Live Briefing: What to Watch as Jeff Sessions Testifies About Russia Contacts


• Attorney General Jeff Sessions is back on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, testifying at 10 a.m. before the House Judiciary Committee.

• Mr. Sessions is almost certain to face questions about his contacts with Russians during last year’s presidential campaign and will be asked to clarify his past statements in light of recent disclosures that members of the Trump campaign had interactions with Russia.

• Do not expect Mr. Sessions to talk much about the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, though. He has recused himself and twice refused to describe to senators his private conversations with President Trump.

Here’s what to watch for:

Mr. Sessions has twice told lawmakers under oath that as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump’s campaign, he did not communicate with Russians to aid Mr. Trump’s candidacy, nor did he know of other members of the campaign who had.

His challenge on Tuesday will be to try to square those comments with recent revelations that at least one member of the campaign’s foreign policy council, which Mr. Sessions led, and another foreign policy adviser, had informed Mr. Sessions about their discussions with Russians at the time.

Mr. Sessions has already had his statements undercut once. After telling senators at his confirmation hearing in January that he had not had any contacts with Russians, it was revealed that Mr. Sessions held multiple meetings with a Russian ambassador during the campaign.

Now, Mr. Sessions must contend with comments he made last month, in another hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I did not, and I’m not aware of anyone else that did,” Mr. Sessions told senators when asked whether he believed members of the campaign had communicated with Russians.

Democrats on the committee put Mr. Sessions on alert in a letter last week, saying that they would want clarification on “inconsistencies” between those statements and those of the two campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, who have acknowledged having contact with Russians.

The White House will be carefully watching Mr. Sessions’s performance. The attorney general has been in hot water with the president since he decided in March to recuse himself from all matters related to Russia, leaving him without control over the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Any hiccups in Mr. Sessions’s testimony would most likely only make his problems at the White House worse.

The House Judiciary Committee has a reputation as one of the most politically divided in Congress — and those differences are likely to be on plain display on Tuesday as both Republicans and Democrats wrestle with the sharp changes in policy at the Justice Department instituted under Mr. Sessions.

Republicans mostly approve of those changes, but Democrats will probably grill Mr. Sessions on the effects of curtailing the Obama-era enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, especially protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Republicans, on the other hand, are almost certain to press Mr. Sessions on the progress of investigations into potential leaks of classified information, which have tripled under his watch, and into the handling of the Hillary Clinton email case by the Obama Justice Department.

But they will be pleased that Mr. Sessions is coming with good news. On Monday, the Justice Department notified the committee that senior prosecutors were looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the Obama administration’s decision to allow a Russian nuclear agency to buy Uranium One, a company that owned access to uranium in the United States. Republicans are investigating the matter themselves but have been clamoring for the department to get involved.

The race to fill Mr. Sessions’s former Senate seat in Alabama has fallen into turmoil in recent days after five women accused the Republican nominee of misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Despite mounting accusations and calls by fellow Republicans, including the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to step aside, the candidate, Roy S. Moore, has remained defiant.

That’s where Mr. Sessions comes in.

Two White House officials floated on Monday a scenario under consideration that would have Mr. Sessions either run for his old seat as a write-in candidate to challenge Mr. Moore or be appointed to it should Mr. Moore win and be immediately removed from office. Mr. McConnell is said to be supportive of the idea.

Though a long shot, the move could provide Republicans with a convenient — if awkward — solution to two issues: the prospect of Mr. Moore in the Senate and Mr. Trump’s frustration with Mr. Sessions. While Mr. Sessions remains extremely popular in the state, his relationship with Mr. Trump never really recovered after the attorney general’s recusal.



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