More Questions Than Answers After AG Sessions Testifies Before Senate Committee
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 15, 2017,
Jun 15, 2017, 23:46
Sen. Mark Warner, D., Va., asked the attorney general if he had confidence in former FBI Director Robert Mueller's appointment as special counsel to probe whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation.
Comey testified last week that he did not tell Sessions that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation because he suspected Sessions would soon need to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.
"That I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie", he told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing.
Shortly after his opening, Sessions said that if he had talked with Kislyak, "It would've been certainly, I can assure you, nothing improper, if I'd had a conversation with him". Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Sessions on why the attorney general actually recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation.
Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Sessions for dispatching Rosenstein to testify Tuesday in his place about the Justice Department's budget to an Appropriations subcommittee.
Some Democrats grew impatient, warning Sessions was stonewalling on vital issues.
But in the rat-a-tat-tat of follow-up questions, Sessions slowly pried that door open again, by increasingly hedging his answers. "Your silence. speaks volumes". Far from being silent, Sessions said he "backed [Comey] up in his concerns".
If the special counsel found evidence of obstruction of justice, the Justice Department would likely not indict the president, according to longstanding precedent.
Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee last week and confirmed that he gave Mueller the memos he wrote detailing his interactions with Trump ahead of his firing. But who knows? Trump does like to look bold, and he likes to be the center of attention.
Top Justice Department officials testified on June 13 that it's actually up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who originally appointed Mueller to his post, to decide whether he should go, though the president could bypass that protocol.
But the attorney general pushed back hard when asked what those problematic matters could be, retorting: "There are none".
"Why don't you tell me?" "This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it". Dianne Feinstein to pin him down on whether he knew, when he recommended to Trump that he fire Comey based on a memo by Deputy Atty.
He said he would agree to dismiss Mueller only if there were a legitimate basis to do so, and an order from the president would not necessarily qualify.
Besides Wyden, several other Democratic senators pressed Sessions over his refusal to discuss his conversations with President Trump over Comey's firing.
Asked about Trump's own contention that the president fired Comey with the Russian Federation probe in mind, and regardless of any recommendation from anyone else, Sessions said: "I guess I'll just have to let his words speak for themselves". And he appeared to do that effectively in a strong opening statement, where he slammed the door shut on even the possibility that he had a third meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Overall, Sessions seemed curiously uncurious about Trump's real motives in firing Comey, or about whether he and Rosenstein had been enlisted to supply what was in effect a cover story.
At the conclusion of a February 14 meeting, the sacked Federal Bureau of Investigation chief testified, Trump urged everyone but Comey to leave the Oval Office, including Sessions.
Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president's requests, officials said.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of OR aggressively asked Sessions about suggestions arising from Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal.
Trump said in mid-May the special counsel's probe would show there was "no collusion" between his campaign and a foreign power.
Schake: Yes, he had a choice, although refusing would have made it hard for him to achieve much of what an attorney general needs from the Congress - and, ironically, the manner of his testimony I think left him in the same place, having alienated Congress.