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15 June 2017, 02:54 | Grady King
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions's repeated refusal to answer lawmakers' skeptical inquiries Tuesday draws on a long legal and political tradition: Private deliberations involving the president and his top advisers often can be kept out of public view.
Sessions explained over and over again to frustrated Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee that he wasn't asserting "executive privilege", a constitutional protection that shields the president from being forced to share internal conversations and documents.
He also declined to say if he had spoken with Justice Department or White House officials about pardons for persons implicated in the Russian Federation probe. He says he did not meet privately with Kislyak and does not recall greeting him, but allows that the two may have exchanged a passing interaction - one that would have taken place in a room full of attendees.
The letter said the investigation will also probe Comey's testimony that Loretta Lynch, as President Barack Obama's attorney general, had directed him to describe an FBI probe into Hillary Clinton's email practices as merely a "matter" and to avoid calling it an investigation. "As such, I have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been publicly reported", Sessions said. Senior leaders at the Federal Bureau of Investigation decided not to tell Sessions about the meeting between Comey and the president.
"Senator Heinrich, I'm not able to share with this committee private communications", said Sessions. "Rubio, probably so", Sessions replied. "I knew that Director Comey, long-time experienced in the Department of Justice, could handle himself well", Sessions told Sen. Sessions got angry several times when his integrity was questioned, but was noticeably less emotional when it came to defending the president.
But Sessions was less convincing in many other answers. Congressneeds to ask the hard questions to get to the bottom of whether the attorney general's conduct (not to mention the president's) crossed the line.
Lawmakers, including Al Franken of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have asked the FBI to investigate and to determine if Sessions committed perjury when he denied having had meetings with Russians.
And California Sen. Dianne Feinstein appeared puzzled by Sessions' reasoning for not providing more details. That raises a couple of questions: why it took him an entire month to announce his recusal after he was sworn in, and what Comey was referring to when he testified last week that Sessions' continued involvement in the Russian Federation investigation was rendered "problematic" by facts that couldn't be discussed in open session. I've heard people invoke executive privilege before and use, you know, use that as a reason not to share conversations they've had with the president. Sessions, who as U.S. attorney general is not Trump's personal lawyer, did not mention that privilege on Tuesday. Some weeks later, The Washington Post said that he had met with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, twice - once at the convention in Cleveland. It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and to list any conversations that I may have had with Russians in routine situations as I had many routine meetings with other foreign officials.
Sessions said he learned from Comey that he felt concerned about being left alone with the president but that, since Comey did not relay details of the conversation, he had no way of knowing it was improper. Kamala Harris, who was interrupted while questioning the attorney general.
"We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic", Comey said. He was being asked about Comey's testimony.
Sessions also refused to answer whether any Justice Department officials had discussed possible presidential pardons of individuals being looked at in the Russian investigations.
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