Why Jeff Sessions' testimony on Russian Federation is important

Jane Richards
June 14, 2017

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday afternoon.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to testify Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey testified last week that Trump shooed Sessions out of the Oval Office to be alone with Comey, then asked Comey to back off the FBI's investigations into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Days after that, Mr Sessions also corrected his confirmation hearing testimony to inform the committee about the two meetings with Mr Kislyak. Sessions argued that in the context of the hearing, "my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as I understood it".

Rosenstein said that if the president ordered him to fire the special counsel handling the Russian Federation investigation, he would only comply if the request was "lawful and appropriate".

"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.

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Sadie Gurman and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.

Addressing allegations that he had unreported meetings with Russian officials while he advised the Trump campaign, Sessions said he had already acknowledged two encounters a year ago with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

What I think is curious is why not the follow up by Sessions: "What did the president say to you?"

Sessions has come under fire for not properly disclosing his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. So far, he has said his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation did not prevent his involvement in the firing of FBI Chief James B. Comey.

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The attorney general has recused himself from the Russia investigation - a decision he sought to cast on Tuesday as resulting from his role on the Trump campaign, rather than because of any inappropriate interaction with Russian officials.

Sessions was adamant that he did not have a private meeting with Kislyak at that event.

Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swiveled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, the former FBI director named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russian Federation issue.

Sessions is the most senior member of Trump's administration caught up in the Russian Federation controversy. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after it was disclosed he met with the Russian ambassador to the USA twice previous year, despite testifying at his confirmation hearing that he had no communications with the Russians. "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". "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the Trump campaign", Sessions said.

Democratic Sen Ron Wyden of OR asked Mr Sessions about suggestions arising from Mr Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal. Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March after the revelations of the two Kislyak meetings.

Sessions' repeated dodges and refusals to answer questions led to building frustration from Democrats throughout the hearing. He started his questioning chastising the members of the committee and then opened his questioning asking Sessions if he read fiction and liked James Bond and Jason Bourne movies.

Comey himself had a riveting appearance before the same Senate panel last week, with some key moments centered on Sessions.

Director Comey said during his Senate testimony that the reasons put forth by the Trump administration for his dismissal didn't make any sense.

"The scope of my recusal, however, does not and can not interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation", he said. "The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information". Ron Wyden. "I'm following historic policies of Department of Justice". Comey told the intelligence committee in a closed session that Sessions may have had a third, undisclosed interaction with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., according to people familiar with the briefing.

Though the Justice Department maintains that it has fully disclosed the extent of Sessions' foreign contacts past year, lawmakers have continued to press him for answers about an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where both Sessions and Kislyak attended a foreign policy speech by Trump.

Other reports by VgToday

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