Friday 23 February 2018

Sessions faces public grilling from Senate panel on Russian links

US President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump arrive at the Andrews Air Base in Washington, DC, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
US President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron Trump arrive at the Andrews Air Base in Washington, DC, yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Julia Edwards in Washington

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify publicly to a Senate panel today, the committee's chairman said, setting up another potentially dramatic congressional hearing on possible ties between US President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

Mr Sessions is likely to face questions by the Senate Intelligence Committee over his dealings with Russian officials during the campaign and whether he had a role in firing former FBI director James Comey, who testified last week before the same panel.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo: Getty Images
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo: Getty Images

Until the panel chairman's statement yesterday, it had been unclear whether Mr Sessions would testify in an open or closed setting.

Mr Comey told the panel last Thursday that the FBI had information in mid-February on Mr Sessions that would have made it "problematic" for him to continue leading a federal probe into Russian attempts to influence the presidential election.

Mr Sessions recused himself from the inquiry in March after media reports that he had been in two previously undisclosed meetings last year with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Members of the committee are likely to ask Mr Sessions about a possible third undisclosed meeting that is now under investigation, according to media reports.

Mr Sessions, a former senator and an early supporter of Mr Trump's election campaign, will be the most senior government official to testify to the committee on the Russia issue. The matter has dogged the Republican president's early months in office.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Mr Sessions requested the open setting because "he believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him."

Media reports last week said Mr Sessions offered to resign because of tensions with Mr Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's Russia probe. The matter is also being investigated by several congressional panels, including the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Russia has denied interfering in the US election. The White House has denied any collusion with Moscow.

Meanwhile, Melania Trump has joined her husband in the White House after spending the first five months of his presidency in New York.

The US first lady had stayed in Trump Tower after Mr Trump's inauguration in January until their 11-year-old son Barron finished the school year.

"Looking forward to the memories we'll make in our new home!" Mrs Trump tweeted after moving in only days before the president's 71st birthday.

The tweet came with a photograph of the Washington Monument as seen from what appeared to be the Red Room in the White House.

Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed the move.

"It's official! @FLOTUS & Barron have made the move to DC! #WelcomeHome," she tweeted.

Until now, the 45-year-old first lady has divided her time between Manhattan and Washington DC.

Barron, who becomes the first boy to live in the White House since three-year-old John F Kennedy Jr in 1963, is to attend a private school in Maryland in the autumn.

So far Mrs Trump's engagements have included entertaining the wives of heads of state, and presiding over events ranging from an International Women's Day lunch to the annual Easter egg roll for children on the White House lawn.

Now she has moved in, pressure will build for her to be seen more and to do more.

"I do think once she's in DC there'll be more pressure for her to be working on something that's her own, that's helping some segment of the population because that's what first ladies are supposed to do," said Professor Jean Harris at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Irish Independent

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