U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, shown in Atlanta on June 6, 2017.
- U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions is appearing Tuesday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating connections between President Donald Trump’s staff and Russia.
- Mr. Sessions, originally scheduled to speak at different committee hearings Tuesday about the Justice Department budget, changed his plans after last Thursday’s dramatic testimony from former FBI director James Comey.
- Here’s a primer from The Globe’s Adrian Morrow on questions Mr. Sessions is likely to face about his contacts with a Russian diplomat, the Trump-Russia investigation and Mr. Comey’s account of how it unfolded behind the scenes.
- Mr. Trump and his team have been trying to discredit Mr. Comey since last Thursday’s hearing, where Mr. Comey accused the administration of lying about “disarray” in the FBI and said Mr. Trump decided to fire him in May because the Russia investigation was “irritating him.”
- The Justice Department said Monday that Mr. Sessions asked for his hearing to be public because he “believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him.”
- Mr. Sessions’s testimony comes a day after Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a friend of Mr. Trump, suggested the President was already thinking about “terminating” Robert Mueller as special counsel to the Justice Department and FBI’s Russia probe. “I think he’s weighing that option,” Mr. Ruddy told PBS NewsHour.
- “Chris speaks for himself,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an e-mail to Associated Press on Monday, but neither she nor press secretary Sean Spicer directly contradicted Mr. Ruddy’s statement.
Which Trump-Russia probe is this again?
There are four congressional investigations under way into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. The Senate intelligence committee’s is the broadest and most well-known so far, but there are also investigations by:
- The House intelligence committee
- The House oversight committee
- The Senate judiciary committee
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein wants Mr. Sessions to testify before the judiciary committee too, because she says it’s better suited to explore legal questions of possible obstruction of justice by the President.
But the biggest Trump-Russia probe – the one that could result in criminal charges against Mr. Trump’s people – is the investigation by Mr. Sessions’ Justice Department and the FBI, under the leadership of special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Sessions has recused himself from that investigation (more on that in a minute), leaving deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein with oversight of the probe.
Who is Robert Mueller, and what will he do? James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on June 8, 2017.
Here’s a recap of what James Comey, the former FBI director, told the Senate committee last Thursday. Most of his remarks centred on nine encounters with Mr. Trump, and Mr. Sessions’s name came up a few times, too. Here are some highlights:
The Flynn meeting: The Mr. Comey alleged that Mr. Trump repeatedly tried to interfere in the FBI’s Russia probe, and at one Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office, the President said he “hoped” the bureau would back off its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mr. Sessions and others left the room before Mr. Trump’s remarks; afterward; Mr. Comey told Mr. Sessions never to leave him alone with the President again.
What Comey couldn’t say: Asked by Democrat Senator Ron Wyden if Mr. Sessions was staying away from the Russia probe as promised, Mr. Comey said he couldn’t answer:
Why this is weird for Jeff Sessions
Mr. Sessions’s position before the Senate is a strange one: Answering questions about a Trump-Russia probe he’s officially uninvolved in, prompted by testimony from a man he helped to fire, to defend a President he allegedly doesn’t want to work for any more. (More on that last point in the next section.)
The various Russia investigations centre on contacts between Mr. Trump’s key staff during the 2016 election and, most crucially, during the two-month transition period between that election and Mr. Trump’s swearing-in. Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, met with Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who discussed lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia; with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who sought a secret “back channel” to communicate with Moscow; and Mr. Sessions, a former senator and Trump campaign adviser who interacted with Mr. Kislyak twice during the 2016 race.
Mr. Sessions didn’t disclose those Russian contacts at his confirmation hearing for the Attorney-General’s job. In March, to clear a cloud of suspicion over the Russia probe, Mr. Sessions recused himself from the investigation. But in May, he got indirectly drawn into it again when he co-signed on the decision to fire Mr. Comey as FBI director, a decision Mr. Trump later said was motivated by the Russia probe.
This is the memo Mr. Sessions wrote in May about Mr. Comey:
Dear Mr. Comey, you’re fired: Four documents behind the FBI director’s dismissal Read the documents Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and others in the administration wrote to explain their reasons for James Comey’s firing in May.
Mr. Sessions was one of the earliest supporters of the Trump presidential campaign, but now, reports of internal tensions in the White House suggest a fraught relationship between the President and his Attorney-General. Last week, The New York Times reported Mr. Sessions had recently offered to resign, but Mr. Trump refused him. The Times also reported Mr. Trump “intermittently fumed for months” over Mr. Sessions’s recusal because it opened the door for the appointment of a special counsel. It remains to be seen how Mr. Sessions’s testimony will ease or inflame his relationship with Mr. Trump behind the scenes.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions appear in the White House after the Attorney-General’s swearing-in on Feb. 9, 2017.
With reports from Associated Press and The New York Times News Service
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