USA attorney general dodges Trump questions, angering Democrats

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Much of Tuesday's testimony centered on why Trump chose to fire Comey - the official Department of Justice version is at odds with the president's televised explanation - but Sessions refused to describe his conversations with Trump on the issue. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was planning to interrogate Sessions over his contacts with Russian officials, as well as the attorney general's current role in the FBI investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

The public testimony Tuesday before the Senate intelligence committee should yield Sessions' most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his entire tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to step aside from the Russian Federation probe.

"Many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong", Sessions added.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions angrily denied on Tuesday ever colluding with Russian operatives in their campaign to meddle in the 2016 election. Sessions requested an open hearing, though it's not clear what he will and won't address in his televised testimony. Ron Wyden of OR asked Sessions whether there were any undisclosed reasons for his recusal from the Russian Federation probe. Sessions told Wyden he did not appreciate the "secret innuendo being leaked out there about me". "Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged". Sessions replied that he "possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it". White House frustrations with the Justice Department spilled into public view last week, when Trump on Twitter criticized the legal strategy in defending his proposed travel ban.

"Our committee will want to hear what you are doing to ensure that the Russians - or any other foreign adversaries - can not attack our democratic process like this ever again. I attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama".

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.

A couple of senators pushed Sessions hard on his basis for refusing to answer.

Sessions, a close campaign adviser to Donald Trump and the first senator to endorse him, stepped aside from the investigation in early March after acknowledging he had spoken twice in the months before the election with the Russian ambassador. He denied recusing himself from the investigation because of the meetings with the ambassadors, and said that he didn't hold a meeting a third meeting with a Russian ambassador, offering only, "I may have had an encounter". Days after that, Sessions also corrected his confirmation hearing testimony to inform the committee about his two meetings with Kislyak. "Those were lies, plain and simple", Comey said.

Harris followed up, "Sir, I am not asking about you the principle".

Citing one example, Mr Sessions said it was "stunning" that the ex-FBI chief "usurped" the Department of Justice's authority by announcing that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails.

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

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pressed the issue, noting that two days after Comey was let go, the president said he would have fired the Federal Bureau of Investigation director regardless of the recommendation he received from Sessions and Rosenstein. "But that in itself is not problematic".

"I don't remember any conversations with him at all about that", Comey said.

Sessions, a former Republican U.S. senator and an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign, testified just five days after Comey told the panel Trump ousted him to undermine the agency's investigation of the Russian Federation matter. Instead, he sent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in his place, which Sen.

During his questioning of Sessions, Sen.

Trump has disputed Comey's recollection and said last week he is "100 percent" willing to give his own version under oath.

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