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WASHINGTON — Bowing to pressure from Democrats, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to testify in public Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has scheduled a hearing for 2:30 p.m.
"The Attorney General has requested that this hearing be public," Justice Department spokesman Sarah Isgur Flores said. "He believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee's questions tomorrow."
Committee members were taken by surprise by Sessions' letter over the weekend offering to appear before the panel investigating Russian hacking, in lieu of what was to be an open appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee. Subsequent reports suggested the intelligence hearing would happen behind closed doors.
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Democrats didn't want Sessions to use a secret Intelligence Committee hearing to get out of public testimony over the question of his participating in firing FBI Director James Comey, and over whether he had an undisclosed meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
On Sunday, Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Oregon, sent a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the Intelligence Committee asking that Sessions testify in public.
"I urge that the Committee hold a hearing with the Attorney General in the open so that the American people can hear for themselves what he has to say with regard to connections to the Russians and the President's abuse of power," Wyden wrote.
Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee — who also serves on the Judiciary Committee — directed angry tweets at Sessions over the weekend.
"Now, twice in 2 mos., AG Sessions cancels an Approps hg in which I could Q him about his false testimony and half-hearted Russia recusal," he said in a later tweet.
"My mssg to AttyGen Sessions: Approps & Judiciary have oversight of DOJ. You need to testify before both in public," he said in a third tweet. "You can't run forever."