The nation’s top law enforcement officer testified Wednesday at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, as part of the committee’s regular oversight.
Attorney General Jefferson B. “Jeff” Sessions, a past member of the committee, testified for the first time as the leader of the Department of Justice.
Sessions answered senator inquiries ranging from gun violence to immigration, to changes in legal policy, to conspiracy theories about Russian involvement with the 2016 presidential election.
Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick J. Leahy pressed Sessions on his role as a go-between during the last campaign for the Russians and the camp of candidate Donald J. Trump.
“My concern is you were part of the Russian facade and went along with it. I’m sorry, I’ve known you for years, and I’m sorry you would do that,” said Leahy, who was once chairman of the committee.
In Jan. I asked AG Sessions if he met w Russian officials. He said no, under oath. But that’s not what we heard from him today. pic.twitter.com/MwUudXxjrY
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) October 18, 2017
Leahy’s communications director David Carle told Big League Politics the Vermont senator was not accusing Sessions of breaking the law.
“No, he was not accusing him of a crime,” he said.
Senator Leahy pointed to reports that President Trump dictated a letter outlining his reasons for firing FBI Director James B. Comey, which revolved around the Russia investigation, he said.
The senator’s concern was that Sessions was reportedly present during meetings in the Oval Office concerning the letter. Subsequent to that, the attorney general signed off on and agreed with the Rosenstein a May 9 memo, which pointed to the handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation as the reason for the president to fire Comey, he said.
Senator Leahy asked the Attorney General if he was simply aware of the earlier letter. Sessions declined to answer.
“Is there a difference as saying no and I do not recall?” Leahy asked.
Carle said Leahy is concerned that the May 9 memorandum was a facade and only served to obfuscate the real reason President Trump fired Director Comey: the Russia investigation, as the President has publicly said. Leahy is concerned that Sessions may have been a participant in that facade.
Republican Senators had a wide array of concerns and questions.
The Republican senators, led by the committee’s chairman Iowa’s Sen. Charles Grassley, were curious about how far the DOJ would go to investigate the Uranium One deal and Secretary Hillary R. Clinton’s involvement with the Russian company looking to take over control the mineral company that had to rights to 20 percent of the country’s uranium.
The hearing was a tale of two Russian inquires. Democrats asking about Russian interference in the 2016 political cycle and the Republicans asking about the corrupt practices of the Clintons during the Russian acquistion of Uranium One.
The Democrat Senators did seem more unified in their line of questions, as most were focused on the events surrounding the firing of once FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump.
Sessions made the point numerous times that the decision to fire Comey was Trump’s and that he had written his opinion of why Comey should be fired, as instructed to do by the president.