Sessions announces hunt for leakers, says cases have ‘exploded’

Barnini Chakraborty

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top administration officials lashed out Friday against illegal leaks and issued a stern warning that offenders will be “held accountable,” announcing new efforts to hunt them down.

“No government can be effective when its members cannot speak in confidence” with other government leaders, Sessions said, referring specifically to the bombshell leak a day earlier of President Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders.

He said referrals of classified leaks from U.S. intelligence agencies have “exploded” this year.

“We are taking a stand,” the attorney general said. “This culture of leaks must stop.”

Session said criminals who have leaked classified information are “being investigated and will be prosecuted.” He added that four people have already been charged with leaking classified material and related counts, and investigations have tripled.

Sessions said he has directed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and new FBI Director Christopher Wray to oversee all classified leak investigations and actively monitor the progress.

He said a new counterintelligence unit has been created to manage cases, and he has directed the National Security Division and U.S. attorneys to prioritize cases involving unauthorized disclosures.

“The department will not hesitate to bring lawful and appropriate criminal charges against those who abuse the nation’s trust,” he said.

Sessions also had some sharp words for the media, saying he would order a review of the current subpoena policy regarding leaks of classified information and called the publication of such materials as something that places lives “at risk.”

David Boardman, chairman of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, fired back.

“What the attorney general is suggesting is a dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people to know and understand what their leaders are doing, and why,” Boardman said in a statement.

Leak cases have traditionally been difficult to prove and prosecute. In 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines on obtaining information from members of the media. Sessions said Friday that he’s reviewing the DOJ’s policy on issuing subpoenas to reporters.

Under the Obama administration, federal prosecutors brought charges in nine cases – more than all previous administrations combined.

Still, it was clear by Sessions’ comments that the Trump administration would go after any leakers of sensitive information.

Last month, a report written by Republicans on the Senate’s homeland security panel warned that the Trump administration faced an “alarming” amount of media leaks that posed a potential threat to national security. The 24-page report, titled “State Secrets: How and Avalanche of Media Leaks is Harming National Security,” estimated the Trump administration has had about one leak per day.

The authors of the report urged the Justice Department to step up its investigations into the leaks.

On Thursday, a new leak hit the White House hard.

The Washington Post released complete transcripts from Trump’s telephone conversations with Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The documents provided an unfiltered glimpse into Trump’s diplomacy during his first few days on the job. It also unveiled some not-so-nice comments he made in which he called New Hampshire a “drug infested den” and pleaded with Nieto to stay quiet about the controversial border wall Trump repeatedly promised he’d build.

“Leaking the phone calls between our president and other heads of state is nothing short of a national disgrace,” Kellyanne Conway, White House counselor, told “Fox & Friends” on Friday. “I want there to be bipartisan outrage.”

She noted the West Wing is a “small place” and finding the leakers might be “easier” than some realize.”

Former federal prosecutors told Fox News that the leak likely constitutes a federal crime. And lawmakers have voiced concern about how that material got out and the security implications.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee lashed out at the person behind the leak, with Graham calling it a “disservice to the president” and Corker saying he hopes Trump’s new chief of staff will “fire every single person” who is behind leaking sensitive information from within the White House.

Though Friday’s announcement has been in the works for some time, it comes during a rocky period between Trump and Sessions. Trump has taken the former Alabama senator to task over the past few weeks and has stated his “disappointment” with the country’s top law enforcement official via tweets, interviews and press conferences.

Trump slammed Sessions for not being tougher on leaks from the intelligence community.

“I want the attorney general to be much tougher,” Trump said last week. “I want the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before, at a very important level. These are intelligence agencies we cannot have that happen.”

Fox News’ Doug McKelway contributed to this report. 

 

Courtesy: Fox News

The many paths from Trump to Russia

TRUMP’S ASSOCIATES

Jared Kushner Michael Flynn Paul Manafort Carter Page Roger Stone Jeff Sessions JD GordonDonald Trump Jr. Michael Cohen Michael Caputo Erik Prince Rex Tillerson Wilbur Ross Betsy DeVosFelix Sater Aras & Emin Agalarov Alfa Bank Vitaly Churkin

Jared Kushner

Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, who married Trump’s daughter Ivanka in 2009. He was a confidant to Trump during the campaign and now serves as a senior adviser to the President. Kushner gave closed-door interviews in July to Senate intelligence committee staff and House intelligence committee members as part of their Russia investigations. He says he “did not collude” with Russia and that all of his actions during the campaign “were proper.”

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Russia 

Courtesy:CNN

Justice Dept., Under Siege From Trump, Plows Ahead With His Agenda

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department in July. He has been the subject of President Trump’s rage recently because of his recusal in the Russia inquiry. CreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions is at the Justice Department by 6:15 a.m., when he exercises on a treadmill near his fifth-floor office, showers in an adjoining bathroom, microwaves instant oatmeal and hand-washes the bowl, then prepares for a daily 8:20 a.m. meeting with his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.

The televisions in both of their offices are nearly always dark, and neither man has a Twitter account.

That does not mean they have missed the public criticism from President Trump, who was infuriated when Mr. Sessions recused himself from the government’s Russia investigation and when Mr. Rosenstein, who now oversees it, appointed Robert S. Mueller III as the inquiry’s special counsel.

Yet even as the Justice Department has been under siege by Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein have sought to tune out the noise as they remake the department into the one that is most powerfully carrying out the president’s agenda.

“We value the independence of the Justice Department,” Mr. Rosenstein said in an interview this week. The employees, he said, have been conditioned to “ignore anything that’s said by people outside of the department.”

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Mr. Rosenstein added, “Nobody is directing us and nobody is going to direct us about which cases to pursue.”

But even if developing headlines are not rippling through the department in real time — “I’ve made a point of telling my people they should not be monitoring the breaking news,” Mr. Rosenstein said — the attacks by Mr. Trump, including his firing of the acting attorney general and the F.B.I. director, as well as calls to investigate a political opponent, have reverberated loudly. All the same, Mr. Sessions is carrying out the president’s conservative agenda with head-turning speed, roiling critics on the left and leaving some career staff members within the department disoriented by the sea change.

“Sessions as attorney general has been everything conservatives could have dreamed of and liberals could have feared,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

In the last six months, the attorney general has rolled back Obama-era policies on gay rights, voting rights, and criminal justice and police reform while advancing his own fight against drugs, gangs and violent crime. The scope of the work goes far beyond the investigation into Russia’s interference in last year’s election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

“If you just read the media stories, you get a very narrow view of what the Department of Justice is doing,” Mr. Rosenstein said in an interview on Wednesday. “That’s not the way I see it.”

Mr. Sessions has mandated that prosecutors be as tough as possible in charging and sentencing all crimes, including drug offenses that carry stiff mandatory minimum prison sentences. He has expanded the ability of the police to seize people’s assets, irrespective of whether they may have been convicted of a crime or even charged. And as he presses a hard-line immigration agenda, he has dispatched additional federal prosecutors to border districts to prosecute immigration cases and has ordered cities and states to fall in line with federal immigration authorities or else face cuts in federal funding.

On Thursday, Mr. Sessions attached new conditions to local partnerships focused on reducing crime, requiring so-called sanctuary cities like Baltimore to honor federal requests to detain people suspected of being undocumented immigrants if they wanted to participate. On Friday, Mr. Sessions is expected to announce several investigations into leaking, a priority for the president, who has denounced the stream of information out of his administration.

Mr. Trump’s most loyal constituencies praise Mr. Sessions as the cabinet member most effectively delivering on the president’s promises. “We’re heartened by his no-nonsense approach to criminal justice,” said James O. Pasco Jr., the former executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police and now a senior adviser to that organization’s president. “He’s using the bully pulpit to show his support for law enforcement and make cities safer.”

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Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who now oversees the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

Although it will take time for the full effects of the new policies to be seen, legal experts said, changes have already taken root.

Brett Tolman, a former United States attorney in Utah during the administration of George W. Bush, said Mr. Sessions’s policies on criminal charging and sentencing had already drastically affected some of his clients in federal cases not just limited to drugs. In conversations with assistant United States attorneys around the country, Mr. Tolman said, the prosecutors cited Mr. Sessions’s directives in refusing to negotiate in situations they previously would have.

“There is a definite difference in the mentality of the Department of Justice, and you see it already,” said Mr. Tolman, who previously worked as counsel to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah. Mr. Tolman praised past bipartisan progress on criminal justice reform and said Mr. Sessions was out of step: “This is the 1980s and ’90s mentality, and an absolute 180-degree reversal from what we’ve learned.”

Mr. Sessions has not loudly promoted the changes. In travels around the country, he has rarely spoken with the press as public attention has centered on the government’s Russia inquiry. Mr. Sessions recused himself from the investigation in March after his own undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador became public. He left in charge Mr. Rosenstein, who in turn appointed Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel.

Mr. Sessions’s recusal has gnawed at the president, who has said he would have chosen a different attorney general had he known Mr. Sessions would step away from the inquiry — something Mr. Sessions did in keeping with the guidance of the Justice Department’s ethics lawyers. Mr. Trump, who considered Mr. Sessions a loyalist, has called the recusal “unfair to the president” and chastised Mr. Rosenstein for appointing Mr. Mueller.

Even as Mr. Trump’s new chief of staff, John F. Kellyassured Mr. Sessionsthis week that he was not at risk of being fired, Mr. Trump has issued no such reassurance.

Beyond personal attacks, the president has taken broader swipes at the department for how it has defended his travel ban, which aimed to close the nation’s borders to travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries. He has also called for criminal inquiries into Hillary Clinton while calling the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.”

The tension between the Justice Department’s leadership and the president, however, has made some career prosecutors and senior officials — including supporters of the administration’s agenda — uneasy, according to more than two dozen current and former Justice Department officials.

Since May, Mr. Rosenstein has addressed an array of Justice Department staff members, from the public integrity section in Washington to field offices of federal prosecutors in Nevada and South Carolina, seeking to deliver a simple message: Business as usual.

As the Justice Department operates with only a handful of officials confirmed by the Senate — including Mr. Sessions, Mr. Rosenstein and Christopher A. Wray, the new F.B.I. director — the administration has sought to put in place other permanent leadership. Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Sessions have spent some Saturdays this summer meeting with United States attorney candidates to recommend to the president to replace the 46 United States attorneys Mr. Trump forced out this spring. As of Friday, the administration had made 32 nominations, which Mr. Rosenstein cited as “an illustration that we’re moving fairly quickly.”

Others say the vacancies have certain divisions on autopilot. Prosecutors are less likely to take risks or act with a broader sense of strategy, said Kerry B. Harvey, a former United States attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky during the Obama administration.

“When you have a long period of time where you don’t have presidential appointees, the day-to-day work gets done but it tends to be somewhat directionless,” Mr. Harvey said, adding that “it’s ironic the president’s comments seem to be calculated to weaken the Department of Justice’s ability to implement his agenda.”

But as the department presses on with the administration’s agenda, its officials have not wholly turned a blind eye to their place in protecting established government norms.

Among the paintings that Mr. Rosenstein selected to decorate his conference room at the Justice Department is a portrait of Edward H. Levi, appointed attorney general by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 after the department’s credibility had been eroded by President Richard M. Nixon, whose firing of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, led to the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus in what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973.

“That right there,” Mr. Rosenstein said, motioning to the portrait of Mr. Levi. “That’s the post-Watergate A.G.”

MS-13’s most wanted: The violent gangsters the feds want behind bars

Their calling card is stomach-turning violence, and they proudly wear their affiliation in the form of jailhouse tattoos as they terrorize cities and suburbs alike.

MS-13, the El Salvadoran gang that took root in America’s prisons, has spilled onto the streets of America, committing murders and rapes that leave seasoned cops stunned and disgusted.

“They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob,” President Trump said last week on New York’s Long Island, where MS-13 has terrorized once peaceful communities. “They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs, they slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.”

Trump has turned Attorney General Jeff Sessions loose on America’s most-feared gang, and shutting down the murderous El Salvadoran organization is a top priority. With an estimated 10,000 members in the U.S., on the streets and behind bars, the job won’t be easy.

Here are the most-wanted members of America’s most-feared gang:

Walter Yovany Gomez: The only member of MS-13 to currently be on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Yovany Gomez, who goes by the nickname “Cholo,” is wanted for his alleged involvement in the murder of a fellow gang member in Plainfield, N.J. Born in Honduras, Yovany Gomez immigrated to the U.S. illegally before becoming involved in gang life. In May 2011, it is purported that Yovany Gomez and a fellow MS-13 members took their victim out for a night of partying before beating him over the head, stabbing him in the back 17 times and slitting his throat. Their victim was killed for socializing with a rival gang.

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Yovany Gomez in 2013 and he was last seen in Maryland after being driven there from New Jersey. He is considered armed and dangerous.

Robert Morales: A member of the Coronado clique of MS-13 who goes by the nickname “Casper,” Morales is wanted by the FBI for the alleged murder of two men and the attempted slaying of a woman in Los Angeles. Authorities purport that Morales shot and killed a man waiting at a bus stop in July 2000 and then, in November of the same year, shot and killed a fellow MS-13 member before opening fire on the man’s girlfriend. Morales, who was known to work as a handyman when not committing violent crimes, has a lengthy rap sheet that includes several assaults, burglary, narcotics transportation and domestic violence.

Carlos Flores Garcia and Victor Alfonso Argueta: Both men are wanted for a brutal double murder behind a Baltimore school in January 2006. While at a club in south Baltimore, the two MS-13 members thought they saw two other men flash a rival gang sign. A later investigation found that neither of the two victims were affiliated with any gang.

When the two victims arrived at the local school, Garcia and Argueta attacked them – stabbing them multiple times with knives. A district court in Baltimore has charged Garcia with two counts of first-degree murder and Argueta with accessory to commit murder after the fact. Both have been charged with unlawful flight to avoid persecution, given their time on the lam and the fact that both men were born in El Salvador.

Douglas Alexander Herrera-Hernandez: The Texas Department of Public Safety added 20-year-old Herrera-Hernandez to its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list last month after the MS-13 member known as “Terror” was connected to a June 2016 murder and another murder this July in the Houston area. Herrera-Hernandez, who is from El Salvador, has been residing in the U.S. illegally and is believed to be accompanied by a 19-year-old woman and her infant son.

Carlos Alberto Gonzalez-Barahona: While the Salvadoran national has been deported multiple times, the 26-year-old MS-13 member quickly rose to become one of Texas’ most wanted men in a span of three short days this June. On June 18, he allegedly shot and killed his estranged girlfriend inside an apartment in northwest Houston. After fleeing the scene of the crime, Gonzalez-Barahona is suspected of kidnapping the driver of a pickup truck at gunpoint in rural Brazoria County, just south of Houston, before eventually abandoning the truck in neighboring Wharton County. He has been charged with murder and aggravated kidnapping.

Courtesy: Fox News

Trump Acknowledges He Is Under Investigation in Russia Inquiry

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President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time on Friday that he was under investigation in the expanding inquiry into Russian influence in the election, and he appeared to attack the integrity of the Justice Department official in charge of leading it.

In an early-morning tweet, the president declared that he was “being investigated” for his decision to fire James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director. And he seemed to accuse Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, of leading a “witch hunt.”

The tweet was the first explicit concession by the president that Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel for the Russia inquiry, had begun examining whether Mr. Trump’s firing of Mr. Comey last month was an attempt to obstruct the investigation.

And Mr. Trump’s apparent reference to Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from it, came just hours after an oddly worded statement from Mr. Rosenstein complaining about leaks in the case.

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In the statement, Mr. Rosenstein wrote that “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated.”

He added: “Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.”

Mr. Rosenstein’s statement followed two articles by The Washington Post that cited unnamed officials, one saying that Mr. Mueller’s investigation had widened to include whether Mr. Trump committed obstruction of justice, the other that it was looking at financial transactions involving Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law. After the statement, The Post updated the Kushner article so that its first sourcing reference was to “U.S. officials.”

The highly unusual statement by the deputy attorney general raised the question of whether Mr. Trump or some other White House official had asked him to publicly discredit the reports. Part of the revelations surrounding the Russia investigation and the firing of Mr. Comey has been that Mr. Trump repeatedly pushed top intelligence officials to say in public that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation and that there was no evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.

But there was some evidence that Mr. Rosenstein’s motivation may instead have been his own mounting frustration at seeing details of the law enforcement investigation appear nearly daily in the news media.

A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said that no one had asked Mr. Rosenstein to make the statement and that he acted on his own.

Still, the statement, followed by Mr. Trump’s tweet, demonstrated the pressure on the deputy attorney general.

This week, a friend of Mr. Trump’s said the president was considering firing Mr. Mueller — a task that would be complicated by Justice Department regulations, which say that only the attorney general may fire a special counsel and only if there is good cause. Mr. Rosenstein is acting as the attorney general in the inquiry because Mr. Sessions recused himself from investigations that touch on the 2016 presidential campaigns.

According to people briefed on his thinking, while Mr. Trump has left open the possibility of dismissing Mr. Mueller, his anger has been mostly trained on Mr. Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein. The president blames Mr. Rosenstein for appointing Mr. Mueller in the first place, and he faults Mr. Sessions for his earlier recusal from Russia-related issues.

But the people briefed on the president’s thinking said Mr. Trump also knows that firing Mr. Rosenstein would be politically dangerous.

Responding to Mr. Trump’s statement on Twitter, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said she was “growing increasingly concerned” that Mr. Trump might attempt to fire both Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein.

“If the president thinks he can fire Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and replace him with someone who will shut down the investigation, he’s in for a rude awakening,” she said in a statement. “Even his staunchest supporters will balk at such a blatant effort to subvert the law.”

Separately, the apparent expansion of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice, including by firing Mr. Comey, has raised the question of whether Mr. Rosenstein, as a witness to and participant in the events in 2017 that culminated in that ouster, may have to also recuse himself.

If Mr. Rosenstein recuses himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation or were to resign or be fired by Mr. Trump — acting attorney general duties for the inquiry would fall to the department’s No. 3 official, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

Ms. Brand has never served as a prosecutor. She advised the Bush Justice Department on selecting judicial nominees, and she served as a Republican appointee on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

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Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, appearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

“As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will,” said Ian Prior, a Justice Department spokesman. “However, nothing has changed.”

On Friday morning, Mr. Rosenstein made a public appearance at the Justice Department, presenting awards to dozens of department employees. He did not take questions from reporters.

In testimony on Tuesday, Mr. Rosenstein said that he had seen no reason to remove Mr. Mueller, whom he appointed last month, and vowed to “defend the integrity” of the special counsel investigation.

Mr. Trump’s tweet appeared to be inaccurate or oversimplified in two respects. The presient has said he had already made his decision to fire Mr. Comey before Mr. Rosenstein wrote a memo recommending Mr. Comey’s dismissal. He then wrote a memo laying out that line of criticism, not explicitly recommend removing Mr. Comey.

The president’s latest tweet came after a series of others in which Mr. Trump continued to complain about the Russia investigations swirling around him, and just hours after members of Congress from both parties gathered at a baseball field to call for unity after the shooting at a Republican baseball practice this week.

In two other early-morning tweets, the president insisted that no one had found any “proof” that he colluded with Russians to meddle with the 2016 presidential elections, and he once again assailed the news media.

Mr. Trump’s claim to have 100 million social media followers is an exaggeration based on adding his followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — many of whom are most likely the same people.

But however many people actually follow him on social media, the president clearly views them as a refuge from the barrage of newspaper headlines and cable news stories about the Russia investigations.

611COMMENTS

Faced with a Russia investigation that appears to be broadening, Mr. Trump appears eager to use Twitter to undermine the credibility of the inquiry and to convince his supporters that they do not need to worry.

In a third tweet Friday morning, Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that the investigations were a “phony Witch Hunt” and bragged that the nation’s economy was improving quickly.

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Opinion: Donald Trump and the art of creating chaos

Donald Trump doesn’t just hurt his opponents. He also damages the reputation of his friends and associates. Those who stand by him have to reckon with being accomplices, writes Miodrag Soric.

USA Washington - Donald Trump und Jeff Sessions (Reuters/K. Lamarque)

No one can escape him – neither friends nor foes. In 2016, the presidential candidate Trump, the political newcomer, thwarted the election campaign strategies of experienced governors and senators – and won. He ridiculed his opponents, gave them degrading nicknames and pulled America’s political culture down to a new low point.

This time it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who stood by the president. He submitted himself to probing questions by senators about Russia’s influence on the US federal election or the reasons behind the dismissal of former FBI director, James Comey.

The attorney general did not disclose any information that could damage Trump. During the hearing, Sessions either suffered from attacks of amnesia, or he refused to give evidence when things got too risky. He has a right to do this. But transparency comes across differently. Sessions’ testimony did not instill any confidence – neither in him, nor in this administration.

Soric Miodrag Kommentarbild AppMiodrag Soric, head of DW’s Washington bureau

So many unanswered questions

In the wake of this hearing, Trump’s opponents still have no evidence that contacts between his election campaign team and Russia were too close. Does this mean that the Democrats are going to stop making inquiries? Hardly.

The ghost of potentially too close contact between Trump and Russia will continue to haunt the corridors of Congress. Courts will again reject a possible travel ban against Muslims and pass it on to the next instance. There will be new investigations into whether there is a conflict between Trump’s private and official business interests. Trump, the shady business contractor, will want to continue his image as Mister Clean, sorting out Washington’s dubious political laundry: Trump really believes that he is the defender of the man in the street.

Forward into the past, America!

His supporters are hailing the re-opening of a coalmine in Pennsylvania as proof of the modernization of the American economy. At the same time, the administration has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, has placed a question mark over international trade agreements, and wants to build walls along the country’s borders. Forward into the past, America!

Trump lives in a world of “alternative facts.” Facts are true if they appear useful to him. This president magically attracts half-truths, facts that can be described in terms of “both/and.” What an infallible instinct for causing chaos. At his Senate hearing, Jeff Sessions defended the president’s decisions and his process of decision-making. One day he might regret this.

Have something to say? You can leave your comment below. The thread will remain open for 24 hours after publication. 

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Jeff Sessions denies Russia collusion, defends Comey firing

The US Attorney General has denied allegations he was aware of links between Russia and the Trump campaign in a Senate hearing. He also said he recommended a “fresh start” at the FBI when asked about the firing of Comey.

Watch video00:57

Sessions calls notion he colluded with Russia ‘detestable lie’

In a closely-watched testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly denied the suggestion he colluded with Russian officials during the campaign to swing the election in US President Donald Trump‘s favor.

“The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country … or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” Sessions said.

Sessions said his decision to recuse himself from all ongoing Russia investigations was based on a regulation that required him to step aside due to his involvement in the Trump campaign. He insisted that he didn’t know about the Russia probe or was involved in the investigation.

Sessions also defended against accusations that he misrepresented himself by saying he had not met with Russian officials during the campaign during his confirmation hearing.

The attorney general did not actually step aside from the Russia probe until March 2, one day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Watch video03:43

Sessions hearing – DW’s Carsten von Nahmen reports

Grilling over Comey firing

Sessions also fielded several questions over his role in the firing of James Comey. The former FBI director said in his testimony last week that US President Donald Trump sacked him as part of a bid to influence the Russia investigation.

The nation’s top law enforcement official said he had recommended a “fresh start” for the FBI, but wouldn’t provide any details about his conversation with Trump concerning the matter.

He also refused to say whether he discussed the Russia investigation with Trump, saying he couldn’t disclose private conversations with the president.

During last week’s testimony, Comey suggested that there was something “problematic” about Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe. When asked what problematic issues existed, Sessions became visibly incensed.

“Why don’t you tell me? There are none,” Sessions insisted, his voice rising. “This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”

Asked about Trump’s contention that he had fired Comey with the Russia probe in mind and regardless of recommendations from anyone else, sessions said: “I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves. I’m not sure what was in his mind specifically.”

“Many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong,” Sessions added. “But this is the reason I recused myself. I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice.”

“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor gainst scurrilous and false allegations,” he added.

Tuesday’s hearing was Sessions’ first public testimony since being confirmed as attorney general in February, and comes amid several open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

rs,jh/rt   (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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