U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress Saturday he will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
Sessions said he wanted to appear before the panel to address questions about him that arose last week during former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony.
The attorney general, the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in the nation, said he would testify before the Senate committee Tuesday, presumably under oath. He did not indicate whether the committee would hear him in public or closed session.
The Justice Department, which Sessions heads, has been investigating contacts between the Russian government and President Donald Trump’s campaign organization before last November’s general election, when Trump was a candidate and had not yet been chosen by American voters to be president.
Sessions recused or removed himself from the DOJ investigation during the early days of the Trump administration, because he was one of the campaign officials who had met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States before the election.
In January, Sessions was still a senator from the state of Alabama when he appeared at a hearing before his confirmation as attorney general.
He testified that he had not met with Russian government officials during the campaign, but later was obliged to change that account. Sessions eventually acknowledged he had had two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, but said there had been no need to disclose them earlier.
Despite Sessions’ admitted talks with Kislyak, he has been dogged by questions about possible additional encounters with the ambassador, including at a foreign policy conference more than a year ago at a hotel in Washington. Spokesmen at the Justice Department have said that Sessions was at the hotel to attend a speech by Trump, and that he had no meetings or private encounters with the Russian envoy
Questions about Sessions resurfaced last week following Comey’s testimony about his conversations and meetings with President Trump before Comey was abruptly dismissed as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a stunning development that reverberated through political circles in the nation’s capital.
Trump at first maintained Comey had been fired as a result of discontent among the FBI agents he supervised, but a day later admitted that he fired the FBI chief as a consequence of the bureau’s investigation of Russian meddling in U.S. politics.
During nearly three hours of testimony Thursday, Comey indicated to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that leaders at the FBI were aware of questionable activities by Sessions. However, Comey said he could not discuss those in a public session.
Sessions clarified his plans for the coming week Saturday by announcing that he would not be able to keep a scheduled appearance before a different Senate committee to review spending plans for his department and associated agencies. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, will appear in place of Sessions at the budget review.
“In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey’s recent testimony [on June 8] before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Sessions wrote to Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, who heads an appropriations subcommittee that authorizes spending by the Justice Department, among others.