US attorney general Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate intelligence committee as it investigates alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election. Mr Sessions recused himself in March from a federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump after acknowledging that he had met twice last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
He had told politicians at his January confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russians during the campaign. Mr Sessions has been dogged by questions about possible additional encounters with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Senate Democrats have raised questions about whether the men met at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The Justice Department has said that while Mr Sessions was there, for a speech by Mr Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters.
Former FBI director James Comey raised additional questions at a hearing on Thursday, saying that the FBI expected Mr Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he actually did. Mr Comey declined to elaborate in an open setting. In a letter on Saturday to Senator Richard Shelby Mr Sessions said that he had been scheduled to discuss the Justice Department budget before House and Senate Appropriations sub-committees but that it had become clear some members would focus their questions on the Russia investigation.
Mr Shelby chairs the Senate appropriations sub-committee. Mr Sessions said his decision to accept the intelligence committee’s invitation to appear was due in part to Mr Comey’s testimony. He wrote that “it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum”. He said deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein would appear before the sub-committees.
Mr Sessions did not say in the letter whether his appearance would be in public or behind closed doors.
Mr Comey testified in public and then met with the committee in a closed session to discuss matters touching on classified information.