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Sen. Coons questions Attorney General Sessions on Russia probe, preventing crime

Delaware Public Media

Sen. Chris Coons questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday about his efforts to combat crime. News outlets have tracked 27 people killed in Wilmington so far this year.

Attorney General Sessions said the Justice Department is updating the Safe Neighborhoods program, which is a national initiative to reduce gang and gun violence.

Coons said Delaware is seeing progress using a version of the Safe Neighborhoods program. But Delaware’s largest city is seeing record levels of shootings and homicides.

“But the combination of the opioid crisis, the easy availability of guns and some other factors is making it particularly in our community and I’d welcome partnering with you on that,” he said.

An FBI report on crime released last month shows Delaware’s violent crime rate was higher in 2016 than in 2015. About 508 people per 100-thousand were victims. That rate is higher than the national rate.

Coons also questioned Sessions on voting ID laws and protecting the rights of LGBT people. He said he wants to make sure Sessions is not involved in the investigation into Russian inference in last year’s election.

Sessions recused himself from participating in the investigation earlier this year. Senators were concerned about his undisclosed contacts as a member of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Coons said he sent a letter to Sessions this summer and didn’t receive a response.

“You made a statement at the outset that some of the core mission of the Department of Justice, fighting violent crime, keeping our nation safe, respecting rule of law and promoting rule of law," he said. "I think it is important, as you have stated, that this investigation reach its natural and full conclusion without any interference.”

Coons is troubled about the attorney general’s involvement in the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Sessions recommended Comey should be fired for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Trump used the recommendation as one reason he fired Comey in May. But he said a couple days later he fired Comey because of the Russia probe.

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