Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Jeff Sessions Testifies in Senate Intelligence Hearing

Jeff Sessions Testifies in Senate Intelligence Hearing

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sworn in before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 13, 2017.

Faced with statements by President Trump that he fired Comey in part because of the Russian Federation probe, Sessions stood by his argument that Comey had earned negative reviews due to the "stunning" way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, saying Comey never should have spoken publicly about it during the 2016 election campaign.

Asked about media reports that he had met with Kislyak on a third occasion at a Washington hotel previous year, Sessions testified that did not remember meeting or having a conversation with the ambassador at the event.

Where the two statements overlapped were on the event in which Trump asked Comey to remain behind after a meeting, which Sessions admitted, and on Comey coming to Sessions to say that he shouldn't be in private conversation with Trump.

Sessions said President Trump did talk about Comey's firing and said he was upset with Comey's handling of the Russian investigation.

In one of the most intriguing moments of Comey's testimony last week, the former FBI chief said he was hesitant to fully discuss with Sessions his interactions with Trump, because he knew that Sessions would soon be recusing himself from the investigation.

"American's don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged and off-limits, or that they can't be provided in public, or that it would be quote, 'inappropriate, ' for witnesses to tell us what they know", Wyden said in remarks before posing a series of questions to Sessions.

His testimony came just six days after James Comey, the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director, appeared before the same committee.

Two of the letters were sent when Comey was still director, and requested the FBI "investigate all contacts the Russian ambassador, or any other Russian officials, may have had with Attorney General Jeff Sessions or his staff".

"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations", he said. When Comey came forward saying he was reopening the investigation in October of a year ago, Sessions praised him.

When asked about rumors that the president was considering firing special prosecutor Robert Mueller, Sanders said the president wasn't planning on doing so any time soon. Five current and former US officials said they are aware of classified intelligence suggesting there was some sort of private encounter between Trump and his aides and the Russian envoy. "A black woman can't question a white attorney general?" he wrote.

During a later contentious exchange, Harris grilled Sessions about whether he consulted with Justice Department officials on his legal justification to decline to answer certain questions during the hearing. "I can tell you that with absolute certainty". First, it looks bad optically to hide behind executive privilege, especially where the conversation is something about which there's already been so much public discussion, some of which fueled by the president's own tweets.

As attorney general, Sessions is unlikely to answer in detail questions about conversations he's had with Trump.

Nyasha Junior, a professor at Temple University replied that "I've learned that even when I don't say anything, I'm still labeled an #AngryBlackWoman". Ron Wyden (D-OR), decrying "secret innuendo" from Comey and other critics. Press reports have identified at least two meetings between Sessions and Kislyak in 2016.

And while he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions insisted, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations".

What's not clear is if Trump will be forced to invoke executive privilege to stop Sessions from testifying again, or from handing over the documents senators requested Tuesday. I am concerned that the president still does not recognize the severity of the threat.

By mid-morning Monday, Sessions had issued a statement agreeing to testify publicly. Sessions said no. "What would you have done?" And lawmakers throughout the hearing pressed Sessions on providing emails and other documents to them. Sessions provided Trump with one of the memos they used to justify Comey's firing.

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