Under a barrage of questions from Democratic senators, Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied any significant contact with Russian officials during the election, denied that his decision to fire FBI director James Comey had anything to do with the FBI investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and even denied knowledge of the USA intelligence community's pre-election finding that Russia interfered in the election. He vowed to defend his honor "against scurrilous and false allegations".
I also think it's very clear, despite what he attempted to assert in his testimony, that Attorney General Sessions wasn't actually confused by my question during his January confirmation hearing.
Sessions originally said that he disaffiliated himself simply because he was an adviser to Trump during the campaign, but doubt was cast on that explanation when Comey testified last week and said he thought Sessions would recuse himself earlier than he did for "problematic" reasons that needed to be discussed in a closed session.
"I don't like to be rushed this fast, it makes me nervous", Sessions said to Harris. And attorneys general of the past did not send their second-in-command in their stead because the members of this committee have questions they may not want to answer.
"No", Sessions joked, before admitting, "Yes, I do".
The attorney general on March 2 recused himself from the FBI investigation into Russia's role in the election, saying he felt he was required to do so because he had been a prominent figure in Trump's campaign. He never, he insisted, knew anything about the Russian Federation probe or had any role in it.
"We have a right to have full and robust debate within the Department of Justice and encourage people to speak up and argue cases on different sides", he said.
Sessions was combative in angrily defending his reputation against "scurrilous and false allegations" that he personally colluded with Russian Federation in the campaign. Sen.
Addressing allegations that he had unreported meetings with Russian officials while he advised the Trump campaign, Sessions said he had already acknowledged two encounters a year ago with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. A detailed report on Sessions' Intelligence Committee testimony is available here. And he can expect questions about his involvement in Comey's May 9 firing, the circumstances surrounding his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's investigation, and whether any of his actions - such as interviewing candidates for the FBI director position or meeting with Trump about Comey - violated his recusal pledge. She tried to pin Sessions down on what notes he took-calendar appointments, memos, emails-about these critical conversations and meetings, and asked him to submit them to the committee.
Constitutional law expert and University of Texas School of Law Professor Stephen I. Vladeck previously told ThinkProgress that a president's public comments can waive executive privilege for a particular topic. There are none, Sen. "Wyden, there are none", Sessions insisted, his voice rising.
Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swivelled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, the former FBI director named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russian Federation issue.
Sessions told the senators he has confidence in Mueller but said he had "no idea" if Trump did because he had not spoken to the president about the matter.
"I presented president with my concerns, and those of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, about the ongoing leadership issues at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as stated in my letter recommending the removal of Mr. Comey along with the deputy attorney general's memorandum, which have been released publicly by the White House", Sessions said.
Rosenstein said he would agree to dismiss Mueller only if there were a legitimate basis to do so, and an order from the president would not necessarily qualify. Trump has cooled on him, Congress is set to interrogate him, and a special counsel could end up making him a focus of a criminal investigation. But in a subsequent interview with NBC, Trump said that he when he chose to fire Comey he told himself, "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story". When Heinrich also asked him if the rule he was invoking was written down at the DOJ, Sessions replied, "I believe they are".
Faced with statements by President Trump that he fired Comey in part because of the Russian Federation probe, Sessions stood by his argument that Comey had earned negative reviews due to the "stunning" way he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation, saying Comey never should have spoken publicly about it during the 2016 election campaign. "I'm not sure what was in his mind specifically".
Sessions' dodges were similar to those of NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, both of whom refused to answer questions about conversations with the president in their testimonies last week.
In saying so, Sessions was joining the legions of Democrats who have complained about how Comey handled the investigation into Clinton's email server.
Democratic senators pressed him on the legal rationale for his refusal to discuss those private conversations, as Sessions acknowledged that Trump had not asserted executive privilege around the hearing.
There may be additional contacts Sessions had with the Russians beyond the two reported by the Post, including allegations of a third meeting past year between the attorney general and the Russian ambassador at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
Democratic senators have seized on the possibility of a third meeting at that event to suggest that Sessions has not been forthcoming about the extent of his communications with the ambassador. Patrick Leahy was not happy about.
On another hot-button issue, Sen.
In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Sessions contradicted a contention made by Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week.
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