Jeff Sessions to appear before Senate intelligence committee to respond to ex-FBI chief James Comey's testimony

Mr Sessions had recused himself from the Russia investigation in March 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Sunday 11 June 2017 00:13
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate intelligence committee next week to respond to ex-FBI chief James Comey’s testimony.

“In light of reports regarding Mr Comey’s recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Mr Sessions said in a statement.

Mr Comey, fired by Donald Trump last month, testified before Congress on Thursday about his interactions with the President, who seemingly directed him to drop a criminal investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia, Mr Comey said.

Mr Flynn was forced to resign from his post in February after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with a Russian official.

Mr Comey said the President had privately told him in the Oval Office: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The day after that interaction in February, Mr Comey said he implored Mr Sessions to prevent any future direct communication between him and the President, but that the Attorney General did not verbally reply.

During his opening statement to Congress, Mr Comey said that his leadership team at the FBI agreed not to share the details of his private discussion with Mr Sessions.

“We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations,” Mr Comey said.

At the time he was dismissed, Mr Comey was also leading a probe into whether Trump campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 US election.

Mr Sessions had recused himself from that investigation in March following reports that he twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year and did not disclose the encounters during his confirmation hearing in January.

“Our judgment was that he was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself,” Mr Comey said during the hearing on Thursday. “We were also aware of facts I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued involvement in a Russia investigation problematic,” he added.

Mr Comey also reportedly told senators behind closed doors that Mr Sessions may have met with Russia’s ambassador a third time.

The Justice Department on Thursday defended Mr Sessions, saying that shortly after being sworn in as attorney general, he “began consulting with career Department of Justice ethics officials to determine whether he should recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” agency spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement.

“Given Attorney General Sessions’ participation in President Trump’s campaign, it was for that reason, and that reason alone, the Attorney General made the decision on March 2, 2017 to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” Mr Prior added.

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