Senate manners dissolve as Trump's top lawyer Jeff Sessions grilled

Danny Woods
June 15, 2017

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenEmirati ambassador to Trump: Remove US airbase from Qatar Northam defeats Sanders-backed candidate in Va.gov primary Warren goes on tweetstorm over Sessions testimony: "He should resign" MORE (D-Mass.) called on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsGingrich: Sessions "didn't back down" during Senate testimony White House: Trump "has no intention" to fire Mueller Sessions decries "detestable lie" MORE to resign on Tuesday, accusing him of violating the terms of his recusal from the federal probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

Sessions criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which the White House had initially cited as the ostensible reason for his firing.

Sessions, a senior member of Trump's Cabinet and an adviser to his election team, had a series of tense exchanges with Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee during about 2-1/2 hours of high-stakes testimony as they pressed him to recount discussions with the Republican president. A judge ruled against the administration, finding that any claim of privilege was undercut by other disclosures by the Justice Department about the operation.

Asked about Trump's own contention that the president fired Comey with the Russian Federation probe in mind, and regardless of any recommendation from anyone else, Sessions said: "I guess I'll just have to let his words speak for themselves". Comey testified that he told Sessions he was uncomfortable about meeting alone with the president, and Sessions merely shrugged as if to say, What can I do? "And when asked I said that to the president". He even admitted at one point that he was nervous about some rapid-fire questioning.

A report in The New York Times said the president had indeed weighed the possibility, was dissuaded by staff, and has since landed on the idea of simply pressuring Mueller by letting him know he could be fired.

Executive privilege is different from attorney-client privilege, which protects information shared between lawyers and their clients.

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

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Since then, lawmakers have raised questions about a possible third meeting at a Washington hotel, though the Justice Department has said that did not happen. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. In his testimony today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions - the U.S.'s chief law enforcement officer - told Sen.

Last week sacked FBI Director James Comey said there were reasons it would be "problematic" for Sessions to be involved. That didn't pan out. "I did not attend any meetings at that event separate", Sessions said. 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. I said I didn't meet with them and now, the next thing you know I'm accused of some reception plotting some sort of influence campaign for the American election.

At the conclusion of a February 14 meeting, the sacked Federal Bureau of Investigation chief testified, Trump urged everyone but Comey to leave the Oval Office, including Sessions.

But the accusations being levelled against Sessions are serious ones, with the Senate slowly peeling back layer-after-layer in the Russian Federation investigation.

The Justice Department subsequently issued a statement saying that Sessions had replied to Comey, telling him that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and DOJ needed to heed policy in such matters. He said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had long discussed their concerns with Comey's job performance. "So, I need to be correct as best I can", Sessions said. "And when asked I said that to the president".

Comey testified publicly last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of reasons it would be problematic for Sessions to remain involved in the probe before he recused himself.

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who has frequently supported Trump and worked with Sessions when he was in the Senate, offered him a hand, painting a comical portrait of an alleged spy scheme. Harris if he would commit to providing the committee with all pertinent written documents, such as his notes.

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