Key Takeaways From Attorney General Sessions' Testimony

Saturday, 17 Jun, 2017

The attorney general confirmed elements of Comey's dramatic testimony before the same panel last week while disputing others.

The testimony by Comey marked the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged the Republican Trump's first five months as president and distracted from his domestic policy agenda including major healthcare and tax cut initiatives. I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians and I am unable to comment on it.

Suffice to say, it was a tense and occasionally testy hearing, with Sessions seeming at time indignant and outraged at being questioned so aggressively by his former colleagues in the Senate.

He opened his testimony with a fiery assertion that he never had any conversations with Russians about "any type of interference" in the 2016 presidential election. But Sessions said he had no recollection of that. "The suggestion that I participated in any an appalling and detestable lie".

The attorney general seemed to understand the import of each of his words as the highest-ranking Trump administration official so far to testify publicly on the FBI investigation and Comey's firing.

The real audience: Jeremy Bash, a lawyer and former Obama national security official, told Brian Williams on MSNBC: "I think Mueller could use a grand jury and overcome this [implied] claim of executive privilege".

Sessions testified that he bowed out of the Russia investigation, which includes possible ties between Russian operatives and the president's associates, because of the role he had played in Trump's campaign. He acknowledged being at the event and said he had conversations with people there, but did not remember any conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

"Certainly not one thing happened that was improper in any one of those meetings", Sessions said. Al Franken, D-Minn., after many hours of testimony. It somewhat reinforces the fact that, setting aside the still-unproven allegations of misconduct between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation, the findings of the American intelligence community which Sessions accepted during the hearing are serious enough as to make such a remark really stick out. "I'm not sure what was in his mind explicitly when we talked to him", Sessions responded. Or was it because of the Russian Federation probe, as Trump said later on television?

He disputed that his involvement in Comey's firing violated the recusal. Comey's decision to announce previous year that Mrs. Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails was a "usurpation" of the Justice Department's authority, Sessions said.

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He said the Saudi King, as the elder statesman in the Gulf region, should take the lead to resolve the crisis. Smith was appointed ambassador by US President Donald Trump's predecessor Barack Obama in 2014.

Sessions' transparently phony rationale for firing Comey, which contradicted his own public defenses of the FBI director's controversial decisions regarding the Clinton investigation, was merely window dressing for a decision Trump had already made, as the president himself admitted two days later in an interview with NBC News.

Feinstein: Mr. Rosenstein, in a statement to the House of Representatives, essentially told them he learned on May 8th President Trump meant to remove Director Comey. Collins gave him the opportunity to declare, "Comey's firing had nothing to do with the Russian Federation investigation".

The Justice Department subsequently released decades-old memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that it said supported Sessions' position.

The attorney general will also face questions about whether he met Kislyak on a third occasion. "Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged or off limits", Wyden said. "We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions, and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable". "I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice".

Senator Wyden asked Sessions what problematic issues existed.

"Why don't you tell me?" "This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it".

At a separate hearing Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared he'd seen no basis for dismissing Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director he appointed as special counsel after Sessions' recusal. Mueller was recently appointed to lead the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 election.

Between the lines: Matt Miller, an Obama Justice Department official who has become a go-to commentator on the investigation, emailed me: "N$3 o immediate public revelation, but a red flag in front of the bull named Bob Mueller".

In a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Rosenstein offered assurances about Mueller.