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Jeff Sessions’ Russian connection testimony to be in writing

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to provide amended written testimony on Monday to respond to senators’ questions about his contact with Russia’s ambassador, a move unlikely to please Democratic senators who sought to bring him back before a Senate committee to answer questions in person.

“In light of the letter received from Senators late this afternoon, the Attorney General will respond to their questions along with his amended testimony on Monday,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said Friday in a statement.

The nine Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday submitted a letter asking that the committee’s chairman — Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican — hold a follow-up hearing so they could question Mr. Sessions about his failure to disclose the meetings with the ambassador and his decision to recuse himself from any investigations related to the presidential campaign.

The senators wrote that they do not believe “that a written submission to correct the record is sufficient” and that they “need to hear directly from the Attorney General as well as have the opportunity to ask him questions in public.”

Mr. Grassley said he had no intention of asking the attorney general to appear before the committee in a hearing scheduled solely for that purpose.

Under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, President Trump’s attorney general nominee testified that he had not met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on matters dealing with the election campaign.

Mr. Sessions, who endorsed Mr. Trump early in the campaign, came under fire last week when news emerged that he had met twice with Mr. Kislyak last year. Then a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Sessions was serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded this year that Russia sought to undermine U.S. democracy through cyberattacks during the presidential campaign and aspired to help Mr. Trump win the White House in part by discrediting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

The FBI, as well as House and Senate intelligence committees, are investigating Russia’s interference in the election and suspected ties to the Trump campaign.

Following the Justice Department’s confirmation that the attorney general had met with the Russian ambassador, Mr. Sessions announced on Thursday that he would recuse himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president.”

Mr. Sessions described the meetings in more detail, saying he met with Mr. Kislyak once at his Senate office in September in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and in July amid a group with other ambassadors following a Heritage Foundation speech at the Republican National Convention. Beyond those two meetings, Mr. Sessions said he did not believe he had been in contact with anyone else working on behalf of the Russian government.

The disclosures were at odds with testimony he provided during his confirmation hearing for attorney general.

During a two-day hearing, Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Democrat, asked Mr. Sessions: “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?”

Mr. Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities.”

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” he said at the time.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, also asked Mr. Sessions about contacts with Russia’s government in written follow-up questions after the hearing.

“Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” the Vermont Democrat wrote.

Mr. Sessions gave a one-word reply: No.

Senate Democrats, in their letter submitted Friday, wrote that they hope to learn more about:

Why Mr. Sessions “failed to come forward and correct the record before reports of his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak became public.”

“Why there was a delay in recusing himself until those public disclosures.”

“And why he only recused himself with respect to campaign-related investigations and not Russian contacts with the Trump transition team and administration.”

Mr. Sessions’ recusal puts any Justice Department investigation into the hands of acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente — at least until Rod Rosenstein, the nominee for the permanent position, is confirmed.

A nomination hearing for Mr. Rosenstein, who was appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland by President George W. Bush in 2005 and is the longest-serving U.S. attorney in the country, is set for Tuesday.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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