Wed02212018

LAST_UPDATEWed, 21 Feb 2018 9am

Sessions Is Interviewed In Mueller’s Russia Investigation

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

The spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview occurred in response to questions from The New York Times.

Mr. Sessions announced in March that he had recused himself from all matters related to the 2016 election, including the Russia inquiry. The disclosure came after it was revealed that Mr. Sessions had not told Congress that he met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, during the campaign. Mr. Sessions was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s presidential run.

When Mr. Trump learned in March that Mr. Sessions was considering whether to recuse himself, the president had the White House’s top lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, lobby Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the Russia investigation.

Mr. Sessions instead followed the guidance of career prosecutors at the Justice Department, who advised him that he should not be involved with the investigation. When Mr. Trump was told of this, the president erupted in anger, saying he needed an attorney general to protect him.

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As attorney general, Mr. Sessions was deeply involved in the firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey. But Mr. Sessions’s recusal has left him with no control of Mr. Mueller — something the president has repeatedly carped about publicly and privately.

After Mr. Mueller was appointed in May, Mr. Trump again erupted at Mr. Sessions and Mr. Sessions offered to resign. Several days later, Mr. Trump rejected Mr. Sessions’s offer.

Mr. Sessions, who was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview, had been among a small group of senior campaign and administration officials whom Mr. Mueller had not yet interviewed. Two weeks ago, Mr. Mueller subpoenaed Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, to testify before a grand jury. Mr. Mueller is expected to forgo the grand jury appearance for now and will have his investigators interview Mr. Bannon in the coming weeks.

- The Washington Post