Trump's top lawyer to face questions on Russia, Comey

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday, he may cite executive privilege to avoid answering certain questions.

Nearly immediately after being sworn in, Sessions consulted with career ethics attorneys at the Department of Justice, and shortly thereafter recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation only because of his participation in President Trump's campaign.

Invoking of executive privilege for administration employees is typically formally announced by the attorney general, but it's not exactly clear who would make the formal announcement for Sessions, said Michael Bahar, former Democratic staff director for the House intelligence committee and former White House lawyer. The Justice Department has said that while Sessions was there, for a speech by Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters.

"The Attorney General has requested that this hearing be public", Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. "He 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". "If they do not come to any agreement, of course the matter could be litigated".

White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday said Ruddy had not spoken to Trump about the issue and that only the president or his attorneys were authorized to speak about it.

Sessions generally leaned right of his Republican colleagues, often articulating more conservative views than those of party leaders in the Senate.

Sessions may also be questioned about the termination of former FBI Director James Comey, who testified last week before the committee. Since Sessions is recused from these matters, he would likely would send such a recommendation to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

Discussions with the attorney general on topics within the scope of the President's constitutional duties ordinarily would be protected, lawyers say.

"I know him to be an honorable man, and I think this is just a chance for him to put all that to rest", Cornyn said.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says that a history of political giving is not a disqualifier for those who work for the Department of Justice's special counsel investigating Russian interference in US elections.

"I have made a decision to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States", Sessions said in a statement on March 2.

Sessions and Republicans also stressed there was a difference between meeting with foreign officials as a senator and as a member of a campaign.

Sessions said he did not recuse himself because he felt he was a subject of the investigation himself but rather because he felt he was required to by Justice Department rules.

But since the President can not directly fire the special counsel, the question lands squarely at the feet of Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The hearing, which will be similar to that of James Comey's last week, is expected to attract many eyeballs this afternoon.

Rosenstein said "I think the answer is no" but said it would depend on the circumstances. Sessions said that from that moment, until the announcement of his recusal on March 2, he "did not access any information about the investigation".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a Cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump, Monday, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

The Department of Justice has dismissed the purported third meeting between Sessions and Kislyak and denied Sessions ignored Comey's complaint. The attorney general indicated that he agreed with the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director on the matter.

Leahy says he wants to know why Sessions "has provided false testimony" about those contacts.

In his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he did not have "communications" with the Russians during the presidential campaign.

  • Zachary Reyes