With the obvious exception of Donald Trump, no one came off as badly during Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as Attorney General Sessions. Comey’s testimony portrayed Sessions as either being overmatched in a corrupt administration or participating in obstruction of justice. That Sessions allowed Trump to “clear the room” for a one-on-one conversation with Comey is a damning detail; Sessions has not produced an adequate explanation for why he would allow such an obviously problematic meeting to take place. For all of the focus on what Comey had to say about Trump, the former FBI director got quite a bit on the record about Sessions’s conduct, both before he recused himself from the FBI’s Russia probe and after.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sessions will testify before Congress and attempt to push back at this depiction. He reportedly will claim that he did not meet with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April of 2016. He will also reiterate that he did not disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation process because he was following Department of Justice protocol. Finally, Sessions is expected to rebut Comey’s claim that he had responded to Comey’s request to limit his interactions with the president by effectively shrugging his shoulders.
This is all a pretty big deal. Sessions countering Comey’s recollection of events—which is presumably recorded in his contemporaneous memos—is part of the White House’s campaign against the former FBI director’s credibility. It also starts to bleed into Trump’s more bombastic allegations, most notably that Comey committed perjury.
But it’s worth noting that Sessions’s version of events with regard to the Russia probe still doesn’t really add up. He’s going to make the case that it’s a big nothingburger, but if that were the case it seems unlikely that he would have recused himself. Most importantly, none of this addresses Comey’s most provocative suggestion, which was that the FBI was aware of information that it believed would lead Sessions to recuse himself—information that has not become public.