Democrats say Ses­sions must testify in pub­lic

At­tor­ney gen­eral slated to fol­low up on Comey

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN BOYLAN AND ALEX SWOYER

Democrats in­di­cated Sun­day that the de­ci­sion by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions to testify to Congress on Rus­sian in­volve­ment in the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion isn’t good enough — they want Tues­day’s tes­ti­mony to be pub­lic.

Mr. Ses­sions an­nounced his in­ten­tion to go be­fore the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence to ad­dress ques­tions raised last week dur­ing former FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey’s tes­ti­mony about the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s re­cusal from the Rus­sia probe.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral had been sched­uled to testify Tues­day about the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s bud­get be­fore the House and Se­nate ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tees but de­cided in­stead to go be­fore the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee.

“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 wrote to law­mak­ers.

It was un­clear whether he in­tended his in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee tes­ti­mony to be pub­lic or be­hind closed doors, but Democrats made their pref­er­ence clear Sun­day and on the week­end po­lit­i­cal

talk shows.

On Sun­day, Sen. Ron Wy­den, Ore­gon Demo­crat and an in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee mem­ber, sent a let­ter to the com­mit­tee’s lead­er­ship re­quest­ing that they hold an open hear­ing.

“These mat­ters, which are di­rectly re­lated to threats to our demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions, are of the ut­most pub­lic in­ter­est. I be­lieve we owe the Amer­i­can peo­ple trans­parency,” Mr. Wy­den said in his let­ter to Sens. Richard Burr, North Carolina Repub­li­can and com­mit­tee chair­man, and Sen. Mark R. Warner of Vir­ginia, the rank­ing Demo­crat.

Sen. James Lank­ford, Ok­la­homa Repub­li­can and an in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee mem­ber, said he as­sumes the hear­ing will be pub­lic.

“We want to be able to get his side of it — get all the facts out there,” Mr. Lank­ford said on “Face the Na­tion” on CBS.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, a mem­ber of the in­tel­li­gence panel, said Sun­day that she doesn’t “know whether it is go­ing to be pub­lic.”

Re­gard­less, she said she also wants to see the at­tor­ney gen­eral ap­pear be­fore the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, where she is the rank­ing Demo­crat.

“The ju­di­ciary staff are all lawyers … and so, there is an op­por­tu­nity to look at the law with re­spect to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, to hold a hear­ing and also to have those rel­e­vant peo­ple to come be­fore the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee,” she said in an ap­pear­ance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Comey tes­ti­fied Thurs­day that Pres­i­dent Trump asked him to drop the probe into former Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn, but he said he de­clined to tell the at­tor­ney gen­eral about the un­com­fort­able one-on-one in­ter­ac­tions be­cause FBI of­fi­cials ex­pected Mr. Ses­sions to be re­cused from all Rus­sia-re­lated is­sues “for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.”

Mr. Comey told sen­a­tors that there were rea­sons he couldn’t dis­cuss in a non­clas­si­fied set­ting what of­fi­cials be­lieved made Mr. Ses­sions’ “con­tin­ued en­gage­ment in a Rus­sia-re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tion prob­lem­atic.”

Mr. Ses­sions, who was one of the first ma­jor Wash­ing­ton of­fice­hold­ers to sup­port Mr. Trump on the cam­paign trail, re­cused him­self from all mat­ters re­lated to the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — in­clud­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s role in prob­ing Moscow’s role in med­dling in the elec­tion and any ties be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign.

Dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, Mr. Ses­sions said he did not meet with Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the cam­paign but later ac­knowl­edged meet­ing with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak twice last year.

Former FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller was ap­pointed spe­cial coun­sel to head the probe.

Mr. Comey was asked Thurs­day about the de­gree to which he thought Mr. Ses­sions had ad­hered to his re­cusal, in­clud­ing whether he was fol­low­ing that de­ci­sion in re­la­tion to his role in rec­om­mend­ing the former FBI di­rec­tor’s fir­ing.

“That’s a ques­tion I can’t an­swer. I think that’s a rea­son­able ques­tion,” Mr. Comey said. “If I was fired be­cause of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, why was the at­tor­ney gen­eral in­volved in that chain? I don’t know.”

Mr. Ses­sions was also por­trayed in an un­flat­ter­ing light when Mr. Comey said the at­tor­ney gen­eral had no re­sponse and re­mained silent when the FBI chief re­quested that the at­tor­ney gen­eral pro­tect him from one-on-one meet­ings with Mr. Trump.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment re­but­ted that char­ac­ter­i­za­tion last week, with a spokesman is­su­ing a state­ment say­ing the at­tor­ney gen­eral re­sponded to Mr. Comey’s ap­peal “by say­ing that the FBI and De­part­ment of Jus­tice needed to be care­ful about fol­low­ing ap­pro­pri­ate poli­cies re­gard­ing con­tacts with the White House.”

Mr. Ses­sions won’t be the only high-pro­file fig­ure to meet with the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee as it con­ducts an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Rus­sia case: Mr. Trump’s spe­cial ad­viser and son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, and Mr. Mueller are ex­pected to meet soon with the com­mit­tee.

Ac­cord­ing to com­mit­tee staff, Mr. Mueller, who was ap­pointed to his post last month, will meet with Mr. Burr and Mr. Warner, each his re­spec­tive party’s rank­ing mem­ber. No spe­cific date has been set.

Ac­cord­ing to NBC News, Mr. Kush­ner, who is mar­ried to Ivanka Trump, will pro­vide the com­mit­tee with doc­u­ments it has re­quested, in ad­di­tion to fac­ing ques­tions from sen­a­tors. No date has been con­firmed for that ei­ther.

Repub­li­cans used Sun­day’s talk shows to con­tinue their crit­i­cism of Mr. Comey’s con­duct.

Sen. Su­san M. Collins, Maine Repub­li­can, said that while it was “clearly wrong” for the pres­i­dent to ask that in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mr. Flynn be stopped, Mr. Comey should have told the pres­i­dent his re­quest was in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

“There are a lot of peo­ple in govern­ment that should have tried to set him straight,” the Repub­li­can se­na­tor said of the pres­i­dent.

Mr. Comey tes­ti­fied last week that he leaked the memos through a friend to The New York Times af­ter Mr. Trump hinted he may have tapes of their pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion.

Mr. Lank­ford called Mr. Comey’s leak of his memos de­tail­ing his pri­vate meet­ing with the pres­i­dent “in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” though he ac­knowl­edged that was “not dam­ag­ing to na­tional se­cu­rity.”

“I’m still won­der­ing why he prospec­tively wanted to get out his side of his opin­ion,” the se­na­tor from Ok­la­homa said in his ap­pear­ance on CBS.

Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Repub­li­can, agreed, though he was un­sure whether Mr. Comey’s leak of the memos was a crime.

“I’m not wild about the fact that he had these memos leaked — leaked specif­i­cally with the in­tent of prompt­ing the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel,” said Mr. Lee. “That doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of thing we want out of an FBI di­rec­tor, an FBI di­rec­tor whose ex­am­ple will af­fect ev­ery­one in a bureau where leak­ing seems to be a prob­lem.”

Ses­sions

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