Sessions' Testimony Will Be Open to Public

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face questions about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and undeclared meetings with Russian officials at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, though it was unclear whether he would testify in public or in private.

Sessions was originally scheduled to testify Tuesday about the Justice Department budget before the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees. I do have questions for the attorney general.

Ahead of the hearing there had been suggestions that Sessions might have had a third, unreported, encounter with Kislyak in April 2016, at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where candidate Trump was giving his first major foreign policy speech.

"I have confidence in Mr. Mueller", he said.

As Sessions entered the crowded hearing room, a swarm of news photographers clicked away with their cameras.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of OR, also a member of the intelligence panel, sent a letter to panel Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina and Warner asking for the hearing to be open.

Such a move would be complicated and potentially politically explosive.

As for the timing of his recusal, Comey said the FBI expected the attorney general to take himself out of the matters under investigation weeks before he actually did.

"We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make (Sessions') continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic, " Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Later, Comey said he was so uncomfortable that he went to Sessions to "implore" him "to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me".

Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director Comey cryptically told lawmakers last week that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from the investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

"Particularly when that left a person, director Comey, who on the organizational chart is subordinate to Sessions, creating the sense that there was something sinister to be discussed". His failure to disclose meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak forced him to later amend his testimony and added fuel to the Russia intrigue swirling around Washington. CNN reported at the time that the Federal Bureau of Investigation denied Priebus' request, although White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time that the White House was simply asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation "to tell the truth" in response to reports about Trump campaign communications with Russian officials.

Sessions testified Tuesday that he recused himself from the current Russian Federation investigation only because of a regulation that required it because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.

Trump has denied allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation and said he never directed Comey to drop the Flynn probe.

Trump was reportedly angered by his attorney general's decision to recuse himself, and blamed Sessions' actions for the eventual expansion of the probe and the appointment Special Counsel Robert Mueller. "He has insisted that he did not disclose the meeting with Kislyak in his testimony, because it was a routine part of his Senate duties".

Sessions maintained that he had not been briefed on the Russian Federation investigation between the time of his February swearing-in and his March 2 recusal. A Trump confidant, Chris Ruddy, told "PBS NewsHour" on Monday the president was weighing whether to fire Mueller. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Sessions stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies. You couldn't remember, and you are the attorney general of the U.S. That's one of the most absurd things I have heard in a long time.

If there is no independent account of what might have taken place inside the White House - in the form of a recording system that might have kept "tapes" of the discussions that took place, as Trump once suggested on Twitter - it boils down to Trump's and Sessions' word against Comey's. "Under the regulation, special counsel Mueller may be fired only for good cause, and I am required to put that cause in writing".

In his defense, Sessions could cite a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey over the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

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