AG Jeffy Sessy goes to the Senate 

Multiple Democratic senators pressed Sessions on his efforts to seemingly invoke a new version of executive privilege, a protection that shields some executive-branch communications from Congress and the judiciary. He repeatedly suggested he needed to acquire permission from President Trump before replying to some of their queries.

…Sessions played a central role in Comey’s dismissal, including writing Trump a letter formally recommending his removal. Some Democratic lawmakers have claimed that Sessions’s involvement could be seen as a violation of his pledge to recuse himself from matters involving the Russia probe, given that Comey was overseeing it at the time. Sessions, however, asserted the firing fell outside that pledge, despite Trump’s subsequent statement connecting Comey’s ouster directly to the investigation.

“The scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI.”

…Sessions’s abstention came one day after The Washington Post reported Sessions had failed to disclose two meetings during the presidential campaign with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, during his Senate confirmation process. In an exchange with Minnesota Democrat Al Franken at his confirmation hearing in January, he’d said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

…Another eyebrow-raising moment at Comey’s hearing last week was when he discussed Session’s recusal—the part Wyden focused his questioning on Tuesday—and how he didn’t tell Sessions what Trump requested about Flynn. “Our judgment, as I recall, is that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey told senators, referring to his leadership team at the FBI. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an opening setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

Comey’s statement implied that there are reasons for Sessions’s recusal that might not be publicly known, but the attorney general forcefully rebuffed suggestion there’s anything to know. In doing so—just as in his refusals to answer questions—Sessions only seemed to prolong the game of he said-he said that’s characterized the national drama over Russia and the Trump campaign.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Returns to the Senate – The Atlantic

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Jeff Sessions Gives a Master Class in Dissembling 

Sessions said at the outset that he would “respond to questions as fully as the Lord enables me to do,” by which he apparently meant not very fully.

As soon as he got questions that made him uncomfortable, Sessions stopped citing the Almighty and instead relied on supposedly long-standing Department of Justice rules against talking about private communications in public.

He was happy to say, for example, that he and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, discussed firing Comey before they were confirmed.

…But he was not willing to talk about anything the president said to him or Rosenstein beyond that, because it would violate those rules about not talking about confidential discussions between high-ranking officials. That gave the hearing a rather surreal air at times.

…Trump said, in a television interview, that he planned to fire Comey regardless of what Sessions and Rosenstein thought and that he did it because of the Russia investigation.

…But at the hearing all [Sessions] would say, more than once, was that he would let Trump’s “words speak for themselves.”

…Well, Feinstein asked, did the Russia investigation come up in the discussion about Comey? “I’m not able to comment on that” because it was a private conversation, Sessions said.

…[Sessions] recused himself from the Russia investigation because Justice Department rules require that any official who was a senior adviser to a candidate in an election stay out of investigations related to that election. But when Senator Ron Wyden asked why he then signed a letter recommending that Comey be fired over the Clinton campaign email investigation, Sessions grew angry.

“It did not violate my recusal,” he shouted.

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I guess surreal is one to put it.

Jeh Johnson says FBI delayed notification of DNC cyberattack

Johnson did admit that there was a delay between the time it took for the FBI to learn about the cyberattack at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the time it took for him to learn about the discovery as DHS secretary.

…Johnson said that he’s “not sure” he had authority at DHS to investigate whether votes were altered. He said DHS does not engage in vote recounts and there are others who have that responsibility.

…Johnson explained that one of the candidates, President Trump, was claiming that the election would be “rigged” and that by accusing Russia of being responsible for the cyber intrusions would undermine the integrity of the process. That comment, therefore, prevented the administration from going public about Russia sooner, he suggested.

…He said his recollection is that the FBI first discovered the intrusion into the DNC and he said “I recall very clearly that there was a delay between that initial contact” with the DNC and when the report got to him as DHS secretary.

Watch Live: Jeh Johnson testimony on Russian meddling – CBS News

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House Dems Pressure WH on Kushner, Flynn Security Clearances 

 

In a letter Wednesday, 18 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said they have “serious concerns” about how the White House is handling classified information and who is being allowed access to such sensitive material. The letter, citing press reports, singles out Kushner for failing to disclose numerous contacts with foreign officials on his security clearance questionnaire. It also questions why the White House allowed Flynn to have access to classified information after learning that he had misled administration officials about the content of conversations with a Russian diplomat.

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Ex-Homeland Security official says politics molded Russia response 

Given the scope and breadth of the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in the November election, the Obama administration has faced questions about the timing of its public disclosure, just a month before Americans went to the polls. According to Johnson, he was “very concerned” about signs of Russian meddling as early as the late summer.

“Why wasn’t it more important to tell the American people the length and breadth of what the Russians were doing to interfere in an election than any risk that it might be seen as putting your hand on the scale?” ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked. “Didn’t the public have a compelling need to know?”

…In a separate hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday morning, a current DHS official told lawmakers that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states leading up to the election.

…[Johnson]echoed previous testimony from Clapper, saying that he did not know the factual basis for the FBI to open the probe.

But, he said, Comey would not have opened a counterintelligence investigation on a mere hunch. Pressed by Schiff on whether the director would require an evidentiary basis to open such an investigation, Johnson affirmed: “Based on everything I know about Jim Comey and the FBI, yes.”

Ex-Homeland Security official says politics molded Russia response | TheHill

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