POLITICS

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Will Testify Publicly Before Senate Intelligence Committee

Fired FBI Director James Comey suggested last week that there may have been more compromising information involving the attorney general.

WASHINGTON ― Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the committee’s chair, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), announced on Monday.

Sessions figured prominently in fired FBI Director James Comey’s dramatic testimony last Thursday before the same committee. Comey suggested that there may be more compromising information involving the attorney general and the investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign’s ties to Russia.

After Trump allegedly asked Comey to end an FBI investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser in February, Comey said he “implored” Sessions, who was his boss at the time, to prevent him from having future private interactions with the president. 

Comey said he opted not to tell Sessions about Trump’s specific request, however, because he and the FBI already knew that Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Sessions eventually recused himself from the probe in March, after The Washington Post reported that he had failed to disclose at least two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during Trump’s campaign.

“We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic,” Comey said of Sessions on Thursday. “And so we were convinced, and in fact, I think that we already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself.”

According to CNN, Comey may have been referring to a third undisclosed meeting between Sessions and Kislyak that the former FBI director reportedly discussed in a closed committee session instead.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gestures as then-FBI Director James Comey looks on at the Justice Department on Feb. 9, 2017.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions gestures as then-FBI Director James Comey looks on at the Justice Department on Feb. 9, 2017.

Sessions’ March recusal reportedly angered Trump, and Sessions even offered to resign. But White House officials encouraged Trump to keep Sessions on to prevent further disorder within the administration.

When Trump fired Comey in May, Sessions’ recommendation that Comey be fired was made public. Comey said on Thursday that it was “reasonable” to wonder why Sessions would have played a role in his dismissal, given his recusal.

“I think it’s a reasonable question,” Comey said in response to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don’t know.”

On Saturday, Sessions offered to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee to address “Mr. Comey’s recent testimony.”

But the next day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on CNN that she was not sure if Sessions would testify or whether his testimony would be public. She and other members of the committee urged Burr and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), to make the hearing public.

Sessions himself wanted the hearing to be public, according to Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores.

“The Attorney General has requested that this hearing be public,” Flores said in a statement Monday. “He believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee’s questions tomorrow.”

At Monday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer would not say whether Sessions would invoke executive privilege to avoid answering questions, but he implied that he might.

“I think it depends on the scope of the questions,” Spicer told reporters. “To get into a hypothetical, at this point, would be premature.”

Spicer also would not comment on the role Sessions played in Comey’s firing, saying that he could not “discuss private conversations between the president and the attorney general.” 

He also said he did not know whether Trump or White House officials signed off on Sessions’ testimony, but said that Trump hoped that it would resolve matters regarding the Russia investigation.

“He believes the sooner we can get this addressed and dealt with, that there’s been no collusion, that he wants this to get investigated as soon as possible and be done with, so he can continue with the business of the American people,” Spicer said of Trump.

This story has been updated with comment from Sean Spicer.

Ryan Reilly contributed reporting.

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