It could be another intriguing day of testimony on Capitol Hill when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon, as Sessions is expected to face questions about his role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the extent of any contacts that the former U.S. Senator had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
Here are some possible lines of inquiry:
1. What was Comey referring to last week about Sessions? Questioned by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Former FBI Director James Comey dropped a hint about some kind of information with regards to Attorney General Sessions and the Russia investigation, which Comey was convinced would lead to Sessions recusing himself from the Russia probe. “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. What was that evidence? Did Comey relate that in a closed door session? Is there any way to ask about it in open session?
2. Did Sessions try to run interference for Comey with Trump? While Comey did not run to tell Sessions of his concerns over what the President supposedly said about the investigation of Michael Flynn, Comey did say he asked Sessions to shield him from Mr. Trump, worried by the President’s phone calls and questions. Did Sessions remember that? Did he do anything after being asked by Comey? Does Sessions have a different recollection of what had been discussed?
3. Should Sessions have been involved in Comey’s firing? This gets at the issue of the Sessions recusal from the Russia investigation writ large. Some Democrats say that recusal should have also applied to the Comey firing – since President Trump has made clear he fired Comey in part because of the Russia probe. “If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the Attorney General involved in that chain?” Comey asked last week. He said he didn’t have an answer. Democrats seem likely to hammer on this point.
4. Did Sessions have other meetings with Russian officials? This one has been simmering since confirmation hearings for Sessions earlier this year, as some Democrats have all but accused Sessions of perjury; Republicans say it’s nothing close to that. Back on January 10, Sessions said, “I did not have communications with the Russians” – but the story wasn’t so simple. This is the first time Democrats have had the chance to bring up the issue since that confirmation hearing.