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Sessions' plans to testify surprised Senate intelligence panel members

14 June 2017

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, it will be in a hearing that's open to the public. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.

Sessions is likely to face questions by the Senate Intelligence Committee over his dealings with Russian officials during the campaign and whether he had a role in firing former FBI Director James Comey, who testified last week before the same panel.

A Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity initially said the department expected Sessions to testify in closed session but later stressed that the decision was up to the panel's Republican chairman, Senator Richard Burr. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, an intelligence committee member, asked the panel's leaders in a letter on Sunday to hold an open hearing. Only a few people at Justice in the White House should be in touch with each other.

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In his testimony, Comey said he had asked Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump following meetings where he said Trump had asked Comey for his loyalty. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Sessions stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies. Patrick Leahy of Vermont says the attorney general has an obligation to answer questions in public.

On Friday, Trump tweeted called Comey a "leaker" and said that he felt "vindicated" by Comey's testimony, despite "so many false statements and lies". Lawmakers, including Al Franken of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have asked the FBI to investigate and to determine if Sessions committed perjury. Mr. Sessions removed himself from the inquiry after it emerged that he had met at least twice with the Russian ambassador in 2016, though he had testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not had contact with Russians. The Senate Intelligence Committee still wants to have a closed door meeting with the Director of National Intelligence and the head of the National Security Agency, to find out more about their conversations with President Trump on the Russian Federation investigation.

"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. But senators on the committee are expected to question Sessions about his meetings with Russians - a topic that's come under increased scrutiny amid investigations into Russia's interference in the USA election.

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Comey has said Sessions did not respond when he complained he didn't "want to get time alone with the president again".

Comey suggested in his high-profile Senate testimony last week that any recordings would back up his account over the president's, adding, "Lordy, I hope there are tapes".

"I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible".

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Sessions' plans to testify surprised Senate intelligence panel members