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In Senate Testimony, Comey Raises Questions About Jeff Sessions


Former FBI Director James Comey told all yesterday, including the story of who he didn't tell when he was leaving the bureau. He says he did not tell his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, very much about the Russia investigation or about President Trump's efforts to influence it.


JAMES COMEY: Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also 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.

INSKEEP: Facts that I can't discuss - tantalizing words which we'll discuss with NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Hi, Sue.


INSKEEP: So what's going on there? Why's that a significant statement?

DAVIS: It's significant because it raises fresh questions about the timeline and motivations here. If you recall, Sessions said he recused himself from the Russia probe at the recommendation of Justice counsel, but he said it was simply because of his political connections to the Trump campaign...


DAVIS: ...And President Trump.

INSKEEP: And of course, the Trump campaign is what was being investigated here, among other things.

DAVIS: Correct, but he never said anything - it was never about his own relationships or ties to Russia or meetings with them. It was only about that close personal relationship. Comey suggested - and remember, he was under oath when he said these words - that it - there may be more to it than that. His use of the words that they saw it as inevitable that he would recuse and that he said it was for a variety of reasons, which now raises the question - what exactly were those reasons?

INSKEEP: Does this suggest that Sessions could be in some kind of legal trouble?

DAVIS: You know, there's really no way for us to know that. That's a determination for special counsel Robert Mueller to make. The DOJ did release a statement last night reiterating that Sessions began conversations about recusing himself shortly after he was sworn in, again, for no other reason than his close connections to the president. The Justice Department also flatly denied new reports that there may have been a new undisclosed meeting between Sessions and the Russian ambassador last year. They're essentially saying there is nothing to see here.

INSKEEP: OK, we heard elsewhere in the program from Jonah Goldberg of National Review, who pointed out a contradiction. Trump's lawyer, President Trump's lawyer, has been saying Comey's a liar, Comey's not telling the truth, but he did tell the truth and vindicates President Trump by saying he wasn't personally under investigation. President Trump has now taken up that call with a tweet this morning, quote, "despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication." Is this total and complete vindication of the president of the United States?

DAVIS: Of course not. There's an ongoing investigation by Mueller. There's ongoing...

INSKEEP: Robert Mueller is the special counsel.

DAVIS: ...Congressional - Robert Mueller. There's ongoing congressional investigations. This is what we know is what's going to happen next in the short term. Robert Mueller is scheduled to meet next week with the chiefs of the Senate intelligence committee. They're going to sort through where their investigations go from here. I can tell you that the Senate intelligence committee very much wants to see those Comey memos in person. And I would caution that both of these investigations are going to take a very long time.

INSKEEP: NPR's Susan Davis. Thanks very much.

DAVIS: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.