Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to testify in an open hearing today as part of the congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Some believe he may be more truthful this time than he was at his last public hearing, when he falsely claimed he never communicated with Russian entities. (Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice, and will likely be asked about a possible third meeting.)
Others are concerned President Donald Trump may try to block Sessions’ testimony at the eleventh hour. He has until 2:30pm to make his decision.
James Comey’s testimony last week drew more than 19 million viewers and raised new questions about the attorney general’s contact with Russia, his role in Comey’s firing, and his recusal from the investigation itself.
Much has been made of Comey asking Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump, which came up in Comey’s testimony. Comey also indicated the FBI knew that Sessions’ involvement in the investigation would have been “problematic” well before the attorney general recused himself:
He was … inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make [Sessions’s] continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.
Comey also said that Sessions “lingered” when Trump ordered him to leave the room before pressuring Comey to drop his investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. “My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving, which is why he was lingering.” Comey was also asked about Sessions’ involvement in his own firing, which the former FBI director deemed “a reasonable question.”
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, and so I don’t have an answer for the question.
Sessions has dodged testifying at least three times already, and Washington Post has published 40 questions they would ask the attorney general. It’s possible Sessions will be asked not only about Trump’s firing of Comey, but of his firing of U.S. Attorneys, after Preet Bharara gave an interview to ABC on Sunday in which he said Comey’s firing felt like “déjà vu,” and maintained there is sufficient evidence to launch an investigation into obstruction of justice by the president.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump is “discontented” with Sessions, and that Sessions had “offered to resign in recent weeks, as he told President Trump he needed the freedom to do his job.” It remains to be seen whether Sessions will show Trump the loyalty that the president so badly wants.
- “Why Jeff Sessions’s testimony on Russia is so important” (Amber Phillips, Washington Post, June 2017)
- “The Bitter History of Law and Order in America” (Andrea Pitzer, Longreads, April 2017)
- “Read the letter Coretta Scott King wrote opposing Sessions’s 1986 federal nomination” (Wesley Lowery, Washington Post, January 2017)
- “You’re Fired! The Unemployable Trump Administration” (Dana Snitzky, Longreads, February 2017)
- “Jeff Sessions’s Unqualified Praise for a 1924 Immigration Law” (Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, January 2017)