Chris Cillizza: Jeff Sessions had a bad week

Posted March 08, 2017

Rod Rosenstein, Trump's pick to be deputy attorney general, would assume ultimate responsibility for any investigation of Trump associates' Russian Federation ties, now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself, following disclosures Sessions met with Russia's ambassador to the US during the campaign.

It was all about Russian Federation at the confirmation hearing Tuesday for Rod Rosenstein, President Trump's pick for deputy attorney general.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday defended his confirmation testimony about his connections to Russian officials after revelations last week that the then-senator met with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign. Sessions reversed course last week and acknowledged that he actually had spoken with the ambassador once at the Republican National Convention last July and again at a meeting in his Senate office in September in the presence of his Senate staff.

Sessions said that he did not tell legislators sooner about those meetings because he thought he had fully answered the particular question he was asked. But as deputy attorney general, Rosenstein will be serving under Sessions - who may now be under the investigation himself.

The answer did not sit well with Franken, who brought it up at a confirmation hearing Tuesday for two more of President Donald Trump's Justice Department nominees.

"I think Senator Sessions should come back... he owes it to this committee to come back and explain himself", claimed Sen.

There was "no communication" between Trump's team and Russian Federation during the campaign and transition, except for communication with Russian Federation by Trump's future national security adviser, his future attorney general, his son-in-law and two others. Al Franken - were about communications between the Russians and the Trump campaign. "And I consider what Senator Franken asked Sessions at that late moment, [when] that story had just come out, as a gotcha question".

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"I have bent over backward not to say that he lied". He needs to come back.

Leahy and other Democrats have called on Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to bring Sessions back before the committee to clarify his relationship with Russian Federation.

Repeatedly, he declined to speculate, insisting that it would be inappropriate for him to offer a firm opinion when the extent of his knowledge is "what I read in the newspaper" - a position that at times appeared to frustrate Democrats. Legislator Jason Chaffetz, who heads the House oversight and government reform committee, told TV networks he had not seen anything directly that would support what the President said. He has recused himself from a probe into the Trump campaign's alleged correspondence with Russian officials. "As has been done in the past, a special prosecutor should lead this investigation".

Rosenstein went only so far as to commit to appoint a special counsel "whenever I determine it's appropriate based on the policies and procedures of the Department of Justice". If confirmed, Rosenstein would assume responsibility for any investigations involving the Trump campaign - including any ties between Trump and Russian Federation - after Sessions recused himself from such matters last week.

Also facing scrutiny on Tuesday was Rod Rosenstein, Trump's nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, and the current US Attorney for Maryland.

"My answer was correct", Sessions wrote in his letter to Congress. Rosenstein could not recall such a meeting. "I do not say this because I question the integrity or the ability of Mr. Rosenstein".