The appearance of Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday could help the Trump administration's public-relations needs -- at least for the moment.
Here is a 20-year Republican veteran of the traditionally clubby Senate returning to testify before old colleagues, with majority GOP members directing the show. That should work in his favor, and by extension, President Donald Trump’s.
One way or another, Sessions is expected to dispute or offset the testimony of his former underling, ex-FBI Director James Comey, whose blistering statements about the run-up to his firing riveted the national spotlight only five days ago.
Comey, a Republican whose law-enforcement actions at different times rattled or gratified members of both major parties, was treated with due deference on Thursday by most of the panel members.
Sessions, a more partisan presence, will likely be embraced by Republican lawmakers and targeted by Democrats.
A sharp partisan divide over Sessions already opened in February when the 70-year-old Alabamian was confirmed by a near-party-line vote, 52 to 47.
All the Republican senators voted in his favor, while Democrats in the minority put up a fight — including when Cory Booker of New Jersey became the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague’s nomination.
Following up, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has said he believes Sessions lied during the confirmation hearings about Russian contacts last year while Sessions was serving as a leading Trump campaign surrogate and supporter.
The whole story on the Russians’ alleged role in U.S. elections remains to be explored by ex-FBI director Robert Mueller — who became special counsel after Sessions recused himself from the probe.
But there is another dimension to all this, inside the White House.
Trump has subjected Sessions of late to a couple of his trademark passive-aggressive public put-downs.
Trump tweeted in clear frustration that he should not have let the Justice Department under Sessions “water down” his proposed ban on travel from six Muslim-majority nations.
He also reportedly expressed anger over Sessions’ Russia recusal, which came in March.
When pressed last week on whether Sessions still had Trump’s confidence, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said, “I have not had that discussion with him.”
Previously, Sessions also did not back up Trump’s bizarre claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor Barack Obama.
All that might give the attorney general added incentive to perform to his president’s satisfaction when he testifies.