Sessions to appear before Senate intelligence committee

Donald Trump with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. | Reuters File

Sessions, whose contacts with Russia's ambassador to the USA during the presidential campaign has sparked questions, agreed Saturday, June 10, to appear before the Senate intelligence committee as it investigates alleged Russian meddling in the election.

The committee has not announced the timing of the event, or whether Sessions will speak in an open or closed hearing.

Sessions on Saturday said he would appear before the intelligence committee, which has been doing its own investigation into Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Sessions said that he had been scheduled to discuss the Justice Department budget before House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees but that it had become clear some members would focus their questions on the Russian Federation investigation.

"The Senate intelligence committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information", he added.

Over the weekend, Sessions asked to appear before the Intelligence Committee instead of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, where he was expected to appear to discuss Department of Justice funding.

On Wednesday, written testimony by Comey about his alleged interactions with President Donald Trump was released in which the ex-director noted that he asked Sessions "prevent any future direct communication" between Trump and himself after the two shared a private dinner on January 27 and a one-on-one Oval Office meeting on February 14 that Comey found to be "inappropriate".

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In testimony to the Senate panel on Thursday, Mr. Comey accused President Donald Trump of firing him to try to undermine the FBI's investigation of possible collusion by people in Trump's campaign with Russia's alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Comey told the panel that on Feb 14, the president had made private comments to Comey in the Oval Office that he interpreted as an improper order to drop a criminal investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.

Sessions said he learned members of those subcommittees planned to ask him questions about the investigation into Russian election meddling, and decided the Senate Intelligence Committee was a more appropriate venue to field those questions.

Reed said he also wants to know if Sessions had more meetings with Russian officials as a Trump campaign adviser than have been disclosed.

He removed himself after it emerged that he had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, though he had testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with Russians.

Senate Democrats have raised the possibility that Sessions and Kislyak could have met there, though Justice Department officials say there were no private encounters or side meetings. The fact that Sessions would delegate that task to his deputy showed the Russian Federation investigation was distracting him from his core duties. Comey declined to elaborate in an open setting. "My impression was, something big is about to happen", Comey said, as he recalled the encounter.

In written testimony Comey said he told Sessions it was "inappropriate" for him to leave the Federal Bureau of Investigation director alone with the president, and that Sessions "did not reply". He said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would appear before the sub-committees.

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