Trump-Russia net tightens as Sessions questioned
New FBI boss says he threatened to quit under pressure from Attorney General
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been questioned as part of the investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Multiple US media outlets reported that Sessions had been interviewed last week as part of former FBI director Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian election rigging, “making him the first member of Donald Trump’s cabinet to be questioned”, says the BBC.
A Justice Department spokesman confirmed the country’s top law official was interviewed for several hours by the Special Counsel’s office. He was asked whether the President had obstructed justice when he fired former FBI director James Comey in May last year.
Sessions opted to recuse himself in all matters relating to the 2016 election, including the Russia inquiry, after it was revealed he had failed to tell Congress about two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak, during the campaign.
Mueller also sees Sessions as an important witness due to his ties to the firing of Comey and his interest “shows how the President’s own actions helped prompt a broader inquiry”, says The New York Times.
The White House initially said the FBI director was sacked on the recommendation of a Justice Department memo criticising Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, but Trump later contradicted this, saying he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he fired him.
“While this is a significant development, it shouldn't come as a major surprise given that Sessions sits at the intersection of multiple reported threads of the inquiry,” says the BBC’s Washington correspondent Anthony Zurcher.
The revelation that Sessions had spoken to the Special Counsel comes a day after Axios reported FBI Director Christopher Wray threatened to resign when he was allegedly pressured by the Attorney General to fire his deputy, Andrew McCabe.
CNN says McCabe “has come under public criticism by Trump and his allies in recent weeks over the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and his connections to anti-Trump messages sent between two FBI employees during the campaign”.
US intelligence agencies have unanimously agreed that Russia sought to influence the election result in favour of Trump, however, it has not been proven whether anyone in the President’s campaign team actively colluded with the Kremlin.
Now, following reports that former Trump campaign chief and White House advisor Steve Bannon has also agreed to be interviewed by Mueller, the investigation appears to be heading toward a face-off with the President.
“Then it will be time for the former top FBI man to put his cards on the table,” says Zurcher.