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WATCH: Sessions Grilled About Russians, Travel Ban, Comey, and Mueller

All nine Democrats on the committee recently sent Sessions a letter essentially informing him that they expected him not to broadly assert executive privilege on the president’s behalf again

 

The Latest on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee (all times local):

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is refusing to pledge that he won’t seek to jail journalists for doing their jobs.

Under questioning at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, Sessions said he could not make that “blanket” commitment.

His position is a reversal of the stance taken by attorneys general in the Obama administration, who had said they would not seek to imprison members of the news media who were doing their jobs

The Trump administration has announced an aggressive crackdown on leaks of national security information to journalists.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he can’t say whether someone’s citizenship is a reliable indicator of whether that person may be a terrorist.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, asked Sessions about that, noting that citizenship is at the core of the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a travel ban.

The ban, which has been stalled by the courts, seeks to block the travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven countries, as well as some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

Yet Sessions did not directly answer Leahy’s question.

Earlier Wednesday, Sessions said the travel ban is an important tool for fighting terrorism and that the Justice Department will continue to defend it.

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Democratic Sen. Al Franken is accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of “moving the goalposts” in denying his interactions with the Russian ambassador.

In a testy exchange, Franken confronted Sessions about his testimony in January, in which he said he had no communications with Russians. Sessions later had to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russia after it was revealed he had conversations with the ambassador. Franken says his explanations of those interactions continue to change.

But Sessions, visibly frustrated and voice rising, called Franken’s line of questioning unfair. He says he answered the question as a surrogate of the Trump campaign. Sessions says he may have discussed Trump’s campaign positions with the ambassador but insists he did not have a continuing exchange of information with him.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions won’t say whether he spoke with state officials who had threatened to sue the Trump administration if it did not end a program protecting young immigrants who were brought into the country as children and now living in the U.S. illegally.

During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Sessions whether he discussed the threatened lawsuit with the Texas attorney general before President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Sessions says such conversations would be “work product” that should not be revealed. It was yet another line of questioning Sessions refused to answer. Lawmakers are asking about his role in ending the Obama-era program that protected hundreds of thousands of young people.

He also won’t discuss his private conversations with Trump, citing longstanding Justice Department tradition.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee and senators are going to have a lot of ground to cover with the nation’s top federal law enforcement official during the oversight hearing.

As NPR’s Carrie Johnson reported, in his eight months as attorney general:

“Sessions has presided over a series of Justice Department reversals — from police oversight and voting rights litigation to protections for the LGBT community.

And then there’s the matter of his contacts with Russians during last year’s presidential campaign, where Sessions served as one of President Trump’s most vocal advocates. Sessions didn’t include those on his security clearance forms. An aide said he was following guidance from the FBI.”

In his opening statement, Sessions rebuffed the panel’s Democrats, who had written the attorney general regarding potential assertions of executive privilege. “We expect that…you will have determined whether the president will invoke executive privilege as to specific topics and will be prepared to answer completely all questions in those areas on which he has not,” the nine Democratic senators said in a letter last week. Sessions had refused to answer questions relating to the Russia probe in June testimony before the same committee, saying it was inappropriate.

On Wednesday, Sessions told the panel that he “will not be able to discuss the contents of my conversations with the president.”

Under questioning from the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sessions said he doesn’t think “it’s been fully understood the significance of the error” fired FBI Director James Comey made in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Feinstein asked Sessions his role in the firing of Comey last May. Sessions said he had “never heard of an investigator” declaring the closing of an investigation as Comey did, and that he was particularly concerned that Comey said he would do it again. Sessions said there was a need for “a fresh start” at the FBI, but said his discussions with President Trump on the matter were confidential.

Sessions was also asked about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during last year’s presidential campaign. Sessions denied speaking to Kislyak during his confirmation hearings last January, and then recused himself from the probe into Russian interference in the election after the meetings were revealed.

Sessions said Wednesday he did not recall any discussions about the Trump campaign during his meetings with Kislyak and denied meeting with any Russian officials to discuss coordination between the campaign and Russia.

He also said that he had not been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference.

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