In an often-contentious Tuesday hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, an indignant Attorney General Jeff Sessions made clear that he was upset that allegations that he knew of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives during the election were impugning his “honor.” But in nearly three hours of testimony, he failed to answer many of the key questions that prompted the panel to invite him to testify in open session.
From TPM Reader MC …
I can believe that you’re describing a real phenomenon with your recent post. I feel it myself sometimes. My take is that it’s linked to the differential poll response we seem to have observed in the last week or two.
That said, it’s insanity-making, unwise, and unworthy of us.
TPM Reader DM kind of took my breath away …
In contrast to the decision to withdraw from politics, my wife and I, both recently retired, launched ourselves, for the first time, into the fray. We attended the 2016 women’s march, then she ran for Alabama state house in 2018, knocking on 6000 doors in her attempt to oust an eighty-year-old white male incumbent When that failed, we sold our Alabama home, stored our belongings and moved on January 1 to Arizona for the 2020 election to help Arizona Democrats elect Mark Kelly to the Senate to put a check on this administration. This dark week just reinforces our decision to stand up against a President who is following every authoritarian’s playbook in methodical fashion.
First from TPM Reader EH …
I will not vote for Michael Fucking Bloomberg. I’m no kind of “Bernie or Bust” zealot. The only candidate I’ve donated to in this cycle is Warren. I’ll be thrilled to support her or Bernie against Trump. I’ll be perfectly willing to pull the lever for Biden or Klobuchar. I’ll even hold my nose and try to keep my lunch down if I have to vote for Pete. Bloomberg? No fucking way.
I generally don’t like amplifying counsels of despair. As I’ve written previously, optimism is less prediction or analysis as a moral posture toward the world. But I also think it is important to understand what many Democrats, liberals, opponents of President Trump of less defined ideology are feeling. Yes, there’s plenty of anger. There’s plenty of fear. But what I have listened to and noted over his years in the White House are the voices of withdrawal. To be very specific, people who find the news so bad and toxic that they are trying to make a voluntary exit from the public sphere – withdraw into work, family, hobbies. Needless to say, many of us who live politics 24/7 could probably use a bit more focus on those. But what we’re seeing here is something different and more dangerous: the way quasi-authoritarian governments constrict the public sphere, pushing people into their private worlds and away from civic engagement.
Just a quick reality check. Since that late January Gallup poll that got everyone freaked out and had a defining impact on the coverage around President Trump’s impeachment acquittal there have been numerous polls released. Some have shown the President toward the high end of the band he’s oscillated within for months or years. Most show him in exactly the same place. Three most recent readings: Morning Consult: 41%, YouGov 40%, Ipsos 41%.
There’s something about the Vindman story which, going unsaid, tells us a lot about our current moment, the moment Donald Trump has created. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy appeared to confirm yesterday that LTC Alexander Vindman won’t face an investigation back at the Pentagon. But for what? We know what he did, which was testify – apparently truthfully – in response to a congressional subpoena. What is there to investigate? Not only do the President’s calls for an investigation not answer this question, there’s really no conceivable predicate based on any publicly known information. But that’s the point. Investigations are now simply attacks. To the extent there is a matter to be probed it is loyalty.
We have a lot of different developments coming out of the Justice Department at once. Let’s try to put them in some ordered perspective. We have the brazen interference in the Stone trial which has already led to multiple resignations. We have the breaking news that Andrew McCabe has finally been told that he won’t face any criminal charges. And just now we have news that Bill Barr has assigned a group of outside prosecutors to “review” the prosecution and conviction of Mike Flynn.
US Attorney’s Office in DC informs Andrew McCabe’s lawyer that the investigation into his client has been closed and no charges will be brought.
Let’s come back to this brief exchange we had last night with TPM Reader HR and TPM Reader TB. No one believes this was anything more than Barr’s effort to be corrupt more effectively and with less press attention. The only question was whether it was all stage managed with Trump or whether it was actually Barr saying ‘Hey, I’m trying to run the DOJ to protect you and your friends and target your enemies. Tweeting all the time just make that harder to do.’
None of us were operating under the illusion that President Trump would somehow stay quiet about the Ukraine scheme post acquittal or this latest effort to politically interfere in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
TPM Reader HR disagrees with TB. But I think TB is saying something similar. From HR …
I disagree with your reader. I read Barr’s remarks as a signal to Trump that the tweets are getting in the way of Barr doing Trump’s bidding. Kind of like McConnell ignoring Trump’s maximalist tweets during the impeachment trial. Let me do my job and I’ll get you the result you want, trust me. It’s not defiance, it’s a plea to let Trump’s professional henchmen do their job. But it’s a bonus that it can be read wishfully as a plea for independence.
I think TB is saying just the same thing. Barr just wants Trump to allow him to do his dirty work efficiently and in the background. The tweets are making the corrupt enterprise harder to pull off. TB’s point, if I understand it, is that Trump is too dominance motivated to understand, too impulsive not to need to hit back.
I’m pretty skeptical it will come to this. But I think TPM Reader TB makes a good point that is worth keeping an eye on.
I can’t avoid the conclusion that Barr will now inevitably be fired because (as you have pointed out) Trump sees everything through the lens of a domination ritual, and Barr attempted to be the dom on TV just now by saying it’s impossible for him to do his job with Trump’s constant tweeting. The commentary about how Barr just wants Trump to shut up so he can keep doing corrupt things for Trump with a veneer of legality or acceptability is irrelevant, is too complex a thought for Trump, and is not a game that Trump has the patience to play. Trump must win every domination ritual, and the only way to reestablish dominance in this situation is to fire Barr. My guess is it will happen after a period of weeks.
In the past 24 hours, two ex officials — both ousted by the mercurial Trump — have spoken out against the administration for actions that prompted his impeachment– former White House chief of staff John Kelly and the ex-ambassador and impeachment witness Marie Yavonovitch.
There’s far too much water under the bridge for me to consider John Kelly a good guy. But even deeply compromised individuals have their limits. The point he makes here about the Alex Vindman situation is right on point and cuts to the core of our national crisis. As Kelly reminds us officers are trained from the beginning and throughout their career not to follow illegal orders and to report them when they occur through their chain of command. “We teach them, ‘Don’t follow an illegal order. And if you’re ever given one, you’ll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss.’”
Bernie out front. Biden muddling through. Bloomberg in the wings. On the latest episode of the podcast, we dig into the current state of the primary campaign. Listen to it here.
The Democratic primary race looks more upended and chaotic than at any point so far. I don’t think the exact reasons for that have gotten sufficient attention.
The standard primary campaign model is that one candidate notches early wins. That creates momentum, earned media, money all of which then compound the strength from those early victories. This all allows the winning candidate to build on their margins in state after state. As that happens, also-rans see their money dry up and chances dwindle. They drop out adding to the process. Soon enough you’ve got your nominee.
The debate over whether President Trump pressured the attorney general to shorten his former associate Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation or if the Justice Department acted on its own is missing the point. This is all bad.
Remember the all-consuming panic that President Trump would exert political influence on special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe?
I could be dead wrong (I was before on this subject) but after her distant fourth place finish in New Hampshire, I suspect that Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign is over. Who knows what might happen at a brokered convention, but I can’t see her contesting much longer for delegates. And that’s a shame.
Senior administration official on Trump: “I think he feels like the chains are off now. It’s like things have taken a turn. The gloves are off. And everything that used to be hush hush is now just… out in the open.”
Meanwhile this story, which seems like inside baseball about withdrawing a nomination for a position at the Treasury Department, is almost certainly tied to covering up efforts to keep Flynn and Stone out of prison.
My colleagues are covering the details of the emerging DOJ scandal tied to the sentencing of Roger Stone. I want to note a pattern, which seems critical. Famously, the day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress Trump was on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine, trying to bully him into opening those investigations. The plot had been going on for months – but Trump was largely in the background, letting his henchman speech for him. It was on July 25th when Trump grabbed the plot with both hands and communicated directly to Zelensky. He followed up by shutting down the military aid pipeline.
From TPM Reader AL …
I completely agree that Bloomberg’s ads are very persuasive. I also feel something is missing from the discussion on your blog. If we have a billionaire nominee because that person was the best individual in the primary, well so be it. I would prefer if the nominee was not a billionaire, but in that situation the best candidate won and I certainly don’t think billionaires should be barred from running.
Update: Tierney Sneed now has a full report on this news.
We’ll have more in a moment. But this Stone story just got bigger and worse. The lead prosecutor in the Stone case has just submitted a notice of withdrawal from the case. And a footnote to that one sentence notice says he is resigning as an Assistant US Attorney in DC effective immediately. Aaron Zelinsky was acting as a US Attorney in DC but his permanent position is as US Attorney in Baltimore. And according to CNN, the Baltimore US Attorney’s Office says he has not resigned from his position there.
Ed.Note: My initial post wasn’t clear on whether this was resigning for DOJ or from the DC assignment, which stems from the Mueller probe. It appears to be the latter.
TPM Reader BB on the rise of Bloomberg and the impatience to go after Trump …
Just wanted to respond to this, because it SO accurately describes my experience:
Quoting from this Editors’ Blog post: “Bloomberg’s ads ignore the entire primary process. They focus on Bloomberg himself and increasingly on bashing Donald Trump. I see them a lot on social media. They’re good. Even if you’re a Sanders supporter you’d think they’re good, even if you despise Bloomberg. For a lot of Democrats right now, watching the primaries unfold is highly dispiriting. Bloomberg is already running against Trump, running ads that land hard punches on Trump. If you’re a Democrat, the Democratic primary race is exhausting and demoralizing and the ads bashing Trump get you pumped – just because a lot of Democrats are so focused on driving Trump from office and want to get on to running against him.”
Usually I publish single emails. But in this case I asked for a follow up with TPM Reader LS …
Josh, your next-to-last paragraph REALLY speaks for me (except I’m not supporting Bloomberg, just FYI). I just DGAF, especially after the impeachment farce last week. All the debates and primaries seem like worthless folderol. For me, the primaries are over. I just want to get on with beating this cancer of a human being and ending his crime spree masquerading as an administration once and for all.
I replied …
We’ve now seen what appears to be the second example of the Department of Justice intervening to assist Trump associates facing sentencing. We appeared to see it with Mike Flynn, when prosecutors shifted gear and said they were okay with no jail time after Flynn attempted to tear up his guilty plea and publicly claim to be the target of a witch hunt. I don’t think we knew it directly in that case. It just seemed like the most logical conclusion.
Here though we appear to have DOJ leadership intervening out in the open to protect a friend of the President. And not just a friend of the President but a criminal who was convicted for crimes intended to keep the President out of legal trouble.
Like many of you I’ve been keeping tabs on the news of the novel Coronavirus in China. I’ve been using the Times as my go to source. They have a good, regularly updated run-down that let’s you follow the key details in a quick read. But here’s a piece from three days ago that goes a bit deeper and looks at six factors that will determine the scope of the spread of the virus.
I’m used to these various Trump associates getting what seem like extremely light sentences for various sorts of perjury, obstruction and the like. (Of course, many of those pled out, which makes a huge difference.) But federal prosecutors have recommended seven to nine years in prison for Roger Stone. Stone was convicted on multiple counts of obstruction, false statements and witness tampering.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Tuesday said it is “hard to see” how Attorney General Jeff Sessions can remain in his position after refusing to answer questions during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference in our election, recommended the dismissal of the Director of the FBI, reportedly offered his resignation to the President, and refused to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is hard to see how he can continue to serve.”
Sessions cited executive privilege several times while testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, though he acknowledged that President Donald Trump has not in fact invoked it yet.
“So what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions?” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) pressed him.
“I’m protecting the right of the President to assert it if he chooses,” Sessions replied.
The Republican National Committee sent out a fundraising email on Tuesday attributed to President Donald Trump and warning of a “WITCH-HUNT” after Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“There is an effort to SABOTAGE us,” the email attributed to Trump reads.
It accused Democrats of “using a conspiracy theory” to “DERAIL” Trump’s presidency.
“We MUST keep fighting,” the email reads. “WITCH-HUNT!”
Trump did not offer any comment on Sessions’ testimony via Twitter, his favored medium for rapid response.
New RNC email subject-lined: "Is this really happening in America?" pic.twitter.com/x3I02ChOrF
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 13, 2017
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said after Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that Republicans hadn’t yet committed to responding to Sessions’ testimony on the network.
“I just want to alert our viewers that we’ve invited Republicans to join us as well,” Blitzer said, before an interview Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “Hopefully they will. So far we’ve received certain maybes down the road.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday said he did not recall Attorney General Jeff Sessions taking any interest in Russia as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, though Sessions claimed he met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in that capacity.
Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he pressed Kislyak on Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“I remember pushing back on it and it was testy on that subject,” Sessions said.
“Knowing you on the committee, I can’t imagine that,” McCain replied.
He asked Sessions whether he talked to Kislyak about Russian interference in elections held by U.S. allies.
“I don’t recall that being discussed,” Sessions said.
“If you spoke with Ambassador Kislyak in your capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, you presumably talked with him about Russia-related security issues that you have demonstrated as important to you as a member of the committee,” McCain said.
“Did I discuss security issues?” Sessions repeated in apparent confusion.
“I don’t recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues,” McCain said. “In your capacity as the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, what Russia-related security issues did you hold hearings on or otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in?”
“We may have discussed that,” Sessions said, apparently responding to McCain’s earlier question. “I just don’t have a real recall of the meeting. I was not making a report about it to anyone. I just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed.”
“And his response was?” McCain pressed.
“I don’t recall,” Sessions said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was confronted with his flip-flops on then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server Tuesday.
During a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) quoted Sessions’ responses to then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement in July 2016 that he would not recommend charges against Clinton.
Sessions signed onto a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that cited Comey’s handling of the case as unprofessional, and one justification for his firing.
On July 7, Reed said, Sessions said the email investigation dismissal “was not his problem, it’s Hillary Clinton’s problem,” referring to Comey.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) cut off Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for the second time in a week on Tuesday as she pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss a policy he cited to avoid answering other questions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions snapped at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, saying the pace of her questioning made him nervous, and that she would accuse him of lying if he was not given time to qualify his answers.
“As it relates to your knowledge, Did you have any communication with any Russian businessmen or any Russian nationals?” Harris asked Sessions.
“I don’t believe I had any conversation with Russian businessmen or Russian nationals—” Sessions began in response.
Harris interjected: “Are you aware of any communications —
“— although a lot of people were at the convention it’s conceivable that somebody —” Sessions continued, before Harris spoke again
“Sir, I have just a few—” she began.
“Will you let me qualify it!” Sessions said, voice raised. “If I don’t qualify it, you’ll accuse me of lying. So I need to be as correct as best I can—”
“I do want you to be honest,” Harris said
“—and I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous,” Sessions said.
Watch below via ABC News:
— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said suggestions he met with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election are like a story written by Lewis Carroll.
Sessions’ simile was perhaps prompted by Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) remark that Democrats went “down lots of other rabbit trails” in their lines of questioning as Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“It’s just like through the looking glass. I mean, what is this?” Sessions said.
Sessions said he “explained how in good faith” he claimed he had not met with Russian officials.
“They were suggesting I as a surrogate had been meeting continuously with Russians,” Sessions said. “I said I didn’t meet with them. And now, the next thing you know, I’m accused of some reception, plotting some sort of influence campaign for the American election. It’s just beyond my capability to understand.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that all he knew about Russian meddling in the 2016 election he had learned from press reports.
Earlier in the hearing, Sessions said he had “in effect” recused himself from campaign-related matters the day after he was sworn in as attorney general, and not after later reports he had had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador — at which point he publicly announced a recusal for the first time.
“Do you believe the Russians interfered with the 2016 election?” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked Sessions.
“It appears so,” Sessions said. “The intelligence community seems to be united in that. But I have to tell you, Sen. King, I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper. I’ve never received any detailed briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”
“There was a memorandum from the intelligence community on Oct. 9 that detailed what the Russians were doing,” King said. “After the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?”
“No,” Sessions replied.
“You never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports?” King asked.
“You might have been very critical of me if I, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign,” Sessions said. “I’m not sure that would be —”
“I’m not talking about the campaign,” King interjected. “I’m talking about what the Russians did. You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?”
“No, I don’t believe I ever did,” Sessions said.
In his highly anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions attempted to shoot down recent reports that he failed to disclose a third meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in 2016—on the sidelines of a Trump campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
In response to questions from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sessions admitted that he may have had an “encounter” with Kislyak, but not a “formal meeting.”
“I didn’t have any formal meeting with him. I’m confident of that. But I may have had an encounter during the reception,” he said.
This is not exactly what Sessions said in his opening statement, in which he said he did not “recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said President Donald Trump has not invoked executive privilege, though Sessions cited it several times as the reason for his refusal to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Has the President invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today?” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked.
“He has not,” Sessions replied.
“Then what is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions?” King pressed. “The President hasn’t asserted it. You said you don’t have the power to assert the power of executive privilege, so what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions?”
“I’m protecting the right of the President to assert it if he chooses,” Sessions said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would have quit the Trump campaign if there had been an “improper” or “illegal relationship” with Russia, in an effort to “impede or influence this campaign.”
“Sen. Risch asked you a question about appropriateness — ‘If you had known that there had been anything untoward with regard to Russia and the campaign would you have headed for the exits?’ Your response was ‘Maybe,‘” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) told Sessions during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Why wasn’t it a simple ‘Yes’?”
“Well, if there was an improper, illegal relationship in an effort to impede or influence this campaign, I absolutely would have departed,” Sessions said.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on Tuesday accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of “obstructing” the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by declining to answer questions.
“You are obstructing that congressional investigation by not answering these questions,” Heinrich told Sessions during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He said Sessions’ silence “speaks volumes.”
“I would say that I have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department and they believe this is consistent with my duties,” Sessions replied.
“I suspect you have,” Heinrich shot back.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday got testy about “secret innuendo” that has called his honesty into question.
“Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn’t talk about them. What are they?” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Sessions, referring to fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Why don’t you tell me? There are none, Sen. Wyden. There are none, I can tell you that for absolute certainty,” Sessions fired back. “This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me and I don’t appreciate it.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer on Tuesday the reasons for former FBI Director James Comey’s firing, during testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, including whether he discussed the Russia investigation with President Donald Trump.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday testified he does not know whether or not President Donald Trump records conversations that take place in the White House.
“Do you know if the President records conversations in the Oval Office or anywhere in the White House?” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Sessions during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I do not,” Sessions replied.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Donald Trump cleared the room of administration officials on Feb. 14 before speaking with then-FBI Director James Comey alone.
Comey told the same committee last week that Trump asked him to drop the probe into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had been forced to resign the previous day, after everyone had cleared the room.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified on Tuesday that he did not “recall” whether or not he had a third meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, though he denied doing so earlier in his opening remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Certainly, I can assure you, nothing improper, if I’d had a conversation with him, and it’s conceivable that occurred. I just don’t remember,” Sessions said. “I guess I could say that I possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it, and I did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony or in my subsequent letter intentionally false.”
In his opening remarks at the hearing, Sessions said he “did not have any private meetings” and could not “recall any conversations” with Russian officials at a Washington, D.C. hotel.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he had “no idea” if President Donald Trump had confidence in the special counsel leading the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller.
“I have known Mr. Mueller over the years, he served 12 years as FBI director. I knew him before that, and I have confidence in Mr. Mueller,” Sessions said. “But I’m not going to discuss hypotheticals or what might be a factual situation in the future that I’m not aware of today because I know nothing about the investigation, I have fully recused myself.
“Do you believe the President has confidence in Mr. Mueller?” Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) asked.
“I have no idea, I’ve not talked to him about it,” Sessions said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said he would appear before Senate committees only “as appropriate” and would not commit to handing over documents to entities investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I will commit to appear before this committee and other committees as appropriate,” Sessions said, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I don’t think it’s good policy to continually bring Cabinet members or the attorney general before multiple committees going over the same things over and over.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he recused himself from the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election because he had been associated with the Trump campaign — rather because of the Washington Post’s reporting that he had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
Sessions said he “in effect” recused himself the day after his swearing in as attorney general, even though he did not announce it publicly at the time.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday testified that there is “nothing wrong” about conversations taking place between the president and the director of the FBI.
“Did Director Comey ever express additional discomfort with conversations that the President might’ve had with him? Because he had two additional meetings and I think a total of six phone calls,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Sessions, referring to fired FBI head James Comey.
“That is correct. There’s nothing wrong with the President having the communication with the FBI director,” Sessions replied. “What is problematic for any Department of Justice employee is to talk to any Cabinet persons or White House officials, high officials, about ongoing investigations that are not properly cleared through the top levels of the Department of Justice.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday disputed former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his response to Comey’s request not to be left alone with President Donald Trump.
“Mr. Comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the White House and with the President. I responded,” Sessions said. “He didn’t recall this, but I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and the Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House.”
The Justice Department on Tuesday released Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, as prepared for delivery. Read it after the jump:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the “suggestion” he colluded with Russians in the 2016 election “an appalling and detestable lie.”
“I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday. “Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”
“I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you,” he continued. “And the suggestion that I participated in any collusion — that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process — is an appalling and detestable lie.”
“I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He said he did not “have any recollection or meeting” of talking to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak “or any other Russian officials.”
“If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it,” Sessions said.
In his opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he appreciated “the committee’s critically important efforts to investigate Russian interference with our democratic processes.”
“Such interference can never be tolerated and I encourage every effort to get to the bottom of any such allegations,” he said.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, delivered remarks at the beginning of an open hearing on Tuesday before Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ scheduled testimony.