Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sessions Will Testify in Senate on Russian Meddling in Election

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions was to testify on budget matters, but he will instead appear before the intelligence committee. CreditChet Strange for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress on Saturday that he would testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Mr. Sessions had been scheduled to testify before other committees about the Justice Department’s budget that day, but he will instead appear before the intelligence panel.
Mr. Sessions said he would send Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to testify about the department’s budget before the House and Senate appropriations panels. Mr. Sessions noted that several lawmakers on those panels had said they intended to ask him about the Russia investigation, after testimony by James B. Comeywho was firedlast month as F.B.I. director by President Trump, before the intelligence committee on Thursday.
The attorney general may face sharper questioning from the intelligence committee, which has had access to intelligence materials in its inquiry into the Russian meddling.
“In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey’s recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Mr. Sessions wrote.
Mr. Sessions, who was a surrogate for Mr. Trump during the campaign, recused himself in early March from investigations related to the 2016 election. He removed himself after it emerged that he had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, though he had testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with Russians.
The attorney general’s name was invoked several times during Mr. Comey’s testimony.
Mr. Comey told the panel that on Feb. 14, the president had made private comments to Mr. Comey in the Oval Office that he interpreted as an improper order to drop a criminal investigation into Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.
The next day, Mr. Comey said, he implored Mr. Sessions never to leave him alone again with the president, but Mr. Sessions did not reply.
In a statement issued after the testimony, the Justice Department denied that account.
“The attorney general was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the F.B.I. and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House,” the statement said.
Mr. Comey also said, cryptically, on Thursday that even before Mr. Sessions recused himself, there had been classified facts “that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” That led officials to believe that “he was not going to be in contact with Russia-related matters much longer.”
And, given Mr. Trump’s statement that he had been thinking about the Russia investigation when he decided to fire Mr. Comey, the former F.B.I. director expressed doubt when asked whether Mr. Sessions had adhered to his recusal. When Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, the White House released a memo from Mr. Sessions recommending his removal, although it did not specifically mention Russia.
“If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain?” Mr. Comey said. “I don’t know.”

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