Deputy Attorney General Nominee Faces a Congress Divided on Russia Probe
08 March, 2017, 00:28 | Author: Ora Austin
President Trump's nominee for deputy attorney general, at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, pushed back on Democratic calls to name an independent special prosecutor to oversee the Justice Department's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
"I do not recall any discussions with the Russian ambassador, or any other representative of the Russian government, regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasion", Sessions wrote.
Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during the time Sessions was serving as a surrogate for the Trump campaign, but not in his capacity as a surrogate for the Trump campaign. "Because this appears to me like he was - and I have been, I've bent over backward not to say that he lied".
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer explained prior to the hearing that there's a "strong legal rationale" for appointing a special prosecutor to handle the probe into the Russia-Trump ties, found for several of Trump's closest advisers.
Grassley then turned to Rosenstein and Rachel Brand, who is Trump's nominee for associate attorney general and is also being questioned today.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions "did not have communications with the Russians", except for the two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak he neglected to mention under oath. "I consider what Senator Franken asked Sessions at that late moment, that that story had just come out, as a gotcha question". "I also made clear to Rod that - if the Federal Bureau of Investigation director has, in fact, requested that the Justice Department deny President Trump's unsubstantiated claims about the Obama Administration wiretapping of Trump Tower - then the Department of Justice has a duty to immediately let the public know the truth".
The hearing grew tense when Franken called for Sessions to return to the committee to clarify his testimony from eight weeks ago.
Session had said he would recuse himself in any case where it seemed appropriate. "I think the - the answer is I'm simply not in a position to answer the question". "He's a career civil servant who has served with distinction during both the Bush and Obama administrations".
"I know this is the issue du jour", Rosenstein said of the Russian Federation controversy. One of Trump's "earliest and most loyal supporters", the former Alabama senator served as a crucial link between Trump and the Republican establishment, galvanizing support from within the Party and helping to craft the campaign's national security policy. We'll speak with Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy for context.
Republicans argued it was too soon to make a determination about a special prosecutor, with Grassley calling that request "premature at best".
Rosenstein, appointed US attorney by President George W. Bush and retained by President Barack Obama, offered little indication of his approach, saying he had not been briefed on the matter and wasn't prepared to commit to a course of action. "I am confident of his judgment on these issues".
In contrast, he said: "I view it as a matter of principle that I should not be taking a position on this".
'As far as I'm concerned, every investigation conducted by the department of Justice is an independent investigation, ' Rosenstein said.
Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, but this decision is unrelated to the discovery that he spoke twice with the Russian ambassador despite his claims that he had no such meetings.
Under oath, Sessions failed to acknowledge he had two separate meetings a year ago with Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak. "I don't care who it is", Rosenstein said.
Sessions said he had not tried to mislead anyone but could have been more careful in his answers.
If confirmed, Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein would be responsible for leading any investigations into Russian interference in the presidential elections, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last week.
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