Tamp­ing down ru­mors

Deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral de­nies Trump is try­ing to fire Rus­sia spe­cial coun­sel.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAN BOYLAN

Ac­cu­sa­tions of col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia faded, and Democrats shifted their fo­cus Tues­day to try­ing to build a case for ob­struc­tion of jus­tice against Pres­i­dent Trump.

With At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions on Capi­tol Hill for pub­lic tes­ti­mony, Democrats pep­pered him with ques­tions over what led to the fir­ing of FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey and whether the pres­i­dent said he was try­ing to stymy the Rus­sia probe.

When Mr. Ses­sions de­clined to de­tail his con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Trump, cit­ing “long­stand­ing” Jus­tice De­part­ment pol­icy, Democrats said it fed into their sus­pi­cion that the pres­i­dent was try­ing to cover up wrong­do­ing.

“I think your si­lence, like the si­lence of Di­rec­tor Coats, like the si­lence of Ad­mi­ral Rogers, speaks vol­umes,” said Sen. Martin Hein­rich, New Mex­ico Demo­crat, re­fer­ring to tes­ti­mony ear­lier this month by Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Dan Coats and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency chief Mike Rogers, who also de­clined to de­scribe their spe­cific con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Ses­sions flatly de­nied he was part of any col­lu­sion with Rus­sia, and said in his in­volve­ment with the cam­paign — or his time since as at­tor­ney gen­eral — he’s seen no ev­i­dence of such col­lu­sion.

The col­lu­sion spec­u­la­tion was also dealt a ma­jor blow last week when Mr. Comey, in his own tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said there was no ev­i­dence. Mr. Comey also flatly said that Mr. Trump was not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“That’s where we started six months ago. We’ve now heard from six of the eight Democrats on this com­mit­tee, and to my knowl­edge, I don’t think a sin­gle one of them asked that ques­tion,” said Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Re­pub­li­can.

He said Democrats are now scur­ry­ing down “other rab­bit trails.”

The most prom­i­nent new trail is the Comey fir­ing. While the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s top of­fi­cials rec­om­mended Mr. Comey be ousted be­cause of his mis­han­dling of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Mr. Trump said the fir­ing was be­cause of Rus­sia.

“Do you con­cur with the pres­i­dent that he was go­ing to fire Comey re­gard­less of rec­om­men­da­tion, be­cause the prob­lem was the Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion?” Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein de­manded of Mr. Ses­sions.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral de­clined to an­swer, say­ing he couldn’t talk about his con­ver­sa­tions with the pres­i­dent.

For his part, Mr. Cot­ton said the only ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity that’s been un­cov­ered so far is il­le­gal leak­ing.

He ticked off a se­ries of anti-Trump sto­ries that have emerged based on im­proper leaks, in­clud­ing the un­mask­ing and shar­ing of con­ver­sa­tions of for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Michael Flynn; testy con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Mr. Trump and Aus­tralian and Mex­i­can lead­ers; Mr. Trump’s Oval Of­fice con­ver­sa­tion with the Rus­sian for­eign min­is­ter; and a leak out of last week’s closed-door ses­sion with Mr. Comey.

That leak came “within 20 min­utes of this com­mit­tee meet­ing in a clas­si­fied set­ting with Jim Comey,” Mr. Cot­ton said.

“Are these leaks se­ri­ous threats to our na­tional se­cu­rity?” Mr. Cot­ton de­manded.

Mr. Ses­sions said his de­part­ment is pur­su­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into leaks, and pointed to the ar­rest last week of a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor in Ge­or­gia who has been charged with leaks.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral hinted that mem­bers of Congress or their em­ploy­ees could also be on the hook.

“We can­not have per­sons in our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, our in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies or in Congress leak­ing sen­si­tive mat­ters — and staff,” he said. “This, I’m afraid, is al­ready re­sult­ing in in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and I fear that some peo­ple may find that they wish they hadn’t leaked.”

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