Sessions Testifies Before the Senate Intelligence Committee
Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee centered around his meetings with Russians and his involvement in the firing of Comey. As expected, only half of the Senate Intelligence Committee showed up to investigate what meeting Sessions had with Russians and why he was involved in the firing of James Comey. Sessions followed the example set by Coats and Rogers in refusing to answer questions involving conversations with the president, even though the president had not asserted executive privilege.
Senator Heinrich (D-NM), accused him directly of obstruction of congress, pointing out that he had no legal basis to assert that his view of what is appropriate does not supersede the law. Sessions was also pushed on the issue by Angus King (D-ME) and he claimed he was maintaining the right for Trump to assert it in the future. He then pointed out that Sessions had already referred to a conversation with the president, when it was to his benefit. King also pointed out that in his letter recommending Comey firing he spoke of his evaluation of the Russian investigation, while maintaining he has never been briefed on it.
Meantime, Senator Blunt (R-MO), acting as Sessions’ defense counsel, asked him about Justice Department rules on meeting one-on-one with the president during an investigation. Sessions agreed that it was against Justice Department policy, but of course he wasn’t pushed as to why he then left the Oval office and allowed him to be left alone with the president. Senator Lankford (R-OK) used his time to defend Sessions with a stream of lies. He claimed the story about Trump contemplating the firing of Mueller came from “unnamed sources.” In fact came publically from Trump’s lawyer and from his friend and Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy.
The concise summary of the testimony from Sessions is that he refused to discuss his conversations with the president, insisted his involvement in Comey’s firing was appropriate, and claimed he couldn’t remember meeting Kislyak at the Mayfair Hotel. Here are the other highlights:
Sessions on Comey Firing
Sessions said that since he recused himself he has not been briefed on the investigation, but that does not stop him from overseeing agencies under the Justice Department, including the FBI and any leadership issues.
He said did not recuse himself because he thought he was a subject of the investigation, but because the subject was a campaign that he had advised.
Sessions claims he did not recuse himself from overseeing the FBI Russia probe if the investigation goes beyond the campaign.
Responding to the time he left Comey alone with Trump in the Oval office, Sessions implied that Comey was wrong in discussing an ongoing investigation with the president without clearance from the leadership of the Justice Department.
Sessions said it would be appropriate for him to take any action to remove Mueller because of his recusal, contradicting his assertion it was appropriate for him to take any action to remove Comey.
He claimed it is Justice Department policy not to discuss private conversations with the president.
Sessions said that even though he was his superior, and supported his firing, he never had any conversation with Comey about his poor performance detailed in the memo from Rosenstein.
Questioned about Comey’s concern the next day about being left alone with the president, Sessions said, “He did not tell me at that time any details about anything that was said that was proper.” So he both confirmed and denied Comey’s testimony that he was concerned about his private meeting with Trump.
Sessions cited Comey’s failure to recommend charges against Clinton and his detailed reasons for it, which is against policy if no charges are filed.
Sessions on Meetings with Russians
Repeatedly, Sessions said he doesn’t remember any meeting with Kislyak at the Mayfair Hotel, or doesn’t believe it ever happened. If he had, he said, it has nothing to do with the investigation because he would never collude with Russia, and any suggestion he did is”appalling & detestable lie.”
When being question by Senator Rubio (R-FL), Sessions referred to the “three” times he met Russians.
Senator Wyden (D-OR) accused Sessions of stonewalling and pushed him on Comey saying Sessions involvement in Russian probe was “problematic.” Sessions was visibly angry, saying “Why don’t you tell me. There are none.”