Week ahead: Sessions to face new Russia questions before House panel

Week ahead: Sessions to face new Russia questions before House panel
© Camille Fine

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat House passes concealed carry gun bill Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee next week MORE will testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and face questions about recent developments in the investigations into Russian interference.

Sessions's role in President Trump's campaign has attracted renewed scrutiny after George Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his Russian contacts.

Papadopoulos told multiple Trump campaign officials about his efforts to broker a meeting between the campaign and Russian officials, according to court filings unsealed at the end of October. Papadopoulos is said to have broached the topic at a March 2016 meeting with Trump's national security team at which Sessions was present.

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Papadopoulos has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in the investigation since he was arrested in July.

Separately, Carter Page, who also served as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, recently testified before the House Intelligence Committee that he informed Sessions, then an Alabama senator and campaign surrogate, "in passing" of his July 2016 trip to Moscow days before he left. Page also told lawmakers he exchanged "pleasantries" with a senior Russian official during the trip.

In a letter to Sessions on Tuesday, Democrats on the committee signaled they would have questions for him about Papadopoulos, citing his past statements that he had no knowledge of Trump campaign affiliates communicating with the Russian government during the campaign.

Sessions has undergone prior scrutiny for saying at his confirmation hearing that he had no communications with Russian officials during the campaign. Reports later surfaced that Sessions had contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016 before the election, though the Justice Department has said those interactions were in his capacity as a senator and member of the Armed Services Committee.

The coming week could also bring more developments in Mueller's investigation, with reports of him closing in on Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser.

House lawmakers will focus on cybersecurity on a number of fronts in coming days.

The House Science Committee has scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the implementation of the Trump administration directive barring federal agencies and departments from using software produced by Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab.

The hearing, spearheaded by the Science Oversight Subcommittee, will be its second focused on Kaspersky amid reports indicating the company's antivirus software aided Russian spying efforts against the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security issued the Kaspersky-related directive in mid-September, giving agencies and departments 90 days to rid their systems of Kaspersky software.

Tuesday's hearing will feature testimony from Jeanette Manfra, a top cybersecurity official at DHS, as well as IT officials from NASA and the Pentagon.

The House Homeland Security Committee will explore cyber threat information sharing on Wednesday.

The same day, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on the latest Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecards, which are given to agencies periodically to track their adherence to the data law.

Finally, the House Small Business Committee will meet to discuss how to promote better information sharing between the federal government and small businesses on cybersecurity on Wednesday.

In the Senate, Monday could yield more progress on the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to serve as Trump's secretary of homeland security.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held Nielsen's confirmation hearing on Wednesday, but Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Cybersecurity: Panel pushes agencies on dropping Kaspersky software | NC county won't pay ransom to hackers | Lawmakers sound alarm over ISIS 'cyber caliphate' GOP chairman warns of ISIS's ‘cyber caliphate’ Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-Wis.) was forced to delay a vote on her nomination the following day after committee members volleyed nearly 200 follow-up questions to Nielsen.

While Nielsen received high marks for her expertise in cybersecurity and other areas, Democrats on the committee expressed concerns about her lack of leadership experience. Nielsen currently serves as John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE's chief of staff in the White House and worked at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration.

 

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