Jeff Sessions: Russia collusion claim a 'detestable lie'

Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expecting sharp questions from his former Senate colleagues about his role in the firing of James Comey, his Russian contacts during the campaign and his decision to step aside from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of President Donald Trump.

Rubio got Sessions to confirm details of that meeting on Tuesday, although the attorney general and Trump ally was not in the room and therefore could not corroborate whether Trump or Comey is telling the truth about the details of the conversation.

In his public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this afternoon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided new details about his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation. "There are none! I can tell you that for absolute certainty", Sessions shouted.

The head of the National Security Agency answered a lot of questions behind closed doors. "You are impeding this investigation", said New Mexico Sen.

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. It would appear, then, that the possibility of the need for such a recusal should have been known by Sessions and other top officials in the Trump administration well before March 2.

Sen. Ron Wyden, another Oregon Democrat, also put out a statement criticizing Sessions. "Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged".

But Sessions said Tuesday that he agreed that "the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House".

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. "I am protecting the right of the president to assert [executive privilege] as he chooses", Sessions answered, adding that he thought discussing those conversations was not appropriate. However, he said this was not a case of claiming "executive privilege" but rather in line with confidentiality over debates within the justice department. After then-president Barrack Obama retaliated against Russian Federation with a series of sanctions, Sessions said he doesn't "recall any such conversations" on sanctions.

"Sir, I'm not asking about the principle", Harris said.

Democrats were unhappy with Sessions declining to testify about his discussions with Trump, citing the longstanding policy.

"The suggestion that I participated in any collusion that I was aware of, any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie", Sessions said.

"That'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", Sessions said. They say he did not mislead Congress because the encounters were part of his job as a senator, not as a surrogate of the Trump campaign.

King, surprised, reminded Sessions that the intelligence community distributed a memo on October 9 detailing Russia's election interference attempts. That's because Sessions was at the center of advising the Trump campaign on national security issues during the campaign and has failed to be forthcoming about how that role might have blended with his communications with Russian officials throughout.

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

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