Sessions to face sharp questions on Trump, Russia, Comey

Trump's abrupt ouster of Comey last month set into motion a sequence of events including the appointment of a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to oversee the probe.

The high stakes of Tuesday's hearing prompted speculation that Sessions would protect his private conversations with Trump by declaring executive privilege.

Senator Angus King, an independent, questioned Sessions' legal basis for refusing to answer. The White House's official line said Trump terminated Comey because of a critical memo that Rosenstein wrote about the way Comey handled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email account while secretary of state.

Senators will challenge Sessions on issues raised by Comey's testimony, about his own behavior, new questions about his meetings with Russian officials and possibly his apparently tense relationship with Trump.

Here are five facts about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who testified Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons.

Wyden said Monday that Sessions hasn't engaged in anything close to a real recusal.

Burr said he wanted to know from Sessions what meetings he had with Russian officials or their proxies on behalf of the Trump campaign, why he recused himself from the Russia investigation and what role, if any, he played in the firing of Comey.

Sessions was one of the people that Trump shooed out of the Oval Office so he could privately direct Comey to drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey's bombshell testimony before the same committee last week. "He did not reply", Comey said in written testimony submitted to the committee.

Trump has been publicly dismissive of the Russian Federation investigation for months. Such a move would create a firestorm coming weeks after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

"Importantly, I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation ... required it. They don't decide prosecution".

Sessions told Trump he was "honored" to be able to serve him. He was rewarded with the job of attorney general.

Suddenly upon formally joining the Trump campaign in March 2016 and being named the symbolic head of Trump's policy operation, Sessions found himself (as a former Trump campaign operative tells Ioffe) "the go-to person for all the foreign-policy people trying to give their advice to the campaign".

Rosenstein says it would be inappropriate for him to discuss Sessions' recusal and adds, "we don't talk about the subject matter of investigations while they are ongoing".

Sessions is appearing on Capitol Hill for the first time since recusing himself from the Russian Federation investigation, but will face questions from Democrats about why he still played a role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, which Trump later said was motivated by the probe into Moscow's meddling the last year's election. The Justice Department sent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to testify about the budget instead.

Why did Comey think Sessions was headed toward recusing himself two weeks before it happened?

First, Democrats will grill him on Comey's revelations - for instance, his claim that Sessions appeared to recognize the inappropriateness of Trump's request to meet the Federal Bureau of Investigation director alone on February 14.

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.

During his testimony last week, Comey said he had notes of meetings with Trump in which the president asked him for a pledge of personal loyalty and to drop the Russian Federation investigation as it pertained to former national security adviser Flynn. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Mr Sessions stressed to Mr Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the White House and President Donald Trump should let the special counsel's investigation continue, and await vindication.

Sessions is likely to be asked about his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and whether there were more encounters that should have been made public.

Sessions also mounted an impassioned defense on Trump, perhaps in the expectation that the President would be watching his appearance on Air Force One as he flew to Wisconsin.

Testifying at a Senate hearing, Sessions said it was a "detestable and appalling lie" to suggest that he participated in or was aware of any collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

The former Alabama senator defended himself against accusations that he misrepresented himself during his confirmation hearing by saying he hadn't met with Russian officials during the campaign.

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