Sessions to testify publicly before Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday

PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks in Central Islip, New York, April 28, 2017.PlayFrank Franklin II/AP Photo
WATCH Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon in an open session, the committee announced Monday.

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Over the weekend, Sessions asked to appear before the Intelligence Committee instead of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, where he was expected to appear to discuss Department of Justice funding. In letters to the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies — before which Sessions was originally scheduled to appear Tuesday — he wrote of the necessity to change his schedule after former FBI Director James Comey's hearing last week and an invitation to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey's recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum," wrote Sessions. "The Senate Intelligence Committee is the most appropriate forum for such matters, as it has been conducting an investigation and has access to relevant, classified information."

Senators had been pushing for Sessions to appear publicly to answer questions about his contacts with Russian officials during the campaign.

Lawmakers on the appropriations committees indicated interest in questioning Sessions on Russian meddling in last year's presidential election rather than on the Department of Justice's budget, as was scheduled, leading to the decision, according to the letters.

On Wednesday, written testimony by Comey about his alleged interactions with President Donald Trump was released, in which the ex-director noted that he asked Sessions to "prevent any future direct communication" between Trump and himself after the two shared a private dinner on Jan. 27 and a one-on-one Oval Office meeting on Feb. 14 that Comey found "inappropriate." Comey wrote that Sessions did not reply to his request.

During Comey's appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., asked Comey a series of questions about Sessions' involvement in the Russia investigation during the two weeks between Trump's expressing his "hope" that Comey could let go of the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Sessions' recusal from inquiries related to the election.

Sessions cited his involvement in Trump's campaign for stepping away from the Russia investigation in March. His recusal announcement came days after it was revealed that he met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. on at least two occasions in 2016.

Comey additionally expressed that FBI leaders believed Sessions would "inevitably" recuse himself and that they "were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic."

Last week ABC News learned that the relationship between Trump and Sessions has declined to the point that Sessions recently suggested he could resign. Multiple sources confirmed that the president was disappointed with the attorney general's recusal — a decision Trump learned about only minutes before it was announced in March.

Despite the report, White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday in response to a question from a reporter that Trump "absolutely" has confidence in Sessions.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will replace Sessions at the appropriations committees' hearing Tuesday.

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