Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday to address questions raised during former FBI director James Comey’s testimony last week about his recusal from the investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
Mr. Sessions announced his intention to go before the committee in letters to the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees — where he had been due to testify Tuesday about the Justice Department’s budget.
The attorney general, who was expected to face a number of questions about his contacts with Russian officials, said he would no longer attend those hearings and instead would send Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
In accepting the invitation to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Mr. Sessions called the “most appropriate forum” for addressing the Russia probe, the attorney general will seek to address some of the questions left lingering about his engagements with Russia and involvement in Mr. Comey’s dismissal.
“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.
It was unclear whether the intelligence committee hearing would be public.
Mr. Comey testified Thursday that President Trump asked him to drop the probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, but said he declined to tell the attorney general about the uncomfortable one-on-one interactions because FBI officials expected Mr. Sessions to be recused from all Russia-related issues “for a variety of reasons.”
He told senators that there were reasons he couldn’t discuss in a nonclassified setting that officials believed would make Mr. Sessions’ “continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
Mr. Sessions, who supported Mr. Trump on the campaign trail and acknowledged meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, later recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 presidential election — including the Justice Department’s role in probing Moscow’s role in meddling in the election and any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions said that he had not met with Russian officials during the campaign.
Former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to head the probe.
Mr. Comey was asked Thursday about the degree to which he thought Mr. Sessions had adhered to his recusal, including whether he was following that decision in relation to his role in recommending the former FBI director’s firing.
“That’s a question I can’t answer. I think that’s a reasonable question,” Mr. Comey said. “If I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain, I don’t know.”
Mr. Sessions was also portrayed in an unflattering light when Mr. Comey said the attorney general had no response and remained silent when the FBI chief requested that the attorney general protect him from one-on-one meetings with Mr. Trump.
The Justice Department refuted that characterization last week, with a spokesman issuing a statement saying the attorney general responded to Mr. Comey’s appeal “by saying that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House.”
Mr. Sessions won’t be the only high-profile figure to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee as it conducts an investigation into the Russia case — President Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mr. Mueller both are expected to meet soon with the committee.
Source : The Washington Times