U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today discussed new allegations swirling around U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions—information that surfaced because of Wyden's questions.
Wyden held a Portland press conference this morning, a day after his questioning of James Comey revealed that the former FBI director knew more reasons than he has disclosed about why Sessions had to recuse himself from overseeing an inquiry into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
Wyden today referenced those "secret facts" that forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
"It is my view this morning, that the American people deserve to know what facts Mr. Comey was talking about here that would disqualify America's sitting attorney general from this investigation," Wyden said.
Wyden likened Comey's testimony to a Tom Clancy mystery novel—and called for Sessions to resign due to the fact that he met with Russian officials twice and did not disclose it to the Senate.
WW yesterday published the transcript of Wyden's exchange with Comey. Here's the crucial exchange on Sessions.
Wyden: Let me turn to the attorney general. In your statement, you said that you and the FBI leadership team decided not to discuss the president's actions with Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, even though he had not recused himself. What was it about the attorney general's own interactions with the Russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?
Comey: Our judgment, as I recall, is that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.
As a longtime member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden is a veteran of asking precise and pointed questions to get witnesses to reference classified information, or at least admit that information exists that they can't discuss. In a February profile of Wyden, WW explored the way he structures those questions to reveal facts he knows from closed hearings.
Today, Wyden received national attention for doing just that. The news site Vox picked Wyden as one of three big winners from the Comey hearing, explaining it this way:
And members of both parties, but particularly Democrats, made a point of sticking to questions either that Comey could answer, or that his refusal or inability to discuss would be an answer of a different kind. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is a veteran of this kind of questioning. As one of the Senate’s leading critics of government surveillance, he’s well-trained in the art of asking a witness a question he knows the witness can’t answer publicly, as a way of flagging for the public that there is something of interest being kept from them. On Thursday, he used those skills to extract one of the few genuinely new pieces of information from the hearing: that Comey had a reason, beyond what’s publicly been reported, to believe that Jeff Sessions would need to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Wyden wasn’t flashy. He wasn’t outraged. He simply moved the ball forward in the investigation and let Comey be the star of the show. And his colleagues followed suit
In his press conference today, Wyden said President Donald Trump's attempt to derail an investigation into his security advisor Michael Flynn compares to Watergate, saying the "evidence is piling up" that Trump has abused the power of the White House.
Wyden said that yesterday's Senate hearing provided the Intelligence Committee with a number of important facts.
"Yesterday, we got a lot of facts, but there's a lot more to do," Wyden said.