Russian Federation probe: Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee

Atty. Gen. Sessions to testify next week in response to Comey hearing

In a letter Saturday to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairman, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sessions said the change in venue would be more appropriate for expected questions on the issues raised by former FBI Director James Comey's testimony to the intelligence committee Thursday.

Following fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony last week "it is important that I have the opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum", Sessions wrote to Shelby, who chairs the Senate appropriations panel he was scheduled to address.

The attorney general, the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in the nation, said he would testify before the Senate committee Tuesday, presumably under oath. Sessions refused. He may also be under a cloud of suspicion after Comey, in his devastating testimony, suggested the attorney general may have failed to take appropriate steps to protect the Federal Bureau of Investigation chief.

He removed himself 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.

And he can expect questions about his involvement in Comey's May 9 firing, the circumstances surrounding his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's investigation, and whether any of his actions - such as interviewing candidates for the FBI director position or meeting with Trump about Comey - violated his recusal pledge.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Saturday that he will not appear before open congressional appropriations subcommittee hearings this week and will send his deputy instead.

The move is a prominent switch from his previous plans to testify publicly on the Justice Department's budget and puts him more directly in the firing line over questions about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States and a federal investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.

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"I don't understand why the president just doesn't clear this matter up once and for all", said Sen. A source close to Sessions has told NBC News he would deny it if he were asked on Tuesday during the planned appropriations committee hearing.

With reports circulating that Trump had been clashing with his attorney general, and that Sessions had offered to resign, the White House on Tuesday declined to say whether the president maintained confidence in Sessions. Comey wrote that Sessions did not reply to his request.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said on Fox News Sunday "there's a real question of the propriety" of Sessions' involvement in Comey's dismissal, because Sessions had stepped aside from the federal investigation into contacts between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

Comey reportedly told lawmakers that Sessions might have had a third undisclosed meeting during a closed session after his public testimony Thursday.

WYDEN: Let me turn to the attorney general.

A Justice Department spokeswoman has said that no such meeting occurred.

Sessions did not specify whether he would testify in an open or closed setting.

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