Mon, Jun 12, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Sessions to appear before senate panel

AP, WASHINGTON

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose contacts with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign have sparked questions, on Saturday agreed to appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it investigates alleged Russian meddling in the election.

Sessions in March recused himself from a federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the presidential campaign of US President Donald Trump after acknowledging that he had met with Kislyak twice last year.

He had told lawmakers at his January confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russians during the campaign.

Democrats in the US Senate have raised questions about whether the men met at a foreign policy event in April last year at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

The Department of Justice has said that while Sessions was there, for a speech by Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters.

Former FBI director James Comey raised additional questions at a hearing on Thursday, saying that the FBI expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he actually did.

Comey declined to elaborate in an open setting.

In a letter on Saturday to Senate Appropriations subcommittee chair Richard Shelby, 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 Russia investigation.

Sessions said his decision to accept the intelligence committee’s invitation to appear was due in part to Comey’s testimony.

It is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” he wrote, adding that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would appear before the subcommittees.

Briefing congressional appropriators on the Justice Department’s budget is a critical part of the attorney general’s job. The fact that Sessions would delegate that task to his deputy showed the Russia investigation was distracting him from his core duties.

“These are dark times if the attorney general of the United States is unwilling to answer questions under oath in an open session about his conduct or defend this administration’s budget,’’ Democratic US Senator Brian Schatz said in a statement.

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