WASHINGTON – A livid Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that any allegation he discussed the interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with the Russian ambassador, or any Russian officials, was “a detestable and appalling lie.”
He said he would never discuss anything so improper with foreign officials.
Sessions testified as rumors swirled around the nation’s capital that President Trump may fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the Russia investigation.
A friend of Trump, Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax, said on PBS’ “NewsHour” the president was “considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel.” But the White House denied Ruddy ever spoke with the president about the issue.
“With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow wouldn’t rule out Trump firing Mueller, but said he was not going to speculate. He told ABC News, “The president is going to seek the advice of his counsel and inside the government as well as outside.”
Spicer also said Sessions might invoke executive privilege to decline to answer certain questions, saying, “I think it depends on the scope of the questions.”
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation because of his involvement in the Trump presidential campaign and because of two meetings he had with the Russian ambassador last fall in his capacity then as a senator.
Top Democrats on the committee have confirmed that no evidence of collusion by Trump or his associates with Moscow has ever surfaced.
But there is a new report from Bloomberg that Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election were more extensive than previously reported.
Some Republicans have been calling for the dismissal of the special counsel ever since Comey revealed in testimony before the same committee Thursday that the president has never been under investigation for collusion with Russia. They say there is now no purpose for such an investigation.
Additionally, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has alleged that Mueller has stocked his staff with Democrat donors.
“Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair,” he tweeted.
LifeZette reported, “Four top lawyers hired by Mueller have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, including former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.”
The attorney general will face questions about whether he had any role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, whether he believes the president obstructed justice, and his meetings with the Russian ambassador.
As WND reported, Democrats are hoping to base an obstruction of justice charge against Trump on Comey’s recollection of a Feb 14. conversation he had with the president at the White House about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump said he fired Flynn in February for not telling the whole truth about his conversations with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, even though the two did not discuss anything inappropriate.
Comey testified that on Feb. 14, the day after Trump fired Flynn, he recalled the president telling him during a private meeting in the White House: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
However, in his opening remarks, submitted in written form, the former FBI director made clear he did not think the president was trying to interfere in the Russia investigation or pressure him to drop it.
“I had understood,” Comey testified, “the president to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.
“I did not understand the president to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign,” he continued. “I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls.”
But under persistent questioning by Democrats, Comey later claimed he interpreted Trump’s expression of “hope” that he would drop the Flynn inquiry as a directive to stop the probe.
“I took it as a direction,” Comey said. “I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, ‘I hope’ this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”
Democrats have seized upon that as evidence of obstruction of justice by the president.
Legal experts from left to right have disagreed.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz wrote for Fox News, “[U]nder our Constitution, the president has the authority to direct the FBI to stop investigating any individual,” and, ” let us put the issue of obstruction of justice behind us once and for all.”
Writing in the Washington Post, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy argued: “Not every form of interfering with an investigation, or even the closing down of an investigation, is felony obstruction. Only corrupt ones. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused not only acted intentionally but also with an awareness that his actions violated the law.”
“In describing their Feb. 14 meeting,” he continued: “Comey understandably inferred, from Trump’s request that others leave the room, the president’s possible awareness that he was about to do something inappropriate. But this suspicion must be balanced against what Trump actually did, which was merely to plead on Flynn’s behalf, not order an outcome.”
McCarthy concluded: “This was clearly not corruption. And without corruption, there cannot be obstruction.”
In fact, as WND reported, Comey actually appeared to indicate the president encouraged the investigation because it was important to learn if any of his associates had, in fact, colluded with Russians.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., asked Comey if he got the impression Trump had asked him, “‘[I]f there are people in my circle that are (colluding with Russia), let’s finish the investigation,’ is that how you took it?”
“Yes, sir. Yes,” replied the former FBI chief.