Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) invited President Donald Trump to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on “Face the Nation” on Sunday during a discussion of former FBI Director James Comey’s stunning testimony before the committee last week. The president had once offered, and Sen. Schumer urged him to follow through, telling host John Dickerson, “This is serious stuff. And the president seems to be taking it almost a little bit lightly. It’s sort of like the tax returns.”
“After hearing Mr. Comey’s testimony today, America is stunned. The cloud hanging over this administration has just gotten a whole lot darker,” Sen. Schumer declared on Thursday.
Sen. Schumer also encouraged the president to release any tapes that he might have. Trump alluded to them in a May 12 tweet, just days after firing the FBI director, possibly as a threat or a taunt. Schumer insisted that Trump should either make these tapes public or admit that there never were any tapes in the first place. “No more game playing,” Schumer said.
Schumer pointed out that Thursday’s hearing had also raised some serious questions about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his involvement in the bureau’s investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal before he had formally recused himself. “Director Comey didn’t have direct knowledge of his involvement, but made clear that he suspected that the Attorney General needed to recuse himself weeks before he actually did so and that he could not share the reasons for that in an unclassified briefing.”
Schumer called on committee members to “get to the bottom” of why AG Sessions lied to Congress and did not recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation earlier.
Schumer added that Sessions should be sworn under oath and that the hearing should be public, noting that very little of the information would be classified. “There are some questions about Sessions that have to be asked,” Schumer insisted. For example, did he interfere with the bureau’s Trump-Russia investigation before he recused himself? Was he involved in the firing of Comey? And has he talked to the new FBI director, whom he helped select, about the investigation?
Days after Comey’s firing, Schumer argued that allowing Sessions to help pick his successor would violate the attorney general’s pledge to recuse himself from any investigation related to Russia’s attack on the U.S. presidential election given that whoever succeeds Comey will oversee the FBI’s ongoing probe into Russia’s interference and the potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
“The administration is not shy about removing independent prosecutors and law enforcement officers from their posts if they are doing something the president doesn’t like,” the senator said at the time.
Sessions is scheduled to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, when he is expected to face tough questions about Comey’s firing and his undeclared meetings with Russian officials, Reuters is now reporting that the hearing will indeed be public. The Attorney General would be the highest-level government official to testify before the committee to date.
Sessions recused himself in March but has always maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose that he met last year with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Initially, Sessions denied having had any meetings with any Russians during his confirmation hearing in January, lying under oath. Since then, he has amended his testimony to account for two meetings with Kislyak.
However, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, shortly after testifying before Senate Intelligence Committee in open session that he was “aware of facts” about Sessions that he could not discuss in public, Comey told senators, during a closed-door briefing, that the FBI was, in fact, examining whether Sessions had had a third, undisclosed meeting with Ambassador Kislyak during a campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on April 27, 2016,—while Sessions was still a US senator from Alabama and working for the Trump campaign.
Both Sessions and Burr were heavily involved in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as well as his transition.
Sessions will also be sending his deputy attorney general to a separate public hearing on the DoJ budget on Tuesday. Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was not amused.
– Danielle Bizzarro