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Sessions will testify before Senate in Russia investigation

Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to appear on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee to address concerns raised by former FBI director James Comey. | Getty

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Saturday that he will testify next week before the Senate Intelligence Committee on matters connected to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a letter to his former colleagues in the House and Senate, Sessions canceled a planned appearance before Congress’ appropriations committees. Sessions said he instead plans to appear on Tuesday before the Intelligence panel to respond to questions stemming from FBI director James Comey’s bombshell testimony last Thursday.

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If this is an open session – it is still unclear at this point, but Senate aides believe it will be public – Sessions will likely face a barrage of questions over his role in Comey’s dismissal, his independence from President Donald Trump, and allegations of additional unreported meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions has already recused himself from the Russia probe after failing to tell the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation of two meetings with Kislyak, and there have been reports of additional sessions.

During his testimony, Comey asserted he was aware of non-public information that helped lead to Sessions’ decision in February to recuse himself from the FBI’s Russia investigation.

“Our judgment, as I recall, is that [Sessions] was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

Comey also portrayed Sessions as unwilling or unable to stand up to President Donald Trump, something the former Alabama GOP senator vowed to do when asked during his confirmation hearing. For instance, Comey stated that Sessions “did not reply” when Comey complained about Trump asking to be alone with the former FBI director following a Feb. 14 Oval Office meeting.

“I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me – and there’s a danger here I’m projecting onto him, so this may be a faulty memory, but I kind of got – his body language gave me the sense that, ‘What am I going to do?’” Comey said.

Following Comey’s testimony, the Justice Department released a statement trying to counter some of the former FBI director’s claims, including disputing the assertion that Sessions was silent following the Feb. 14 incident.

“The Attorney General was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House,” the DOJ statement said.

The Justice Department also said Sessions began looking into the issue of recusing himself from the Russia investigation shortly after he took office. According to DOJ, Sessions believed his prominent role in the Trump campaign would conflict with allegations of collusion between Russian officials and Trump aides.

“Shortly after being sworn in, Attorney General Sessions began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” said DOJ spokesman Ian Prior

Trump has privately expressed frustration about Sessions’ decision to recuse himself, and the two have had a tense relationship in recent weeks. Sessions even offered to resign before Trump left on his first foreign trip, but the president ultimately declined the offer, according to a person who regularly speaks with Sessions.

Sessions announced his decision to testify in a letter to his former Senate colleagues. He had been scheduled to testify before the House and Senate appropriations committees in support of DOJ’s annual budget request, but he nixed his appearance after learning that lawmakers wanted to ask him about the Russia investigation. Instead, Sessions will appear Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee to address Comey’s cryptic testimony.

“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,” Sessions wrote. “Therefore, I am pleased to accept the invitation to appear before members of that committee on June 13th.”

Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, will take his place before the House and Senate appropriations panels on Tuesday.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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