Saturday, 21 October, 2017

Republicans urge Trump on tapes; Sessions to testify Tues

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Washington. The Justice Department says Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation only because he was involved Sessions to testify before Senate intelligence panel
Wilma Wheeler | 14 June, 2017, 04:03

The committee has not announced the timing of the event, or whether Sessions will speak in an open or closed hearing.

Sessions had been scheduled to testify Tuesday before a joint appropriations subcommittee of Congress, but on Saturday he sent letters to the committee chairmen saying that the intelligence committee would be a better forum to answer questions about Russian Federation.

In a letter on Saturday to Senator Richard Shelby Mr Sessions said that he had been scheduled to discuss the Justice Department budget before House and Senate Appropriations sub-committees but that it had become clear some members would focus their questions on the Russian Federation investigation. The intelligence panel "is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information", he added.

Mr. Sessions had planned to appear before the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees, but the deputy attorney general will take his place, the letter said.

The attorney general, the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in the nation, said he would testify before the Senate committee Tuesday, presumably under oath.

And he can expect questions about his involvement in Comey's May 9 firing, the circumstances surrounding his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's investigation, and whether any of his actions - such as interviewing candidates for the FBI director position or meeting with Trump about Comey - violated his recusal pledge. Comey also testified that he wrote memos detailing that meeting and others with Trump because he was concerned that the president "might lie about the nature of our meeting", he told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Senators had been pushing for Sessions to appear publicly to answer questions about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.

Kamala Harris, D-Calif., asked Comey a series of questions about Sessions' involvement in the Russian Federation investigation during the two weeks between Trump expressing his "hope" that Comey could let go of the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Sessions' recusal from inquiries related to the election.

Comey himself had a riveting appearance before the same Senate panel last week, with some key moments centred on Sessions.

"The attorney -general was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House", the statement said. "The facts haven't changed; The then-senator did not have any private or side conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel". White House frustrations with the Justice Department spilled into public view last week, when Trump on Twitter criticized the legal strategy in defending his proposed travel ban.

On Comey's accusations that Trump pressed him to drop the FBI investigation of Flynn, Bharara said "no one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction" of justice.

The Justice Department, which Sessions heads, has been investigating contacts between the Russian government and President Donald Trump's inner circle.

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