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Stewart heralds Sessions’ testimony, says probes should continue

First Published      Last Updated Jun 14 2017 07:55 am

Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, praised Attorney General Jeff Sessions' impassioned testimony before a Senate panel over questions about his contacts with Russian officials and the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

"I was glad to see Mr. Sessions pretty emotionally defend himself in the [atmosphere with] a lot of innuendo, a lot of people saying he had false testimony before Congress when it really it was an oversight that anyone of us could have made," Stewart said. "I think this is a good man who deserves respect and support rather than people who seem really willing to cast the worst possible light on the situation."




The Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Sessions, a former Alabama senator, under oath for several hours Tuesday, pressing him on why he didn't disclose a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his conversations with President Donald Trump about terminating Comey's employment.

Sessions charged that "these false attacks, the innuendos and the leaks, you can be sure, will not intimidate me" and said that in the end, the attacks on him have "only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty."

Stewart, who saw portions of the hearing and read most of the transcript that was available Tuesday evening, said he considered Sessions' responses appropriate in not discussing his conversations with Trump. Sessions pushed back several times under questioning from Democrats, saying he would not talk about his private communications with the president.

Stewart added that there is no evidence of collusion between the Russians and Trump's aides or associates, though the Utah Republican said the investigations should continue. The House Intelligence Committee and its Senate counterpart are investigating the Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as a special counsel to review possible violations of the law.

"The thing that drives this whole thing, and that you just can't overlook the importance of it, is that Russia sought out to interfere with our election," Stewart said. "They clearly did accomplish what they set out to do, which is to undermine our faith in democracy and elections, and we didn't respond to it very well. And we've got to figure that out."

There's no way to separate the questions about Trump's team interacting with Russian officials from the overall investigation, Stewart added.

"If Trump and his associates have done something improper, you've got to investigate that as well," Stewart said. "You really can't separate the two of them. Look at all of them. Look at everything. But to this point, we don't see any direct evidence of collusion, so we'll continue to look at that, but what we do have is evidence of meddling and manipulation, and we've got to figure out how to deal with that."

Stewart said there is proof of President Barack Obama's administration "unmasking" — revealing a U.S. citizen's identity in surveillance of foreign officials — and leaking of classified information, which should be prosecuted.

tburr@sltrib.com

 

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