the name of confidentiality.

As Mr Trump tried to shoo everyone out to talk alone with Mr Comey, Mr Sessions lingered, in Comey's account. Sessions also did not answer whether he had ever discussed firing Comey in the context of the Russian Federation investigation with the president. But many Democrats have accused Sessions of misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January confirmation hearing.

Other reports by VgToday

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