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US attorney general Sessions to testify in open hearing

US attorney general Jeff Sessions will testify at an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in connection with the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

world Updated: Jun 12, 2017 22:30 IST
Yashwant Raj
Attorney general Jeff Sessions attends a cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump on June 12, 2017 in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.
Attorney general Jeff Sessions attends a cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump on June 12, 2017 in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (AP)

US attorney general Jeff Sessions will testify at an open hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday in connection with the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion by campaign aides of President Donald Trump.

The committee announced on Monday the hearing will be public as was demanded by Sessions. “He (Sessions) believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee’s questions tomorrow,” justice department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said.

Sessions will be asked about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which he had not disclosed in his confirmation hearing and which led to him recusing himself from the Russia probe being conducted by the FBI, which has since been taken over by special counsel Robert Muller.

The public hearing could test Sessions’ strained relationship with Trump, which started when the attorney general recused himself from the Russia probe. He is understood to have offered to resign just before Trump left for his recent foreign tour. Though Trump did not accept it, he has expressed unhappiness with the justice department, which Sessions heads, in a series of posts on Twitter for watering down his travel ban.

Sessions will also face questions arising from sacked FBI director James Comey’s public hearing by the same committee last week. He is expected to be asked specially about the meeting between Trump and Comey in the Oval Office after Sessions and other senior officials had been asked to leave.

Comey has said it was at this meeting that Trump had asked him drop the case against Michael Flynn, his first National Security Adviser who he fired the day before for misleading vice-president Mike Pence about his meetings with Kislyak.

Trump has denied making that request to Comey and has offered to testify under oath, as did the former FBI director. Senator minority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, took up that offer and invited Trump on Sunday to testify before a Senate committee. 

In all likelihood, Sessions will also be asked about Comey’s statement that he had felt so uncomfortable by his meeting with Trump that he asked Sessions, his boss, to never leave him alone in a room with the president again. “As I said in my testimony,” Comey said at the hearing, “I told the attorney general, it can't happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me.”