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Donald Trump slams ‘cowardly’ James Comey as Sessions offers to testify

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2017 Ros Krasny

Washington: US President Donald Trump slammed James Comey, days after the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee and as attorney general Jeff Sessions offered to speak to the same panel to answer questions about alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“I believe the James Comey leaks will be far more prevalent than anyone ever thought possible. Totally illegal? Very ‘cowardly!’” Trump told his 32 million Twitter followers on Sunday.

On Friday, Trump said during a news conference at the White House that Comey’s Senate testimony a day earlier showed that the president hadn’t colluded with the Russian government to rig the 2016 election and hadn’t obstructed a federal investigation into the meddling. Trump also said he would “100 percent” be willing to testify under oath that he didn’t demand a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey.

Sessions late Saturday cancelled planned appearances at a pair of appropriations panels on Tuesday, and instead said he would appear before the intelligence committee. That panel hasn’t announced the timing of a hearing with Sessions, though, or said whether he will appear in an open or closed format.

Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that the committee is still in a “final conversation” with Sessions but assumes the hearing would be public.

‘Can’t run forever’

Two leading Democrats, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, called on Sessions to appear before the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Department of Justice. “You can’t run forever,” Leahy said in a Twitter message to Sessions.

It would be “fitting” for the attorney general to appear before Judiciary, Feinstein, the top Democrat on that panel, said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “I have written two letters to Senator Grassley suggesting that,” she added, referring to Iowa’s Charles Grassley, the committee’s chairman.

“The Judiciary staff are all lawyers, most very good lawyers. And so there is an opportunity to look at the law with respect to obstruction of justice, to hold a hearing, and also to have those relevant people come before the Judiciary Committee,” said Feinstein, a member of both committees.

‘Appropriate forum’

In letters Saturday to the two appropriations panel chairmen, Sessions said he’d concluded that regardless of which committees he appeared before, the questions would inevitably focus on the Russian probe.

Following Comey’s testimony, “it is important that I have the opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum,” Sessions wrote, adding that members of the intelligence committee are in the middle of an investigation and have “access to relevant, classified information.”

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein will stand in for Sessions at the two appropriations subcommittee hearings on Tuesday. The House hearing had already been rescheduled from 24 May.

Spending the weekend at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump followed the Comey tweet with a second aimed at Democrats: “The Democrats have no message, not on economics, not on taxes, not on jobs, not on failing #Obamacare. They are only OBSTRUCTIONISTS!” Bloomberg

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