Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

7 takeaways from Jeff Sessions' testimony before the Senate


Attorney General Jeff Sessions captivated Washington Tuesday, beating back rumors of a private meeting with Russia's ambassador to the United States and mounting a defense for President Donald Trump, one week after former FBI Director James Comey artfully unloaded on both men.

Testifying at a Senate hearing, Mr Sessions said it was a "detestable and appalling lie" to suggest that he participated in or was aware of any collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

Asked about media reports that he had met with Kislyak on a third occasion at a Washington hotel past year, Sessions testified that did not remember meeting or having a conversation with the ambassador at the event.

Sessions said he agreed with firing Comey, and said he thought that before deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein recommended he be fired.

Sessions, a senior member of Republican President Donald Trump's Cabinet and an adviser to his presidential campaign, faced criticism from Democratic senators for declining to answer their questions relating to conversations he had with Trump.

Sessions said President Trump did talk about Comey's firing and said he was upset with Comey's handling of the Russian investigation.

"I do not", Sessions said when asked whether he knows whether the president records his conversations.

Comey testified publicly last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of reasons it would be problematic for Sessions to remain involved in the probe before he recused himself.

A former Republican senator, Sessions was an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign, but sources say there has been tension between the two men in recent weeks because Trump was annoyed that Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation probe.

"I believe it was the next day that [Comey] said something, expressed concern, about being left alone with the president", Sessions said.

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When asked to explain why he wrongly claimed in his confirmation hearing that he never met with Russians, Sessions said he was flustered by the question from Sen.

And while he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions insisted, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations".

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions replied, saying he was simply following Justice Department policy not to discuss confidential communications with the president. Senators of both parties were frustrated by evasive answers they received last week from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and other intelligence officials.

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions told Sen.

The former Alabama senator also defended himself against accusations that he misrepresented himself during his confirmation hearing when he said he hadn't met with Russian officials during the campaign. King was incredulous to learn how little Sessions says he knew about the intelligence on Russian meddling in the US election.

"The Attorney General has requested that this hearing be public". Sessions cited a Justice Department policy which blocks officials from testifying about private discussions with the President.

Legal experts said there was some merit to Sessions' argument. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), on the same grounds, Heinrich said, "You are obstructing this congressional investigation".

Sessions declined to comment on those reports, stating only that he had "confidence" in Mueller and would not be involved in any effort, should it arise, to fire the special counsel. And it is improper for agents of any of the department of any departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval of the president. He said he had no conversations about that finding with President Trump either.

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.

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