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US attorney general Jeff Sessions due to face Democrats’ Russia questions next week

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is due to testify before a congressional committee next week, three sources familiar with the matter said on Monday, offering Democrats a chance to question him about his past statements on President Donald Trump’s campaign exchanges with Russian intermediaries.

Sessions’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which has not been publicly announced, was confirmed by a Justice Department spokesman and two congressional aides.

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The hearing, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14, is part of the committee’s regular oversight of the Justice Department, but Russia appears almost certain to be a topic.

Senate Democrats last week demanded that Sessions be recalled to testify on the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts after the disclosure of an effort to set up a meeting between then-Republican candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That, they said, conflicted with Sessions’ earlier statements to Congress.

The effort to set up a Trump-Putin meeting – which never took place – was disclosed in court documents filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was collusion between Trump aides and the Kremlin.

According to the documents, George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, said at a March 31, 2016, meeting of Trump foreign policy advisers “that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

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Both Sessions and Trump attended that meeting, according to a photo posted on Trump’s Instagram account.

Democrats want to question Sessions because, in October, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a continuing exchange between the Trump campaign and Russian government intermediaries “did not happen, at least not to my knowledge and not with me.”

J.D. Gordon, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who was at the March 2016 meeting, told Reuters that Papadopoulos indeed “made a pitch for meeting with Putin.”

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But Sessions shot the idea down, Gordon said. “Yes, within minutes. He was quite clear. We thought that was the end of it.”

Papadopoulos continued trying to arrange contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, the court filings say.

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(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Mary Milliken)


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Quarantine, racial strife, Trump have Michelle Obama feeling down

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama said she is suffering from "low-grade depression" from coronavirus quarantine, racial strife in the United States and the "hypocrisy" of the Trump administration.

Obama made the remarks in the latest episode of "The Michelle Obama Podcast" released on Spotify on Wednesday.

"I'm waking up in the middle of the night because I'm worrying about something or there's a heaviness," the 56-year-old former First Lady said.

"I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low," she said.

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Another watchdog at US State Department abruptly gone

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The internal watchdog looking into accusations against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly quit Wednesday, just months after his predecessor was fired.

The State Department's acting inspector general, Stephen Akard, is a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence and his installation in May had widely been seen as a way to keep a friendly figure in the role.

Akard informed colleagues that he is "returning to the private sector after years of public service," a State Department spokesperson said.

"We appreciate his dedication to the Department and to our country."

But Akard's departure comes just as his office finalizes a report on Pompeo's controversial decision to bypass Congress to sell $8.1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.

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2020 Election

Andrea Mitchell knocks Biden for virtual convention speech: ‘How much does that damage the campaign?’

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MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell suggested to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Wednesday that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden could "damage" his campaign by holding a virtual convention speech.

Mitchell made the remark after President Donald Trump said that he was considering holding his convention speech at the White House.

"Joe Biden is not going to Milwaukee," Mitchell told Pelosi. "How much does this damage the campaign?"

Pelosi disagreed by insisting that Democrats will hold a "great convention."

Mitchell then asked about Trump's plan to hold his convention speech at the White House.

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