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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump, left, sits with Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony in Quantico, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for hours in the special counsel's Russia investigation, the Justice Department said Tuesday, as prosecutors moved closer to a possible interview with President Donald Trump about whether he took steps to obstruct an FBI probe into contacts between Russia and his 2016 campaign.

The Sessions interview last week makes him the highest-ranking Trump administration official, and first Cabinet member, known to have submitted to questioning. It came as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates whether Trump's actions in office, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, constitute improper efforts to stymie the FBI investigation.

With many of Trump's closest aides having now been questioned, the president and his lawyers are preparing for the prospect of an interview that would likely focus on some of the same obstruction questions. Expected topics for any sit-down with Mueller, who has expressed interest in speaking with Trump, would include not only Comey's firing but also interactions the fired FBI director has said unnerved him, including a request from the president that he end an investigation into a top White House official.

In the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump said he was "not at all concerned" about what Sessions may have told the Mueller team.

The recent questioning of the country's chief law enforcement officer shows the investigators' interest in the obstruction question that has been at the heart of the investigation for months through interviews of many current and former White House officials.

Sessions himself is a potentially important witness given his role as a key Trump surrogate on the campaign trail and his direct involvement in the May 9 firing of Comey, which he advocated. The White House initially said the termination was done on the recommendation of the Justice Department and cited as justification a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that faulted Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email server investigation.

But Trump said later that he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he fired Comey and he had decided to make the move even before the Justice Department's recommendations.

Sessions was one of Trump's earliest and most loyal allies, the first senator to endorse him during the presidential campaign and then a key national security adviser. He was present for an April 2016 Trump foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where he spoke with the Russian ambassador to the United States. He also attended a meeting one month earlier with campaign aides, including George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation last March after acknowledging two previously undisclosed encounters with the ambassador. He is also likely to have been asked about an episode from last February in which Comey says Trump cleared the room of Sessions and other officials before encouraging him to end an investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey says he documented that conversation in a memo, one of a series of contemporaneous notes he kept of conversations with the president that troubled him. The New York Times, which first reported the interview with Sessions, said that investigators spoke to Comey last year about his memos.

Over the past several months Mueller investigators have spoken with other key people close to the president, including White House Counsel Don McGahn, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in the probe of campaign contacts with Russia and possible obstruction.

Mueller has conveyed interest in speaking with the president, and White House attorney Ty Cobb has said that is "under active discussion" with Trump's individual lawyers. He said last week on a CBS News' political podcast, The Takeout, that he expected the investigation to be wrapped up within weeks.

"There's no reason for it not to conclude soon," Cobb said. "Soon to me would be in the next four to six weeks."

Though Trump and Sessions during the campaign shared a law-and-order agenda, and even though the attorney general has continued to push the president's priorities, his recusal decision has strained their bond. Since then, Trump has lashed out repeatedly on Twitter at Sessions and the Justice Department, and the two men now rarely speak directly. Trump saw the recusal as weak and disloyal, believing his attorney general should be doing more to protect him

People familiar with the matter have told The Associated Press that McGahn had contacted Sessions to urge him to retain control of the investigation. McGahn was acting at the behest of the president, according to one of those people, who spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, to take over the Russia investigation one week after Comey was fired. He oversees the work of Mueller's investigators, but he told the AP in an interview last June that he, too, would recuse himself if his actions ever became relevant to the probe. He was questioned by Mueller's team months ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

Sessions' attorney, Chuck Cooper, declined to comment.

Four people have so far been charged in the Mueller investigation, including Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Flynn and Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • Slak
    January 23, 2018 at 10:02 a.m.

    The Obama FBI was so corrupt.
    Obama used America's spy and law enforcement agencies to attempt to take down a rival party's candidate.
    When Trump declared it, the partisan so-called "journalists" piled on and called him crazy.
    He's not crazy, the Obama national security and justice departments were indeed corrupted by the America-hating people Obama surrounded himself with. I mostly blame his Iranian handler, Valarie "spymaster" Jarrett.

  • 3WorldState1
    January 23, 2018 at 10:33 a.m.

    We know the Russian bots made trumps tweets "trending" this week. I also wonder how many of them might be on here. Slak is certainly a Russian stooge. Moz. Pack. Gohogs is just, gohogs. Russia literally has thousands of people in buildings that are responsible for areas of our country to sow division and hate (and stupidity) though news papers, online media etc. Slaks comment below...from the mouth of the Kremlin. And fluoride is a mind control drug put...

  • Pobucker
    January 23, 2018 at 10:44 a.m.

    3WS, the Russians could give a crap who is President.
    The Russians want to sow discord, dissention and disaffection in America.
    The Russians want America fighting itself.
    Proglibs are fine with going along with that.
    Proglibs sow evil seeds of antipathy.

    January 23, 2018 at 11 a.m.


  • Slak
    January 23, 2018 at 11:55 a.m.

    ♫ Oh its a good day to be liberal and be gay
    ♪ Oh its a good day to throw virgins in Pelee
    ♬ Its a good day to soak a cork
    and take out bastards just like we did Bork. ♪

  • cliffcarson
    January 23, 2018 at 12:20 p.m.

    Slak may be thinking of the 'lost' documents and other findings indicating a corrupt DOJ and FBI people involved in the Hillary "Get Out of Jail" actions vs the same bunch who are involved in the "Get that Trump who stole our sweet heart (should have been) Hillary's Presidency.

    I have to admit that SLAK has a point. There does seem to be a conspiracy against Trump.

    I want to see the Document that the Republican House is calling for the public to see.

  • RobertBolt
    January 23, 2018 at 12:25 p.m.

    A number of us have agreed to ignore the Russians, 3WS, because they become incredibly boring without us to serve as foils. Join us if you like. They run out of anything interesting to say when left to their own devices.

  • wildblueyonder
    January 23, 2018 at 12:45 p.m.

    Hillary lied to the FBI as well. Where is her investigation? Oh yes, it was conducted by Peter Strzok. Can't you just imagine what the two talked about? This current FBI leadership is absolutely corrupt and Sessions needs to get off his butt and fire any and all.

  • Illinoisroy
    January 23, 2018 at 1:04 p.m.

    Have y'all seen the Music Man? Trump reminds of the character played by Robert Preston, but not as amicable a character, and Trump supporters remind me of the town folk that bought into the con. Peace and love haters!

  • cain60660gmailcom
    January 23, 2018 at 2:49 p.m.