Sessions brands Russia collusion claims a 'detestable lie'

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

He also contradicted fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey's testimony about his concerns over a meeting he had with Mr Trump.

USA attorney-general Jeff Sessions is all set to testify publicly to a Senate panel on Tuesday, setting up another potentially dramatic congressional hearing on possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said in the hearing she was disturbed by the reports on the possible firing of Mueller, saying that to dismiss him "would be catastrophic".

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says he will "defend the integrity" of the special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the US elections. Ron Wyden: "There are none".

By mid-morning Monday, Sessions had issued a statement agreeing to testify publicly.

Sessions also argued that his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation did not mean that he should be barred from his oversight duties over the FBI, following claims by Democrats that he should have not played a role in Comey's firing.

US 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.

Sessions heads to Capitol Hill in a perilous position with his boss, with Trump reportedly growing displeased with his attorney general, notably over his recusal on the Russian Federation probe.

"I do not" Sessions said when asked whether he knows whether the president records his conversations.

Democratic senators repeatedly criticized Sessions for dispatching Rosenstein to testify Tuesday in his place about the Justice Department's budget to an Appropriations subcommittee. "They don't decide prosecution".

In his defense, Sessions could cite a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized Comey over the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

After his May and September contacts with Kushner became known, Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation.

However, Sessions refused to say whether he ever spoke with Trump about firing Comey.

But Sessions disputed that was why he lingered, suggesting there was really nothing to it.

And while he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions insisted, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honour against scurrilous and false allegations".

Sessions says his recusal was not because he had done something wrong or was, himself, the subject of the investigation. His spokeswoman has denied that any such private encounter occurred.

He says it "became clear to me over time that I qualified as a principal adviser to the campaign and it was appropriate and right for me to recuse myself".

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. Such a move would create a firestorm coming weeks after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. This was after a February meeting in which Comey said Trump told Sessions and others to leave the room before asking him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Sessions stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.

On Monday, in a unusual photo op, members of Trump's Cabinet lavished praise on the President, who has struggled to extricate himself from the Russian Federation cloud over his White House.

Sessions said he had confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller, but said that his recusal from the Russian Federation probe would stop him taking part in any hypothetical effort to remove him.

Tuesday's hearing may also throw new light on the awkward state of the relationship between Trump and Sessions.

"The suggestion that I participated in any collusion.is an appalling and detestable lie", Sessions said.

Asked about Trump's own contention that the president fired Comey with the Russian Federation probe in mind, and regardless of any recommendation from anyone else, Sessions said: "I guess I'll just have to let his words speak for themselves".

His impassioned response came after Senate Democrats raised questions about whether Sessions privately met with Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

He vowed to defend his honour "against scurrilous and false allegations".

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., jointly announced that Sessions would testify on new developments Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET "in open session".

Burr says the committee staff met with Johnson on Monday.

The U.S. Attorney General denounced as a "detestable lie" any charges that he had been party to any Russian election inteference during the 2016 campaign, as Jeff Sessions sidestepped a number of questions from Democrats in a politically tinged hearing on Russia's actions before the Senate Intelligence Committee. They will also ask about his decision to recuse from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of President Donald Trump.

Trump watched Sessions testify aboard Air Force One during about 90-minute flight to Milwaukee, an aide told CNN.

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