Jeff Sessions: Russia collusion claim 'detestable lie'

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington DC

US President Donald Trump delivers a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington DC

The U.S. Attorney General denounced as a "detestable lie" charges that he had been party to any Russian election interference during the 2016 campaign, as Jeff Sessions sidestepped a number of questions from Democrats in a politically charged hearing on Russia's election actions.

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. So I would say the mystery here only deepened. "You are impeding this investigation". Sessions previously offered to resign because of tensions with Trump over his recusal decision.

Senator Angus King, an independent, questioned Sessions' legal basis for refusing to answer questions after Sessions said Trump had not invoked executive privilege regarding the conversations.

He is set to testify hours after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared in the Senate and said he's seen no basis for firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director he appointed as special counsel to oversee the Russian Federation investigation.

"I believe it was the next day that he said something and expressed concern about being left alone with the president, but that in itself is not problematic", Sessions said.

"Declining to answer questions at a congressional hearing about confidential conversations with the President is long-standing executive-branch-wide practice", the official said.

"No", Sessions joked, before admitting, "Yes, I do". Sessions also cited Justice Department "longstanding policy" in explaining why he would not answer questions. Franken said that the Trump campaign and the administration have "collective amnesia" when it comes to meeting Russians, and they don't act like people who have nothing to hide.

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

This week, he asked her to simply let him answer.

United States intelligence agencies concluded in a report released in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to interfere in the election to help Trump in part by hacking and releasing damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

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

Because Sessions refused to discuss any communications he'd had with Trump, most of Sessions's testimony covered fairly familiar ground.

Sessions testified Tuesday that he recused himself from the current Russian Federation investigation only because of a regulation that required it because of his involvement in the Trump campaign. But under questioning, Sessions acknowledged that Trump's campaign foreign policy advisers "never functioned as a coherent team" and there were members of that group he never met.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department announced that the Justice Department analyzed the intelligence material in an attempt to corroborate whether or not Sessions met with Kislyak at Mayflower Hotel.

"I do recall being one of the last ones to leave, I don't know how that occurred", Sessions said.

At a separate hearing Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein declared he'd seen no basis for dismissing Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director he appointed as special counsel after Sessions' recusal.

In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Sessions also contradicted a contention made by former FBI Director James Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week. If Mueller investigates the Comey dismissal, he'll likely want to talk to Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein before speaking with or taking testimony from the president.

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