Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to appear before the House Judiciary Committee next week where he will face questions about what he knew about Russian contacts during Donald Trump's presidential campaign. On Tuesday, Sessions will testify in a hearing on oversight of the Justice Department, but it comes after the recent guilty plea of former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and while critics question whether he misled the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.

On Fox News, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) -- who sat on the House Judiciary Committee -- commented on former Trump campaign director Corey Lewandowski recent denials of any involvement of the campaign with Russian operatives. Chaffetz predicted that Sessions will have a “very tough and difficult time” at next week’s hearing. He said that he will be peppered with questions from Democrats about any contacts with Russians. Chaffetz pointed to a transcript of former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, as well as photographs of Sessions greeting a Russian diplomat, as being evidence that Democrats will pounce upon while questioning Sessions. 

As for Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Chaffetz said that they are frustrated with the current DOJ under Sessions. “They see he recused himself, Mueller is put in place, but where are the prosecutions on all the other things?”  Chaffetz also pointed out that President Trump is also frustrated with Sessions and the DOJ.

His former colleagues, said Chaffetz, such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), will ask about delays encountered in requests for documents on the Obama administration’s disastrous “Fast and Furious” program that has been blamed for the murder of a federal agent in Mexico, and should have been revealed in the current Republican presidency. “Why haven’t you prosecuted Lois Lerner? Everything that happened with the IRS? And the IRS apologized, and supposedly there is a monetary payment.” Chaffetz said that he met with Sessions and talked for an hour, thinking that a “treasure trove of documents would start to flow. Absolutely not the case. The deep state is very real.”

Lois Lerner is a former IRS official who became the focus of accusations that her agency targeted conservative organizations for delays or denials of tax-exempt status. During the Obama administration, DOJ and FBI investigators completed an investigation in 2015 that concluded that there was "substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia" but "found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution." However, those conclusions have been questioned by Republicans.

Chaffetz referred to questions about Devin Kelley -- the deranged Texas shooter -- who was able to buy firearms because the Air Force had not entered his domestic abuse conviction into the NICS database despite a background check. “I think the attorney general is having to deal with that, but you’re going to have people like Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdey and John Ratcliffe and Congressman Ted Poe that are going to pepper him with 'What is going on with the National Instant Background Checks [NICS]?' You know, this is a big problem with more than just the Air Force.T hey’re going to ask ‘Where are all of the Uranium One investigations? How come there is no special prosecutor?”

Sessions testified in October before the House Judiciary Committee that neither he nor anyone else was in contact with Russians during the run-up the election. However, unsealed court documents show that George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his own contacts with foreigners, offered to arrange a meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That meeting never materialized.

In advance of next Tuesday’s testimony by Sessions, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte released a statement saying, “Next week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time in his capacity as our nation's top law enforcement officer." The statement went on to say, "The Department of Justice has the solemn duty to ensure our nation's laws are enforced in order to punish criminals and preserve liberty and justice for all Americans, and the House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility to conduct oversight of the Department to ensure it is meeting its mission. We look forward to hearing from Attorney General Sessions on his initiatives to improve the safety of our citizens, on the many issues facing the Justice Department, and on answers to the many questions members have regarding issues before the Department." 

Chaffetz predicted that Democrats will pepper Sessions about Russia during next Tuesday’s hearing, while Republicans will ask about Uranium One, Fast and Furious, and Hillary Clinton’s emails, and special prosecutors.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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