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.
As details emerge out of the Ukraine impeachment drama, we still have no clear explanation for why members of the Giuliani criminal syndicate were so intent on getting Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch removed from her post in Kyiv. In her testimony, even Yovanovitch seemed genuinely mystified about just why they wanted her out. It is still possible there was something specific about Yovanovitch that made her an obstacle to the criminal enterprises or corrupt business deals of Parnas, Giuliani, Lutsenko or others. But that seems unlikely. We lack specific proof. But here I think is the explanation. It is my guess based on piecing together various bits of information generated so far in the impeachment inquiry.
Yesterday after the Yovanovitch testimony the House Intelligence Committee went into another closed door session to hear from Foreign Service Office David Holmes. This was the surprise witness referred to earlier in the week by Bill Taylor, the one who had allegedly overheard the conversation between President Trump and Gordon Sondland, the day after the July 25th Trump/Zelensky phone call. But Holmes’ opening statement, which got out to the press yesterday evening, turned out to include quite a bit more. It is a very big deal.
Let me hit the key points.
You have probably heard that a short time ago Roger Stone was convicted on all counts against him, including false statements, witness tampering and obstruction. On its face this is not surprising. Stone clearly and repeatedly lied to investigators and to Congress. His witness tampering and obstruction were fairly well documented in his own hand. I wanted to take a moment to put this into context — not so much the context of the Russia probe, in which he played a key role, but his own career and storyline trajectory in the recent decades of American history.
Roger Stone has been plotting and running schemes, in addition to helping run some campaigns, for going on half a century. This isn’t so much an accusation as a restatement of Stone’s personal brand. It’s hard to think of anyone of any note in politics — and it’s important to remember that he continued to play at the highest levels until the late 1990s — who more openly or eagerly embraced a reputation for bad acting.
At the risk of re-covering old ground, the gist of what we just heard was this: The President and his personal lawyer, in a purported effort to fight ‘corruption’, teamed up with the most corrupt figures in Ukraine to lead a campaign of vilification against the US Ambassador. All evidence suggests that their deal with this figures – Lutsenko, Shokin, et al. – was that they would get protection from the US (to stay in office, avoid prosecution, etc) in exchange for sweetheart business deals and agreement to intervene on the President’s side in the 2020 presidential election.
One of the subtexts or backdrops to this part of the impeachment drama is something that doesn’t get discussed much explicitly. President Trump would despise Taylor, Kent, Yovanovitch, et al. regardless simply because they are saying things that are damaging to him. Opponents are all bad people. But it goes beyond that. In Trump’s worldview these people are losers. They are reasonably compensated. But working in the Foreign Service you don’t amass any great wealth, even over a lifetime. You also, by design, don’t become famous, unless something goes terribly wrong. To the President, the idea you’d spend your life like that is totally bizarre. You can hear this in all his comments.
Happy Friday, November 15. Former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify this morning in the second public hearing of the impeachment inquiry. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Truly another must-read from the team today. We know the “deliverable” (a Biden investigation announcement) from President Zelensky never got delivered and that has become a key part of the Republican defense. No harm, no foul. But as Matt Shuham explains here Zelensky was no more than 24 hours from recording the interview tarring the Biden’s for “Ukraine corruption” and possibly as little as three or four hours. And what killed it was the chain of events triggered by the whistleblower complaint, the notification to Congress and Trump relenting on releasing the aid since they had in essence gotten caught. Here’s the story.
I can’t recommend this article to you strongly enough. If that’s enough to hear, here’s the link. I have wondered, many of you have asked me, just what the rush of activity was to get Vladimir Zelensky to kick off and publicly announce these investigations. After all, during the key events the US election was well over a year away. The answer comes down to the April election in Ukraine. Trump and Rudy had a deal in place or thought they had a deal in place with the crew around the old President Poroshenko. When Zelensky beat him in a landslide it set off a frenzied, sloppy and ultimate futile effort to get Zelensky to honor the deal. Read it.
Happy Thursday, November 14. Today, both parties will wrestle over the optics war of who “won” the first day of the public impeachment inquiry hearings, featuring top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Coming off today’s hearing Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing appeared on Lou Dobbs show this evening pushing a noxious set of bananas conspiracy theories about George Soros controlling the State Department and the FBI.
Holy Shit! Rudy/Trump confidant DiGenova spouts wild list of bananas conspiracy theories after hearing: "There is no doubt that George Soros controls a large part of the foreign service part of the State Department and the activities of FBI agents overseas who work with NGOs." pic.twitter.com/J7ulAKXvb3
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 14, 2019
House Intelligence Republicans did a lot of mocking the fact that neither of the “two star witnesses” that Democrats called to kick off their public impeachment proceedings spoke directly to President Trump about his Ukraine pressure campaign.
This is a critical point and I’m surprised it took this long to surface in the hearing, though I’m heartened that it did. The evidence is circumstantial but overwhelming that the White House finally released the aid because they got caught.
This – FINALLY – is the point. Very, very clear that the White House finally released the aid only when the whistleblower report was coming to light and the Intel committee was already starting its investigation! They relented because they finally got caught. pic.twitter.com/GiFbOMBKSE
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2019
There have been repeated references to President Zelensky confirming that President Trump never pressured him. It is, as I’ve called it, what amounts to a hostage video since he was literally sitting next to him when he was asked. To refresh your memory, here’s the video they’re referring to.
So just for clarity, here's the 'hostage video' where Zelensky allegedly confirms no one pressured him. This is maybe half of the GOP argument. pic.twitter.com/39L0FTUpMA
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2019
Going back to my point that the career diplomats had a hard time getting their heads around the subterranean world of Trumpian conspiracy theories and crazy, it’s notable here that the top State Department official for Russia and Ukraine had never heard of the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory before the July 25th transcript was released.
Back to my earlier point abt diplos having a hard time processing all this, top State official on Russia/Ukraine had never heard of the Crowdstrike/Ukraine was the real culprit conspiracy theory. pic.twitter.com/4PiVMhcwSZ
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2019
This is very, very damning. Curious whether Gordon Sondland wants to go to prison for President Trump. pic.twitter.com/qhCIDFq06P
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 13, 2019
Slightly separate matter: One of the most fascinating things about this story is how Trump was pre-defending himself about “quid pro quos” while the plot wasn’t even done yet. Almost certainly that is because he knew the WB complaint was already in play at the same time.
Some of this is certainly benignly feigned naivete. But it’s nonetheless striking and I think real how these career diplomats and civil servants had genuine difficulty grasping the nature of the kind of Trumpian and pre-Trump GOP batshittery that those of us who’ve been covering it for years know as second nature.
We are, as you’d expect, all in on today’s hearings. Here’s our staff liveblog of today’s hearings: mainly Tierney Sneed (who is in the room) but also Matt Shuham and Kate Riga.
For their first impeachment hearing, House Democrats have picked a room that is TV ready.
The House Intelligence Committee, a relatively small committee that typically meets in private, is gathering in the cavernous Ways and Means hearing room — an upgrade from its typical hearing space and a world away from the underground secure conference room where all these witnesses have been talking to members up into this point.
On virtually every talk show and daytime cable news discussion of impeachment, I hear the same question: Will the Democrats be able to make the case to the American people? Will they be able to make it clear enough, understandable enough, convincing enough? There’s often a Perils of Pauline tone about how the question is put to this or that guest, with Democrats on the line just as much as Republicans and perhaps hanging on the cusp of failure. Certainly the case can be made more or less well. I myself have pressed the importance of avoiding confounding obscurities like ‘quid pro quos’ in favor of describing clearly what actually happened: an extortion plot to use a foreign power to sabotage a national election in the President’s favor.
But for all this the question itself misstates the situation in a critical way. What’s really being asked is whether Democrats will be able to convince not the American people but Republican partisans and more specifically congressional Republicans. And that is by design an all but impossible standard because they are deeply and unshakably committed to not being convinced.
This is not only the obvious verdict of the last three years. It’s even more clear with the questions which have emerged since September. Congressional Republicans have hopped from one argument to another: from no evidence of wrongdoing, to the wrongdoing is actually fine, to a rearguard action against a corrupt process. The chaos of arguments has zero logic or consistency beyond the simple and overriding one: of refusing to accept that the President did anything wrong no matter what evidence emerges and simply use whatever argument is available to justify that end.
Happy Wednesday, November 13. Today marks the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Today’s revelations out of the Roger Stone case put just one more weight on the branch of the Mueller probe’s credibility and probably far more weight than it can bear. Credibility in this context is a very fraught and weighty word. I don’t mean that it was crooked or out to whitewash the President’s actions. It’s all too complicated for anything like that. But we have a simple fact: six months out there is lots of new evidence that Mueller either must have known or could have known but didn’t make it anywhere into the report.
It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that Mueller ended up as what we might call the anti-Starr: determinedly refusing to look at anything not narrowly within the confines of his original brief. Just today we learn that there was at least pretty strong evidence that the President lied in written answers to the Special Counsel’s Office about Roger Stone delivering advance word to the campaign about Wikileaks.
Let me draw your attention to this new article in the Times, the subject of which is the range of rivalries, turf wars and personality conflicts which epitomize the Trump White House and are coming to the fore under the Stress Test of impeachment. One of these is the on-going battle between “acting” Chief of Staff and John Bolton, which flared up overnight when Bolton and his protege told Mulvaney to get his own lawsuit against the President and stop trying to glom on to theirs. Mulvaney complied. He first appeared set to file his own lawsuit before – apparently? – giving up on the whole idea.
But note this passage in the Times article which suggests that Mulvaney is telling colleagues he’s all but unfireable since he knows too much damaging information about President Trump.
There’s a jarring passage in the testimony of Christopher Anderson, which was released yesterday by the House Intelligence Committee. Anderson is a Foreign Service Officer who was serving as a special advisor to Kurt Volker while he was the US Special Envoy on Ukraine.
In January of this year, the US Navy was sending a naval vessel into the Black Sea and specifically through the Kerch Strait. Without going too deep into the geography, this is a narrow passageway through which Russia can limit maritime access to parts of Ukraine because Russia now controls Crimea. Here the Navy was asserting its right to unfettered transit to support Ukraine. It’s referred to as a “freedom of navigation operation.”
President Trump saw a CNN report about the mission, thought it was a challenge to Russia and called John Bolton at home one night ordering him to cancel the mission.
Happy Tuesday, November 12. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) is weighing an eleventh-hour presidential bid. Here’s more on that and the other stories we are watching.
Republicans have put forward their requests for witnesses at the upcoming public impeachment hearings. A few are quite reasonable. Those are people who testified behind closed doors and were supportive or partially supportive of the President in their opinions and judgments even if they confirmed facts which support the case against him. NSC Senior Director Tim Morrison is in that category as is Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker. But most are in a distinctly different category. They include Hunter Biden, Devon Archer (Biden’s business partner), Andrea Chalupa (a researcher and sometimes consultant for the DNC), Nellie Ohr (a researcher for Fusion GPS and wife of State Department organized crime official Bruce Ohr).
We could get into the specifics of each person in the second category. But each focuses on the same thing: proving or advancing the various conspiracy theories the pursuit of which got President Trump into this impeachment inquiry in the first place. In other words, House Republicans aren’t really defending Trump so much as joining his plot or conspiracy.
One of the interesting things about reading through the impeachment deposition transcripts is that you get a different view of many of the Republican members in the room. Probably everyone knew some or all of these transcripts would eventually be made public. But not having TV cameras present still makes a big difference.
So one takeaway is that Rep. Mark Meadows is fairly friendly and easygoing, even reasonable seeming. Rep. Jim Jordan is pretty much the guy you see on camera on the Hill or on TV. Rep. Lee Zeldin is about what you’d expect. One that that really jumps out to me is Rep. Devin Nunes, who is consistently hostile and angry and pushing the wildest kinds of conspiracy theories. Even away from the cameras he’s pushing the same lines about a sham inquiries and the like and unlike some of his colleagues his heart seems entirely into it.
On Friday night, lawyers for “acting” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney sought to join a lawsuit (if not quite a unique one then pretty close) which lists both President Trump and Congressional leaders as defendants, asking a federal judge to decide who he and other White House officials must obey. The suit was originally brought by Charles M. Kupperman, the former Deputy National Security Advisor, and is being used, if not formally joined by John Bolton, former National Security Advisor. (Kupperman and Bolton share the same lawyer, Charles J. Cooper.)
Still with me? Good.
Despite the seeming oddity of a serving White House Chief of Staff suing the President, this may actually be at least in part an effort to help Trump. By joining this lawsuit, Mulvaney not only gives himself a legal safe harbor he may tie the question up in the courts long enough that it stretches beyond the life of the impeachment inquiry and thus becomes moot.
I wanted to walk you through some of the backstory and context of this exclusive Josh Kovensky published a short while ago. Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were actually on their way to Kyiv when they were arrested at Dulles Airport last month. But it’s what they were going there to do that is most interesting to me.
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.