2:30 p.m. ET: Jeff Sessions vs. the Senate Intel Committee; Update: "An appalling and detestable lie"; Update: Comey didn't want to be left alone with Trump; Update: Sessions gets angry

Update: A good catch by John McCormack. Sessions was for Comey’s Emailgate press conference before he was against it.

Update: Sessions has never received a briefing on Russian interference in the campaign? Granted, he’s recused himself from the Russiagate probe, but he’s not even being informed of what happened by intelligence specialists?

Update: Here’s a novel legal move. We’ll call it “executive privilege, maybe.”

Dan Coats and Mike Rogers did the same thing a few days ago. We’re not claiming that our answers are protected by executive privilege, they insisted, but we’re going to refuse to answer anyway just in case the president ends up deciding that, okay, executive privilege applies. If the White House is asserting the privilege, assert it. Make a decision. Witnesses can’t refuse to answer questions because of the invocation of a privilege that may never come.

Update: Watch to the end as an irritated Sessions attacks the “secret innuendo” pushed last week by Comey in suggesting that there were non-public reasons known to the FBI as to why Sessions would need to recuse himself from the Russiagate probe eventually.

Update: On the limits of Sessions’s Russiagate recusal:

Update: A bit of corroboration for Comey. Sessions confirms that he did leave the room on February 14, leaving Comey alone with Trump, and that Comey asked him the next day not to let that happen again. Comey didn’t mention any improprieties, Sessions says — but he was “concerned” about his conversation with Trump.

Update: As expected, Sessions ducks the question on whether he’d fire Bob Mueller at Trump’s insistence:



Update: Emphatic.

It’ll be live on all the cable news nets as well as C-SPAN 3, so open up a new tab and settle in. The main order of business, and the likely reason why Sessions insisted on doing this in an open session, is to address Comey’s claim last week that the AG had a third, unreported meeting with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Democrats have been after Sessions for perjury because he failed to mention a second brief meeting with Kislyak during his confirmation hearing in January. If there’s a third meeting that he failed to disclose, that’ll give them new ammo for their claim that he’s been lying under oath to conceal the full extent of Team Trump’s contacts with Russia last year.

Sessions’s defense, then and now, will be that he met with foreign dignitaries all the time. He was a U.S. Senator, for cripes sake. Senators have been known to meet with ambassadors. Any contact between him and Kislyak must have been related to Senate business, not Trump campaign business. But is that true? Hmmmm:

But one European diplomatic source present at one of the 2016 meetings with Sessions told me that his country’s ambassador was meeting with Sessions because “he just wanted to know the policies of the Trump team at that time, and Sessions wanted to have feedback.” Asked if Sessions was of interest to the European embassy because of his role on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the diplomatic source said, “We meet with people from the Hill as often as possible and of course it was well known that Sessions was close to the Trump campaign, he even had a formal role.” The source added that his embassy had “similar interactions with the Clinton campaign.”…

By the summer of 2016, Sessions became known in Washington as Trump’s point man for foreign policy, and some in the city’s foreign-policy establishment began seeking him out, hoping to pass their policies through Sessions up to Trump. On September 15, 2016, the Heritage Foundation held an invitation-only roundtable discussion with Sessions. More than 30 ambassadors and deputies chief of mission were invited. (The Russians were not.) The attendees were mostly from allied countries, and there was much anxiety from NATO members about the Trump campaign’s messaging that NATO was “obsolete.” Sessions “was interpreting what Trump was thinking at the time,” one of the diplomats in attendance said. “We wanted to understand in detail what was the foreign-policy program.”

Another diplomat at the meeting told me he was there to meet Sessions “99 percent” because of his role in the Trump campaign.

Other key questions for Sessions today: Did he know that Trump wanted to remove Comey partly because of how the FBI was conducting the Russiagate investigation (specifically, because the Bureau wouldn’t clear Trump)? If so, why did Sessions, who had recused himself from all Russiagate matters, participate in the decision to fire Comey? What exactly are the limits of his recusal? Also, is it true that Trump asked him to leave the Oval Office after a briefing on February 14 so that he could speak to Comey privately? Comey claims that was when Trump told him he hoped he could let the Flynn investigation go. Why did Sessions think it was appropriate for the president and the head of the FBI to speak privately, without the Attorney General being there? And did Comey really scold Sessions afterward for leaving him alone with Trump? The White House has been following what one senior official colorfully described to the Daily Beast as a “Comey is a p*ssy” strategy to try to damage his credibility. Let’s see if Sessions follows suit and scoffs at the idea that the director of the FBI would fear being left alone with the president.

One other suddenly relevant question that’s destined to be asked is how Sessions would react if Trump either ordered Rod Rosenstein to fire Bob Mueller or fired him himself. Would he resign or stay on, a la Robert Bork after the “Saturday night massacre,” to provide some stability to the Department amid chaos? Sessions will try to duck that question on grounds that it’s a hypothetical but Democrats will try to pin him down. It would be a bold statement if Sessions promised that he would resign following Mueller’s ouster, as that would dramatically raise the stakes for Trump in firing the special counsel. But don’t expect that: Remember, Sessions is already on the outs with Trump for his decision to recuse himself from the Russiagate probe. If he tries to box Trump in by vowing to quit if Trump fires Mueller, that may land him on the chopping block before Mueller gets there.

Per Greg Sargent, Sessions is also going to be asked whether Trump ever floated the idea of a pardon for Mike Flynn. Anything he says that corroborates Comey’s testimony will further thin the ice beneath his feet, and he knows it. That fact alone makes this high drama. Updates will follow at the top of the post.