Attorney General Jeff Sessions to face sharp questions on Trump, Russia, Comey

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify at a public hearing of the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday afternoon, the committee said in a statement.

Sessions denied any collusion with Russian to meddle in the USA presidential election, saying the accusations are "scurrilous", "appalling", "detestable".

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

As for his role in Mr Comey's sacking, Mr Sessions told senators that he and his second-in-command, Rod Rosenstein, had a "clear view. that we had problems there, and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the appropriate thing to do".

"Well, if you cared most about what Donald Trump's involvement was and his - and his motivations were for firing Jim Comey and his views of the Russian Federation investigation, you didn't learn very much today".

Sessions differentiated between his more formal meetings with Kislyak, in his Senate office and at the Republican National Convention a year ago, versus a more brief interaction that may or may not have happened at a VIP reception following a foreign policy speech Trump gave at a Washington, D.C., hotel in April 2016. That cut off lines of inquiry about the exact circumstances surrounding Comey's firing, what may have happened in the February 14 Oval Office meeting in which Sessions was asked to leave so Trump could speak one-on-one with Comey, as well as Trump's reaction to Sessions' recusal.

Notes and memos that fired FBI Director James Comey wrote about his private meetings with President Trump and then passed to a law professor in NY to leak to the media are now in the FBI's possession, ABC News reported Tuesday. Sessions could be asked about that part of Comey's testimony as well as his role in Comey's firing last month.

Rosenstein said that if the president ordered him to fire the special counsel handling the Russian Federation investigation, he would only comply if the request was "lawful and appropriate".

SHAPIRO: This seems similar to a situation that we saw last week when two top Trump administration intelligence officials, NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, refused to answer questions from a Senate committee but would not specify what legal grounds they were basing that refusal on. Sessions appeared to be using it to justify his evasiveness, even though the privilege isn't up to him to invoke. He described Mueller as operating independently from the Justice Department in his investigation.

In his testimony, Sessions told Sen. He said that was a longtime policy at the Department of Justice.

"I think it depends on the scope of the questions", White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. Hence, Sessions had no reason not to fully answer every question.

Despite testy exchanges with Senator Kamala Harris and others, including a warning by Heinrich that Sessions was "impeding" the congressional probe by refusing to answer basic questions, Goodman said the attorney general was at no actual risk of being held in contempt of Congress by obstructing the delegation.

Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director Comey cryptically told lawmakers last week that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from the investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

"In light of reports regarding Mr. Comey's testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is important that I have an opportunity to address these matters in the appropriate forum", Sessions wrote over the weekend. "He wouldn't answer the most basic question under oath".

"The principle is the Constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges, and one of them is confidentiality of communications", he added.

"I did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel", said Sessions.

"They have gone down lots of other rabbit trails, but not that question". Richard Burr, R-N.C., listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mueller was recently appointed to lead the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 presidential election.

"Why don't you tell me?"

"My time is short, you've made your point that Mr. Comey is engaged in innuendo, we're going to keep digging". "I do recall being one of the last ones to leave, I don't know how that occurred", he said.

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