Breaking News Emails
MSNBC'S Greta Van Susteren, the host of "For the Record," is reporting from Tuesday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying. Van Susteren, a lawyer, is filing her observations and thoughts during Sessions' testimony.
Why Sessions isn't talking
4:25 pm: Senator King from Maine continues his mission to get witnesses to answer questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Like last week with Director of National Intelligenc Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers, Sessions is refusing to answer some questions but he is not claiming national security and the president did not assert executive privilege. Sessions simply says it would be "inappropriate" or "long-standing DOJ policy. "Inappropriate" seems like one word for "I won't because you won't make me."
The rules of classified info
4:22 pm: Maybe I missed this earlier today...but Senator Burr just said moments ago that NSA Director Rogers, who refused to answer some questions last week in public before the Senate Intelligence Committee, did last night in closed session for two hours answer those questions. At the time that he and Director of National Intelligence Coats refused to answer questions they admitted that they knew of no legal authority for them to deny to respond in public. Note, had they asserted national security or the president invoked executive privilege, I would agree it should be in public. I am not convinced that all two hours last night was classified and that the American people should not be told. In Washington, there is much "overclassification" which results in the American people not having access to information that they should.
3:56 pm: We had our first raised voices when Senator Ron Wyden and Attorney General Sessions engaged in a hot back and forth. If any journalist had drifted asleep (it is really cold in this room which may make one drowsy), that journalist is now wide awake. It went from a monotone back-and-forth of a typical hearing to a blast of temper.
Why didn't Sessions follow up?
3:50 pm: Sessions said Comey did not tell him WHAT he was concerned about when the following day (after the private meeting) Comey expressed "concern" (Sessions' description) about meeting alone with the president. Sessions agreed with Comey in that conversation the next day that he, Comey, should not meet alone with the president.
What I think is curious is why not the follow up by Sessions: "What did the president say to you?" Sessions says Comey did not tell him what they talked about alone, but if I were attorney general my curiosity would have led me to follow up with "What did the president say to you?" I would be especially curious about the content of the conversation since Session described Comey as being "concerned." Remember, Sessions, as attorney general, was Comey's boss.
Helpful to Comey
3:40 pm: "He [Comey] was concerned about it." This is what Sessions just testified to about Director Comey's statement to him the day after Comey met alone with President Trump. This testimony by the attorney general is helpful to Comey in that it corroborates him — that the meeting alone with the president made Comey feel uneasy. Obviously, if the conversation in that meeting with the president was all about a topic like sports, it would be unlikely the former FBI director would have felt uneasy and made a statement the following day to the attorney general about feeling uneasy. Something made the former FBI director "concerned."
A former colleague in the hotseat
3:21 pm: I was curious what the tone would be of the opening statement since Attorney General Sessions was 'colleague' Sessions (he served in the U.S. Senate before becoming attorney general). Ranking Member Senator Mark Warner was cordial but stern. AG Sessions' opening statement was broad and anticipatory — meaning he was anticipating all the questions the senators would have for him and tactically wanted to get out ahead of those questions with his opening statements.
Sessions must answer
2:28 pm: Attorney General Sessions should answer every question unless legitimate national security claim or the President asserts executive privilege (which he has not....at least not so far). I suspect Sessions will want to avoid answering some questions but this Committee has oversight over him and he is a government employee. I think Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers improperly refused to answer questions when asked two weeks ago. There was neither an assertion of executive privilege nor a national security claim. It will be interesting to see how accommodating the Senate is to him when he does not want to answer questions. Remember, Sessions was a colleague in the U.S. Senate.
1:54 pm: It is a ghost town inside the Senate hearing room. Yes, a few journalists have come in and staked out their seats but since the media area has assigned seating, there is no need to show up early and arm wrestle for a good seat (although showing up early is a habit of mine). Outside the hearing room? A long long line. Some have been in line since before 9 a.m. (they are determined!). I did a hit on our air at about 1:30 p.m. and it felt a bit 'reverse paparazzi ' — meaning those who are bored and have been standing in line for hours had nothing better to do than take pictures of me doing my hit. I know they were disappointed. They would have preferred Lester Holt. :-)