- Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned by Robert Mueller’s office for several hours last week, according to The New York Times.
- This makes Sessions the first sitting member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet known to have been interviewed in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
- Former FBI director James Comey was also interviewed by Mueller’s team last year. Investigators were reportedly interested in the memos he wrote about his interactions with Trump before he was fired.
- Sessions is a key figure because of his contacts with a Russian ambassador during the campaign, his role in Comey’s firing, and his presence at a meeting in which a foreign-policy adviser for the Trump campaign pitched a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI director James Comey have been interviewed by Robert Mueller’s team as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference and potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed to The Times that Sessions sat down with members of the special counsel’s office last week for several hours with a Washington lawyer, Chuck Cooper, by his side. This makes Sessions the first of Trump’s sitting Cabinet members known to have been interviewed in Mueller’s investigation.
Hours later, it was disclosed that Comey had also been questioned by Mueller’s team last year. Investigators reportedly asked him primarily about the series of personal memos he wrote that documented his interactions with Trump in the months before his firing. One of the notes mentioned that Trump had personally asked Comey to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, stating that Flynn is a “good guy.”
Sessions in March recused himself from taking part in any investigations related to Russian interference in the 2016 election because of previously undisclosed conversations he had with Sergey Kislyak, then-Russia’s ambassador to the US, during the campaign. Sessions’ recusal has been widely reported to be a source of tension between him and Trump.
Sessions was also involved in the firing of Comey in May. Mueller is thought to be investigating whether the firing, as well as actions taken by the executive branch leading up to it, constituted obstruction of justice. By interviewing Sessions and Comey, investigators hope to learn more about how the initially limited inquiry became broadened to include the Trump election campaign’s contacts with Russia and Trump’s potential obstruction of justice.
Sessions was also in the room when George Papadopoulos, a foreign-policy adviser for the Trump campaign, pitched a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions’ and Comey’s interviews are part of a pattern of investigation
- Win McNamee/Getty
Last year, Mueller had requested a trove of emails and documents from the White House related to Comey’s firing and Sessions’ recusal.
“Earlier reports indicated that Trump exploded when he found out about his recusal,” said Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. “That could be evidence of his state of mind because it is a highly unusual reaction to a recusal decision.”
Andy Wright, a former associate counsel to former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Al Gore, said the request for these documents “could also be a sign that Mueller is trying to understand Attorney General Sessions’ contacts with Russia, his candor in his security clearance forms and before Congress, and the facts requiring his recusal.”
Mueller has been looking into Trump’s possible obstruction of justice since at least June 2017.
Mueller’s team has also called the former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury, though investigators are expected to interview Bannon privately instead.