US Attorney General questioned on Trump-Russia ties

He vowed to defend his honor "against scurrilous and false allegations". "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the Trump campaign", Mr Sessions said. But the revelations forced Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March. He said he was "never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation", even before he recused himself from the case.

In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Sessions contradicted a contention made by Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week.

Sessions denied any collusion with Russian Federation to meddle in the USA presidential election, saying the accusations are "scurrilous", "appalling", "detestable".

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".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sworn in by Senator Richard Burr. People are suggesting through innuendo that I have been not honest about matters and I've tried to be honest. Again and again, he invoked a nonexistent privilege in refusing to answer questions. Martin Heinrich told Sessions he was "impeding" the congressional investigation by not answering questions. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Sessions stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.

The attorney general answered, "I took it as a concern that he might be asked something that was improper, and I affirmed to him his willingness to say no, or not go in an improper way".

King mentioned a memo from October in which the U.S. Intelligence Community wrote that they were confident that the Russian government were responsible for government email hacks and that those "thefts and disclosures are meant to interfere with the United States election process".

The attorney general could also face questions about whether he met Kislyak on a third occasion. 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. Days after that, Sessions also corrected his confirmation hearing testimony to inform the committee about the two meetings with Kislyak.

Asked about media reports that he had met with Kislyak on a third occasion at a Washington hotel past year, Sessions testified that did not remember meeting or having a conversation with the ambassador at the event.

Rosenstein, who has been on the job for six weeks, said only he could fire Mueller, and only if he found good cause to do so.

Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swivelled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russian Federation issue.Sessions told the senators he has confidence in Mueller but said he had "no idea" if Trump did because he had not spoken to the president about the matter.

According to Comey, Trump said of Flynn: "He is a good guy. I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice".

Sessions confirmed Comey's account, but he placed less emphasis on the Trump-Comey meeting.

Sessions responded, "Senator, I'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to review it..."

Senators are also expected to ask Sessions why, after recusing himself from the Russian Federation inquiry, he signed a letter last month recommending that President Trump fire Comey.

As for Comey's firing, Sessions told senators that his recommendation had nothing to do with the Russian Federation probe, that he and his second-in-command, Rosenstein, had a "clear view. that we had problems there, and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the appropriate thing to do".

Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican who has frequently supported Trump and worked with Sessions when he was in the Senate, offered him a hand, painting a comical portrait of an alleged spy scheme.

Amid the firestorm over Comey's dismissal, the Justice Department appointed Mueller last month as special counsel to oversee the probe into Russian election interference and any collusion by Trump aides.

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