On Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after the James Comey hearing, Washington, D.C. once again turned its eyes to the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. However, this time, the nation was watching as Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke before the Senate Intelligence Committee. While Sessions’ hearing didn’t enjoy the same hype as Comey’s — last Thursday was coined “Comey Day” by Washingtonians — it was no less important for both sides of the aisle.
Like a number of Trump associates, Sessions’ time in the administration has been marred by controversy. After it was reported that the attorney general held an undisclosed meeting with Russian officials, he recused himself from the Russia probe. There were also reports last week that during the closed Senate hearing with James Comey, the former FBI director hinted that a third undisclosed meeting had occurred between Sessions and Russian officials.
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who was given five minutes to question Sessions got into a pretty tense conversation with her former colleague. On a number of occasions, Feinstein asked Sessions about conversations that he’d had with President Trump, specifically conversations regarding the firing of James Comey. Sessions repeatedly rebuffed her, saying that he could not “discuss with you — or confirm or deny — the nature of private conversations [he] may have had with the president on this subject or others.”
The exchange between Feinstein and Sessions continued with her asking pointed questions, at one point asking Sessions directly if his decisions not to answer were an exercise of executive privilege — whether President Trump had requested that he stay silent. However, she made little leeway and after five minutes, declared, exasperated, “my time is up.”
Unlike James Comey, Sessions did not release a written statement before entering the hearing. While Comey’s opening statement was seen as some as a bombshell, Sessions’ testimony still held the promise of a revelation. The Senate Intelligence Committee features a number of star legislators. On the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida carries a big stick, while Tom Cotton of Arkansas is a promising young face in the GOP. Democrats looked to Dianne Feinstein of California to be a resounding voice in the chamber, while Kamala Harris, also of California, is being suggested as a possible 2020 presidential contender.