Published: Tue, June 13, 2017
Culture&Arts | By Lena Vasquez

Attorney General Sessions' Testimony To Senate Panel Will Be Public

Attorney General Sessions' Testimony To Senate Panel Will Be Public

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he wants his testimony before the Senate intelligence committee to be open to the public. But senators on the committee are expected to question Sessions about his meetings with Russians - a topic that has come under increased scrutiny amid investigations into Russia's interference in the US election.

But his testimony will be a dramatic sequel to the fired FBI chief's tour de force that twisted a knife in President Donald Trump's administration over the Russian Federation investigation and still has Washington buzzing. Senate Democrats have raised questions about whether the men met at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Sessions requested the open setting because "he believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him". In fact, his own survival as attorney general, which has recently been a subject of much debate, could hinge on his performance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Trump's tendency to bring up the Russian Federation investigation, whether by insulting Comey or hinting at the existence of tapes, has created a headache for Republicans who want to focus on the party's priorities such as healthcare and tax reform.

Sessions is likely to be asked about his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and whether there were more encounters that should have been made public.

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One aspect of the Comey hearing that was overwhelmed by the newsworthiness of his comments was his refusal to speak to the nature of Sessions' recusal from the Russian Federation investigation in an open hearing.

Sessions is likely to be questioned over the truthfulness of his answers in January. "To get into a hypothetical at this point would be premature".

Comey himself had a riveting appearance before the same Senate panel last week, with some key moments centered on Sessions.

Sessions won't be able to tell senators what went on in the meeting - the president had ordered him out of the Oval Office, along with other officials, before speaking privately with Comey, according to Comey's testimony. Mr Sessions, through his lawyer, disputed this account on Friday, stating that he told Mr Comey that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the justice department "needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House".

Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the intelligence panel, told CBS' "Face the Nation" the decision was not finalized, but "I assume that this will be public".

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In addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation on Russia, special counsel Robert Mueller is leading an independent inquiry into Russia's election meddling and potential links between Russians and the Trump campaign. White House frustrations with the Justice Department spilled into public view last week, when Trump on Twitter criticized the legal strategy in defending his proposed travel ban.

The committee has not confirmed the Tuesday date for Sessions' testimony and are still discussing whether to allow him to testify in open or closed session, or both, as former FBI Director James Comey did last week.

Senate Democrats have raised the possibility that Sessions and Kislyak could have met there, though Justice Department officials say there were no private encounters or side meetings.

After The Washington Post reported on Sessions' meetings with Kislyak in the summer of 2016, some Senators accused him of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing and called for his resignation.

On Monday, in a unusual photo op, members of Trump's Cabinet lavished praise on the President, who has struggled to extricate himself from the Russian Federation cloud over his White House.

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The White House on Monday suggested Sessions could invoke executive privilege during his testimony depending on "the scope of the questions".

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