U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is set to testify in a public hearing Tuesday, with members of a Senate panel likely to ask him about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and his involvement in the firing of the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing is the latest step in multiple ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.
Sessions recused himself from the FBI’s investigation in March after acknowledging he had spoken twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the months before the November vote.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions said he had not met with any Russians during the campaign. The Justice Department said the conversations were part of Sessions’ job as a senator.
His testimony comes less than a week after James Comey, the fired FBI director, said during his own appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he felt Trump had gone against the normal separation of criminal investigations from White House oversight by directing him to end the investigation into Russia’s activities.
Comey said Trump told him he hoped Comey would “let go” of investigating the president’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and also asked Comey to pledge his personal loyalty and to “lift the cloud” of the Russia probe.
Comey also said the FBI had “additional facts” about Sessions that he could “not discuss in an open setting.”
Trump has disputed Comey’s account of the conversation about Flynn as inaccurate, although his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., a frequent defender of his father’s White House performance, seemed to confirm the gist of it.
“When he tells you to do something, guess what, there’s no ambiguity in it,” Trump Jr., speaking of his father, told Fox News on Sunday. “There’s no, ‘Hey, I’m hoping.’ You and I are friends, ‘Hey I hope this happens, but you’ve got to do your job.’ That’s what he told Comey.”
Before Comey testified, Trump suggested there might be a White House recording of their private dinner, which Comey said he hopes there is. But the president and his aides have not definitively said so. Pressed on the issue Friday, he said, “I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future.”
The White House again Monday refused to say one way or the other whether there was a tape.
But Republican lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to release the recordings, if they exist.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee that heard Comey’s testimony, said Sunday, “I don’t understand why the president just doesn’t clear this matter up once and for all.”
Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, another member of the Senate panel, said, “We’ve obviously pressed the White House.”
Trump fired Comey last month. Trump later said he was thinking about “this Russia thing” as he decided to dismiss him because he considered claims that Russian interference in the election influenced it in his favor to be bogus, an excuse by Democrats to account for his stunning upset of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.