The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is likely to step into a legal minefield today when he answers questions under oath before the Senate intelligence committee about his contacts with Russian officials and his role in the firing of the FBI director, James Comey, reports The Guardian.
What Sessions tells the committee could in turn affect the legal jeopardy of Donald Trump, who has also said he is willing to speak about his interactions with Comey under oath, although he did not indicate in what forum.
The attorney general - who failed to inform the Senate about his meetings with Russian officials in his confirmation hearings - will face particularly tough questioning from the senators over his apparent role in Comey’s dismissal.
One White House version of events said that Trump fired the FBI director on 9 May after concerns over his performance were raised by Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. But Sessions had previously recused himself from matters connected to the Russia investigation, and Comey was overseeing that investigation.
Furthermore, Trump said in a television interview and in an Oval Office conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador the day after Comey’s dismissal that the decision to fire him was linked to that investigation.
“Recommending Director Comey’s firing would seem to be a violation of his recusal, and Attorney General Sessions needs to answer for that,” the Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, said in a statement after Sessions’ Senate appearance was confirmed on Monday.
Sessions will be appearing before the intelligence committee five days after Comey’s testimony raised new questions about the attorney general’s role. After Comey’s appearance on Thursday, the justice department put out a statement contradicting the ousted FBI director’s account of an appeal he made to Sessions to make sure he was not left alone with the Trump, who Comey believed was pressuring him to curb the scope of the investigation of contacts between the Trump campaign and Kremlin representatives.
Comey said Sessions did not respond to that appeal. The justice department described the conversation very differently. “Mr Comey said, following a morning threat briefing, that he wanted to ensure he and his FBI staff were following proper communications protocol with the White House,” the statement said.
It insisted that the “attorney general was not silent; he responded to this comment by saying that the FBI and department of justice needed to be careful about following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House."
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