Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Senate Questions Jeff Sessions About Contacts With Russian Officials

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was defensive during his hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

In a fiery Senate intelligence committee hearing, Sessions raised his voice in indignation as he blasted claims that he had colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election as an "appalling and detestable lie".

Sessions kicked off his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee by asserting that he had "never met with or had any conversations with any Russians" about interference in the 2016 presidential race.

"I take the president at his word - that I was sacked because of the Russian Federation investigation", said Comey during his Congressional testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 6. "Harris was silenced last week during former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey's testimony because she would not allow him to properly answer questions either". He says he did not meet privately with Kislyak and does not recall greeting him, but allows that the two may have exchanged a passing interaction - one that would have taken place in a room full of attendees.

The question on the minds of many of those in Congress was whether Sessions was aware of Trump's possible ulterior motive in firing the former FBI Director Comey from his post.

He said the intelligence agency needed a "fresh start" as it had "problems", adding that Mr Comey had caused "controversy on both sides of the aisle".

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.

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Sessions confirmed, for example, that Comey approached him a day after the Oval Office meeting, at the butt of which Trump dismissed everyone except for Comey, including Sessions and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law. The probe over the possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation is now in the hands of special counsel Bob Mueller following the Comey dismissal. It was repeatedly likened to executive privilege. "Tom Cotton Just Ripped a Gaping Hole in Democrats' Conspiracy Theory About Russia", an IJR headline read.

The exchange raises questions about why Sessions, who showed little interest in Russian Federation while he was a senator, met with Kislyak at all during the election. But many Democrats have accused Sessions of misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January confirmation hearing. Since there were no new and explosive revelations, the answer still falls along partisan lines-whether you are Republican or Democratic. "I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice and basically backed him up in his concerns". - Sen. Ron Wyden to Sessions.

Testifying last week before the same committee, Comey recalled that Trump had asked him to "let go" of a probe into onetime national security advisor Michael Flynn - exposing the president to accusations of obstruction of justice, a potentially impeachable offense.

Last week, panel Chairman Richard Burr admonished Harris.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said he believed Sessions' reasoning for not commenting was faulty: There was no "appropriateness bucket", he said, for declining to answer a legitimate congressional inquiry. Sen. But: Sessions also said he thought Comey should be fired.

"Well, we talked about that", Sessions responded.

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