All Attorney General Jeff Sessions has to do to in his dramatic Tuesday testimony before the Senate is tell the truth, stay loyal to President Trump, explain his possible unreported meeting with Russian officials last year, dismiss worries that his ties to Russia are "problematic," and somehow try to keep his job.
Sessions will deliver his long-awaited testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon, a day Sessions himself lobbied for in an apparent attempt to avoid testifying at two other budget hearings the same day. That move didn't win him any friends in Congress, and several members said Sessions should also testify in different committees on Russia, the 2016 election and Trump.
Those complaints on Monday only seemed to contribute to the idea that Sessions is running out of allies. Some reports have suggested that Sessions has already mulled resigning amid growing tensions with Trump over his decision to recuse himself from any investigation dealing with the campaign, which eventually led to the creation an special counsel to examine these issues.
But many in the Senate are just as unhappy. Last week, after public testimony at the same Senate Intelligence Committee that Sessions will meet with today, former FBI Director James Comey said he was unable to discuss openly issues related to Sessions that make his involvement in any Russia investigation "problematic."
In a closed meeting, Comey reported said Sessions had a third, unreported meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, and senators are ready to ask Sessions today why that was never reported.
That's one of Sessions' key objectives on Tuesday: to explain those reports, which some are already saying are more than just reports.
"They've intercepted some contacts between Kislyak and his people," Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said Monday night. "Kislyak may have been exaggerating the meeting, you know, because he wanted to look important."
Another series of questions are developing that Democrats could ask today, which are aimed at determining whether Sessions played any role in firing Comey. Some say if he played any role at all, that could be seen as a violation of his pledge to recuse himself from all issues related to the campaign since Comey had been investigating Russia's effort to meddle in the election.
Others want to know whether Sessions remembers an incident that Comey testified to last week when he said Trump asked to be alone with Comey. In that meeting, Comey said, Trump encouraged him to drop the investigation into national security adviser Mike Flynn.
"Did Trump ask him to leave him with Comey?" Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted Monday night in a list of key questions he wants answered. "Did Comey urge him not to do so again? Did he disclose all contacts w Russians?"
Key Qs for Sessions: Did Trump ask him to leave him w Comey? Did Comey urge him not to do so again? Did he disclose all contacts w Russians?— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 12, 2017
Those latter questions could be difficult for Sessions. Confirming Comey's accounting of events would likely add some real distance in his relationship with Trump, but rejecting Comey's version of events would be even more shocking since it would effectively be testimony saying the ousted FBI director lied under oath.
One possible way out for Sessions is to tell the Senate that executive privilege bars him from answering questions about his private discussions with Trump. But while that may protect the president, it could put Sessions in a precarious position.
Dawn Johnsen, who worked at the Office of Legal Counsel from 1993 to 1998 and served as acting Assistant Attorney General from 1997 to 1998, said failing to answer clearly will raise real questions about whether he can continue to do his job.
"He needs to speak directly to the American people ... to reassure he's fulfilling his primary responsibility: To uphold the rule of law," Johnsen, now a professor at the Maurer School of Law and Indiana University in Bloomington, told the Washington Examiner.
"Executive branch officials need to be very openly willing... to start doing their job," Johnsen said, adding, "Stand up to Trump and get him to follow the law. No president is above the law."
She also said it was "outrageous" that Sessions reportedly left Comey in the room with Trump alone, at Trump's request, when he should have stayed with Comey.
David Golove, a constitutional and international law professor at New York University Law, agreed that the pressure on Sessions to protect Trump will be immense.
"What about his relationship with Trump? Does he want to save his own reputation?" said Golove. "Doubtful that... he will move away from Trump."
But Golove said Sessions at least needs to clarify his reported third meeting with Kislyak and said it would look bad if he doesn't "correct himself correctly."
After his confirmation hearing in which Sessions did not reveal he met with Kislyak, the attorney general corrected his Senate testimony to say had two such meetings, but only in the context of his job as a senator.
But if he had a third meeting — something Comey told senators happened behind closed doors last week — Sessions "runs the risk of perjuring himself," Golove told the Washington Examiner.