Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in for sharp questioning by senator on Tuesday when he stands in from of the Intelligence Committee, however, it is not yet known whether his hearing will be public or closed.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Sessions requested that the committee hearing be public.
Sessions later amended his statement to say he did meet with Kislyak “a couple” of times, and in tomorrow’s testimony he is expected to say that he mistakenly didn’t think of those meetings when he first answered the question posed to him before the Senate. Comey said of Sessions Thursday that “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting, that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic”.
Sessions removed himself from involvement any probe into alleged Russian meddling in the elections in March, but maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose that he met past year with Russia’s ambassador.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said he was troubled that Sessions wouldn’t appear before the appropriations panel and that the apparent reason was “he does not want to discuss the scope of his recusal from the investigation regarding the 2016 presidential campaign as well as his significant interactions with Russian officials”.
In response to Comey’s testimony, Sessions issued a statement contradicting some of what Comey said. But Trump himself admitted it was related to “that Russian Federation thing”, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, and Rosenstein told senators that though he wrote the memo criticizing Comey’s handling of Clinton’s email probe, he did so already knowing that Trump meant to fire the Federal Bureau of Investigation director.
It later came out in closed session questioning that Sessions had yet another meeting with Russian ambassador to the US and purported spymaster Sergey Kislyak.
It is one of several congressional panels that, along with a special counsel, is also investigating whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with the alleged Kremlin plot.
Sessions has, at this point, disclosed two contacts with Kislyac before the presidential election, neither of which he revealed during his Senate confirmation hearing in January.
Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that the committee is still in a “final conversation” with Sessions but assumes the hearing would be public. But not long afterward, Trump admitted the firing was due to “this Russian Federation thing”. Trump has denied that he said that. US intelligence officials have said since December that Russia’s goal was to help Trump win. He, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, wrote a memo to the White House explaining why they believed it would be best for Trump to let go of Comey. The Justice Department has said that Sessions held the meetings in his capacity as a senator.
Comey’s appearance raised new questions about the attorney general’s relationship with Russian officials and others with ties to President Vladimir Putin.