Sessions To Testify Before Senate Intel Panel In Public

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Tuesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election will be public, according to the panel’s bipartisan chairs.

There was some uncertainty about whether the hearing would be open or closed, but Sessions apparently requested it “be public,” according to the Justice Department.

“He believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee’s questions tomorrow,” DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.

Moments after that DOJ statement circulated, committee Chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice-Chair Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) confirmed in that Sessions would appear in open session at 2:30 p.m. E.T.

Sessions was originally scheduled to appear before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday to discuss the DOJ’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year, but over the weekend announced that he was sending a deputy in his place since members of that committee, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said publicly that they intended to use the hearing to press Sessions about the federal investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

“In light of reports regarding [former FBI Director James] Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Sessions wrote in a letter sent Saturday to the Appropriations subcommittee. “The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum to such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information. Therefore, I am pleased to accept the invitation to appear before members of that committee on June 13th.”

Comey testified last week before the Senate Intelligence panel that the FBI knew in advance that Sessions would have to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, which he did in March, because his continued involvement had become “problematic.” The former FBI director said that he could only share additional details about what the bureau knew about Sessions in closed session.

Sessions’ recusal came after reports revealed he failed to disclose two meetings with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the 2016 campaign.

A DOJ spokesperson last week said that Sessions recused only because of his “participation in President Trump’s campaign,” for which he was a top surrogate.

CNN and NBC reported that Comey told senators in the closed session following his public testimony that Sessions may have had a third, previously undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year.

Spokespeople for Burr and Warner did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment on whether an invitation for Sessions to appear before the committee was extended following Comey’s testimony.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.
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