Ses­sions faces tough ques­tion­ing be­fore Ju­di­ciary panel.

GOP wants spe­cial coun­sel ap­pointed

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREA NOBLE AND STEPHEN DINAN

Tues­day is shap­ing up to be a rough day for At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who is ex­pected to be grilled dur­ing an ap­pear­ance be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee by both Repub­li­cans and Democrats. Both par­ties are un­happy with his job per­for­mance.

Two House Repub­li­cans ex­pressed frus­tra­tion Mon­day that the at­tor­ney gen­eral has not ap­pointed a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey’s han­dling of last year’s elec­tion, and sug­gested that he either ap­point an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor or re­sign and clear the way for some­one who will. In a Mon­day evening let­ter, Mr. Ses­sions in­di­cated open­ness to those de­mands.

House Democrats, mean­while, put Mr. Ses­sions on no­tice last week that they in­tend to ques­tion him about “in­con­sis­ten­cies” in ac­counts the at­tor­ney gen­eral has given about his knowl­edge of Rus­sian in­ter­ac­tion with mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign, when the then-sen­a­tor served as a top se­cu­rity-pol­icy ad­viser.

Mr. Ses­sions ap­pear­ance be­fore the House com­mit­tee comes two weeks af­ter the first crim­i­nal charges against mem­bers of Pres­i­dent Trump’s 2016 cam­paign were un­sealed — of­fer­ing new in­for­ma­tion about Rus­sian ef­forts to ar­range meet­ings with Mr. Trump or mem­bers of his cam­paign.

Democrats said the case re­vealed George Pa­padopou­los, who served as a for­eign pol­icy ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign, ad­mit­ted to in­form­ing Mr. Trump and Mr. Ses­sions at a March 2016 na­tional se­cu­rity meet­ing that he had con­nec­tions who could help ar­range a meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“In other words, of­fi­cials at the high­est level of the Trump cam­paign knew about Mr. Pa­padopou­los’s in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sian of­fi­cials on be­half of the cam­paign and hoped to hide these in­ter­ac­tions from the pub­lic,” wrote House Democrats in a let­ter sent last week to Mr. Ses­sions. “These facts ap­pear to con­tra­dict your sworn tes­ti­mony on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.”

Mr. Ses­sions has said he had no knowl­edge of com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Trump fig­ures and Rus­sian op­er­a­tives.

His own de­scrip­tions have evolved, from an ini­tial de­nial of his own con­tact with any Rus­sian of­fi­cials dur­ing the course of the Trump cam­paign to later ad­mit­ting he had meet­ings with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador.

“You an­swered no, you con­cealed your own con­tact with Rus­sian of­fi­cials at a time when such con­tacts were of great in­ter­est to the com­mit­tee,” Sen. Pa­trick Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat, said dur­ing a Sen­ate com­mit­tee hear­ing last month of ques­tions the com­mit­tee asked Mr. Ses­sions to ad­dress dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral de­fended his re­sponse, say­ing he be­lieved it was cor­rect given the con­text.

“I took that to mean, not any ca­sual con­ver­sa­tion, but ‘Did I par­tic­i­pate with the Rus­sians about the 2016 elec­tion?’ ” Mr. Ses­sions said. “Ev­ery one of your pre­vi­ous ques­tions talked about im­proper in­volve­ment and I felt the an­swer was no.”

While Democrats’ crit­i­cism has fo­cused on the on­go­ing Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Repub­li­cans are wor­ried that Mr. Ses­sions has not pro­vided the Amer­i­can peo­ple enough in­for­ma­tion about ac­tions the Jus­tice Depart­ment took dur­ing the last ad­min­is­tra­tion as the cam­paign was on­go­ing.

Reps. Jim Jor­dan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida said ques­tions are pil­ing up over the way Mr. Comey con­ducted the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton’s se­cret email server and the FBI’s treat­ment of an anti-Trump dossier.

“It’s time for Jeff Ses­sions to name a Spe­cial Coun­sel and get an­swers for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. If not, he should step down,” the con­gress­men said in an op-ed for FoxNews.com.

They said Mr. Comey’s de­ci­sion to draft an ex­on­er­a­tion let­ter re­gard­ing Mrs. Clin­ton months be­fore the end of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and well be­fore the FBI talked to her, was trou­bling.

They also ex­pressed con­cern over Mr. Comey’s han­dling of the anti-Trump dossier, say­ing the di­rec­tor should have briefed the pres­i­dent-elect well be­fore he did, on Jan. 6.

And the con­gress­men said the 2010 deal that saw the U.S. ap­prove sales of ura­nium rights to Rus­sian in­ter­ests de­mands a more thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing it calls into ques­tion the in­de­pen­dence of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is prob­ing Trump cam­paign fig­ures’ work with Rus­sia.

In a let­ter Mon­day evening to Rep. Bob Good­latte, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can and Ju­di­ciary chair­man, Mr. Ses­sions said he’s look­ing into ap­point­ing a spe­cial coun­sel to look at whether the FBI prop­erly han­dled the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ura­nium rights sale.

Mr. Ses­sions’s let­ter said he wouldn’t con­firm or deny whether there was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion but said he has asked se­nior pros­e­cu­tors to eval­u­ate “cer­tain is­sues” raised by Mr. Good­latte. He said that re­view will help him at Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein de­cide “whether any mat­ters merit the ap­point­ment of a spe­cial coun­sel.”

Mr. Ses­sions also said the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral is look­ing into whether Mr. Comey botched pro­ce­dures in han­dling the Clin­ton email probe.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Democrats said they in­tend to ques­tion At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions about “in­con­sis­ten­cies” in his ac­counts about his knowl­edge of Rus­sian in­ter­ac­tion with mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign. At the time, Mr. Ses­sions was a sen­a­tor and a top se­cu­rity-pol­icy ad­viser.

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