Heated exchange between Sen. Wyden, Attorney General Sessions

Ousted FBI director James Comey listens during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill

Ousted FBI director James Comey listens during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill

A question about Comey's remark last week over Sessions' recusal from the Russian Federation probe also rattled the attorney general.

Andrew Wright, a professor at Savannah Law School and associate counsel under former President Barack Obama, said it was not unusual for government employees to refuse to discuss conversations with the president in order to preserve the right to invoke executive privilege later. There is also a congressional investigation, and you are obstructing that congressional delegation - investigation by not answering these questions, and I think your silence, like the silence of [CIA] Director [Dan] Coats, like the silence of [NSA Director] Admiral [Mike] Rogers, speaks volumes.

SESSIONS: It's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer, one.

Comey referred frequently to the attorney general and included the tantalizing tidbit that there were "facts that I can't discuss in an open setting".

In his opening statement, however, Sessions had been more assertive in denying any meetings or conversations.

Democratic senators expressed frustration with Sessions on several occasions.

"Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged and off-limits", Sen.

Sessions continually said he was just following precedent.

Harris: Did you have any communications with Russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this committee? Did you raise concerns about Russia's support for [Syrian] President Bashar Al-Assad and his campaign of indiscriminate violence against his own citizens including his use of chemical weapons? Russian Federation has denied interfering in the USA election.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Sessions insisted his response to Franken, when viewed in context, was accurate. But his former Democratic colleagues pressed him repeatedly on his contacts with Russian Federation and his role in the dismissal of Comey - who led the FBI's probe on Russian Federation until he was ousted. He has acknowledged two meetings a year ago with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

This is incredibly revealing - the fact that Sessions, who was a sitting USA senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time, met several times with the Russian ambassador yet apparently didn't choose to discuss some of the most critical foreign policy issues between the two countries is astounding.

"If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it", he said.

But the attorney general left Democratic senators deeply frustrated when he declined to go into the reasons for Comey's dismissal and wouldn't say whether the President ordered him out of the Oval Office so he could talk privately with Comey on February 14, in an encounter the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director said included a request for him to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are.

"You raised your right hand here today and said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth", Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich said.

Comey said Trump told Sessions and other administration officials to leave the room before Trump asked him in February to drop a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation.

He again cited a Justice Department rule. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asked Sessions whether Trump records his conversations in the White House.

"I do not" Sessions said when asked whether he knows whether the president records his conversations. "But that in itself is not problematic". "I did", Sessions said.

In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Mr Sessions also contradicted a contention made by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week.

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

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