Jeff Sessions denies 'false and scurrilous Russian Federation allegations'

The hearing lasted about 2 1/2 hours and included a number of testy exchanges.

The Senate's Russia investigation is back in the news today as Attorney General Jeff Sessions takes the stand to testify before the Intelligence Committee on all things Donald Trump, Russia, and former FBI Director James Comey. He later amended the record by revealing he had met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, twice over the course of the 2016 campaign.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters later that Trump thought Sessions "did a very good job" and was especially "strong" on denying any collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation.

"The suggestion that I participated with any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country.is an appalling and detestable lie". "Now you're not answering questions".

The first real fireworks flew nearly 90 minutes into the testimony. Sen.

Mr Sessions also repeatedly refused to answer questions about his private conversations with the president.

Sessions refused to say whether he had ever discussed the Russian Federation investigation with Trump, arguing that he could not disclose private communications with the president.

Sessions raised his voice in protest when asked what those reasons were.

"I'm not claiming executive privilege, because that's the President's power", Sessions told Sen. There are none, Sen. "I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice". "I can tell you that with absolute certainty".

"This is a secret innuendo out being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it", Sessions said.

Democrats were unhappy with Sessions declining to testify about his discussions with Trump. Sessions wasn't having any of that.

The Senate committee is of one several congressional panels that, along with a special counsel, is also investigating whether any Trump campaign officials colluded with the alleged Kremlin plot.

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. It began over the weekend when Trump's lawyer wouldn't rule it out; then his associate Newt Gingrich appeared to call for it, as did some conservative commentators; Trump's friend Chris Ruddy said he was actually considering it.

"I'm not able to invoke executive privilege, that's the president's prerogative", Sessions said.

He said he was avoiding saying anything in case the president might later choose to exercise his executive privilege to withhold certain evidence.

Senator Angus King, an independent, questioned Sessions's legal basis for refusing to answer. How did the attorney general answer? Republicans were mostly noncombative, if not friendly to Sessions Tuesday, maybe none more so than Sen. "(Now Democrats) have gone down lots of rabbit trails", Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton said. Cotton asked at one point in his questioning. "I just don't have a real recall of the meeting".

"Do you like Jason Bourne or James Bond movies?" asked Cotton.

McCain indicated as much when he asked whether Sessions had ever brought up or held hearings on Russia-related security issues in his capacity as the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. The committee shortly after said the hearing would be open. But Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March after the revelations of the two Kislyak meetings.

Sessions said he recused himself from the Justice Department's current Russian Federation investigation only because of a regulation that required it because of his involvement in the Trump campaign. He was previously slated to meet behind closed doors with Congress to discuss his department's budget - an appearance he's now delegated to his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.

SESSIONS: I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations. Comey told the intelligence committee that, after an encounter with President Trump in which he said Trump pressured him to back off an investigation into the former national security adviser, Comey "implored" Sessions to make sure he was never left alone with the president again - but that Sessions didn't respond.

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