Executive privilege is a power that can be claimed by a president or senior executive branch officials to withhold information from Congress or the courts to protect the executive branch decision-making process. Comey testified that he decided not to report the president’s request to Sessions at the time, because the attorney general was weighing his recusal from all matters related to the Russia investigation – largely for his failure to acknowledge two previous meetings with the Russian ambassador during his January confirmation hearing – and for other “facts” the former director said he could not disclose in a public session.
“Some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in closed sessions“, Sessions said. Ron Wyden (D-OR), decrying “secret innuendo” from Comey and other critics. There are none. Senator Wyden, there are not.
Senators questioned Sessions on his encounters with Russian ambassadors, why Comey was sacked and if Russia colluded with Trump’s campaign. The attorney general indicated that he agreed with the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director on the matter.
Sessions says he was not silent, saying he stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.
“(Sessions) believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee’s questions tomorrow”, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Monday.
Sessions says he recommended Comey’s firing after a number of concerns about his job performance. The FBI, which is handling the intelligence investigation, has publicly acknowledged the existing investigation but said last October that it had yielded no evidence of collusion.
Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Sessions for dispatching Rosenstein to testify Tuesday in his place about the Justice Department’s budget to an Appropriations subcommittee.
But the revelations forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March, and it is now being handled by a special counsel. “That’s just not right”, Sessions said. Graham also asked him if it would be a disqualifier to have worked for Hillary Clinton, who ran against President Donald Trump in the election and was a subject of a separate Justice Department investigation into her email practices.
In a combative and emotional Senate hearing, Sessions beseeched his former Senate colleagues to believe him when he said he did not hold a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump at the Mayflower hotel a year ago. But the revelations prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March.
“I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling”, Wyden said.
Sessions’ appearance before the intelligence committee is an indication of just how much the Russian Federation investigation has shaded his tenure.
Rosenstein repeatedly conveyed his support for Mueller’s role at a Senate hearing, held the morning after a close friend of President Donald Trump was quoted in a television interview as saying he was considering dismissing Mueller. Comey’s decision to announce a year ago that Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails was a “usurpation” of the Justice Department’s authority, Sessions said. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have – did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it”, end quote.
Burr also asked for details of his involvement on Trump’s foreign policy team and its possible interactions with the Russians. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asked Sessions whether Trump records his conversations in the White House.
But, he said, he has known Mueller for years and “I have confidence in Mr. Mueller”. “Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the Trump campaign”, Mr Sessions said.
After the Post story, Sessions issued a statement in which he clarified, “I never met with Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign”.