Attorney General Jeff Sessions Testifies Before Senate Intelligence Committee

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2017

All eyes were on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday as he testified before the Senate intelligence committee less than a week after ousted FBI Director James Comey's testimony.

"I do want you to be honest", Harris said. "Now you're not answering questions". That led some Democrats to suggest he was trying to impede the investigation.

The attorney general was forced to recuse himself in March from the federal investigation into Russian interference in the USA election after media reports that he twice met with Kislyak during the 2016 campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate during his confirmation hearing in January.

The then-acting deputy attorney general was Comey's direct supervisor, and if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russian Federation investigation, Sessions said he should've brought those concerns to her attention.

Sessions says his recusal was not because he had done something wrong or was, himself, the subject of the investigation.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons.

Wyden cut in, saying Sessions was "not answering the question".

He said while Trump has not invoked executive privilege, he was seeking to protect "the right of the president to assert it if he chooses".

Executive privilege is a power that can be claimed by a president or senior executive branch officials to withhold information from Congress or the courts to protect the executive branch decision-making process.

"It is my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer", Sessions said.

During Sessions' two-and-a-half-hour standoff with many on the committee, particularly Democrats, he was repeatedly accused of "stonewalling" when asked about his conversations with the president. He also mentioned a report issued by the Intelligence Community in January that described Russian interference activities in more detail.

During Comey's testimony before the same Senate committee last week, he said he wasn't aware of those concerns. CNN reported that Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session last week that Sessions and Kisylak could have met on the sidelines, as indicated by intercepts of Russian communications.

Mr Comey had also said that Mr Sessions had lingered in the Oval Office following a group meeting, just before the private encounter during which he has said the president asked him to pull back on his investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Sessions that the Mayflower "plot line" if true - Sessions and Kislyak meeting in plain sight to collude - would be "the greatest caper in the history of espionage".

But Republicans often came to Sessions' defense, reiterating that Comey's firing had to do with his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, not Russian Federation, and calling attention to illegal information leaks within the government.

It's a tactic Price sees as a sign of misplaced priorities: "You can add Sessions to the growing list of officials in this administration who are protecting and defending the president, not the U.S. Constitution", he said. "This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it".

Sessions' testimony did not provide damaging new information on any Trump campaign ties with Russian Federation or on Comey's firing, but his refusal to discuss conversations with Trump raised fresh questions about whether the White House has something to hide.

In May, Trump told NBC News that he was contemplating "this Russian Federation thing" ahead of Comey's firing.

He had already admitted to meeting Kislyak twice previous year.

Sessions and Kislyak bothattended an April 2016 Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.

Sessions denied meeting privately with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in April a year ago. They seem to have collective amnesia about meeting with Russian officials during and after the campaign and only remember when they have been caught. They demanded some kind of written policy or regulation from the Justice Department.

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