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Cotton twice earns thanks from Sessions for friendly questioning
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on June, 13, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Bill O’Leary)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony has been marked by some heated moments, including tense debates over whether he is “stonewalling” the committee.

And then came Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas. The first-term senator opened by suggesting Democrats on the committee were going down “rabbit trails,” invoked the novels of John le Carré and the James Bond films and generally cast questions about potential collusion between the Trump campaign as Russia as the work of outlandish spy fiction.

His line of questioning was so friendly that a smiling Sessions twice thanked him for his inquiries. When Cotton said it was ridiculous to suggest that a potential interaction between Sessions and the Russian ambassador at a Washington hotel last year could have involved potential collusion, Sessions had only praise for the senator.

“Thank you for saying that, Senator Cotton,” Sessions said. “It’s just like through the looking glass. I mean, what is this?”

Cotton’s performance was hailed by conservatives on Twitter:

Cotton did again bring up the disputed meeting Comey and Sessions had in mid-February, during which Comey said he expressed concerns about being left alone with President Trump but got no response from Sessions. He asked Sessions why Comey distrusted Trump from their first meeting, but Sessions said he could not answer.

In winding down his questioning, Cotton turned to a subject near and dear to the Trump administration’s heart: the danger of leaks. He ticked off a series of news reports based on leaks, and asked Sessions if he agreed that such leaks should lead to prosecutions.

Sessions replied by thanking Cotton again, noting that the Trump administration had brought charges against one suspected leaker so far — a government contractor in Georgia. And Sessions, calling leaks “damaging” to the country, warned that investigations were underway into other leaks, ending with a threat for other people considering leaking information.

“This is … already resulting in investigations, and I fear that some people may find that they wish they hadn’t leaked,” Sessions said.

Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, will face his former colleagues this afternoon in a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is expected to face questions on contacts with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, and his role in the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director.