Civility crumbled Tuesday in the Senate intelligence committee when Sen. Ron Wyden aggressively questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions on just what former FBI Director James Comey thought was “problematic” about Sessions that would ultimately lead to his recusal in the federal Russia probe.
Wyden, one of the Senate intelligence committee’s most liberal members, lit into Sessions more than one hour into the hearing — prying into why Comey believed Sessions had been compromised. The questions prompted a previously cool Sessions to sputter a little bit, before blasting back at Wyden, suggesting that the senators themselves were guilty of leaking classified information.
“Gen. Sessions, respectfully you’re not answering the question,” Wyden said.
“Well, what is the question??” Sessions shot back.
“Mr. Comey said there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn’t talk about them. What are they?” Wyden asked.
Then, Sessions paused a second, before dialing up his response.
“I … why don’t you tell me? There are none, Sen Wyden! There are none! I can tell you that for absolute certainty,” Sessions shouted.
“This is a secret innuendo out being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it,” Sessions said. “And I’m trying to give my best recusal answer in committees I’ve appeared before, and really people are suggesting through innuendo that I have not been honest about matters, and I’m trying to be honest.”
Wyden then attempted to shift away after the outburst, but Sessions pulled him back in for a sharp counter-punch.
“My time is short, you’ve made your point that Mr. Comey is engaged in innuendo, we’re going to keep digging…” Wyden said.
“Well, Sen. Wyden, he did not say that,” Sessions said.
Wyden responded: “He said it’s ‘problematic’ and I asked you what was problematic about it.”
Then, perhaps unintentionally, Sessions referred to a possible third meeting between himself and the Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, which Comey had reportedly told senators about in a closed hearing.
“Well, some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in closed session,” Sessions said.