U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday denounced as a "detestable lie" the idea that he colluded with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, and he clashed with Democratic lawmakers over his refusal to detail his conversations with President Donald Trump. Five days after questions were raised by former FBI Director James Comey, the Attorney General defended his decision to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation, denied that he had been involved in any wrongdoing, and pushed back against his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate.
"I am not stonewalling", Sessions said. Perhaps most important, Sessions claimed that he knew so little about Comey and the Russian Federation investigation because he had effectively recused himself in his own mind long before he made his recusal official when it was reported that he had undisclosed meetings with Kislyak.
Sessions recused himself in March from a federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign after acknowledging that he had met twice a year ago with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Press reports have identified at least two meetings between Sessions and Kislyak in 2016.
"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 honour for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie", he said.
The first real fireworks flew nearly 90 minutes into the testimony. Sen.
Comey said he held back because he expected Sessions to withdraw from the Russian Federation inquiry, and the bureau was aware of "facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic".
"Why don't you tell me?"
"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. Can you tell us what policy it is you are talking about?
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. He said he had no conversations about that finding with President Trump either. Manchin: "Steve Miller?" Sessions: "I don't recall him ever having such a conversation." Sen.
In one heated exchange with Sen.
'The director's thinking was not clear, ' Sessions said, saying it would have been better had the investigation 'never been discussed publicly'. "Can you tell me what are these long standing DOJ rules that protect conversations...without invoking executive privilege?".More news: GOP baseball shooter is dead
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A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 45 percent of voters said they trusted Comey more to tell the truth, while 32 percent said they trusted the president more.
As Sessions testified, Trump, who traveled to Wisconsin to discuss a workforce development initiative, declined to answer a reporter's question about whether he had confidence in his attorney general. Sessions said Trump had not invoked executive privilege regarding the conversations. Only 23 percent say the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director's testimony helped Trump more and another 35 percent don't know or have no opinion.
In general, as with most of the Russia-related hearings conducted by Congress, it was a tale of two parties. "I don't know, Sen". But Lankford was outdone by Tom Cotton, whose face seems to be set in a permanent glower.
"Do you like spy fiction?"
COTTON: (Unintelligible) Jason Bourne or.
SESSIONS: Yeah, Alan Furst, David Ignatius.
"Do you like James Bond or Jason Bourne movies?" he asked.
On Tuesday, Leahy said in a Senate floor speech that Sessions' Judiciary testimony over Russian Federation contacts "could be construed as perjury".
The former Alabama senator also defended himself against accusations that he misrepresented himself during his confirmation hearing when he said he hadn't met with Russian officials during the campaign.
In saying so, Sessions was joining the legions of Democrats who have complained about how Comey handled the investigation into Clinton's email server. Sessions said: "It did not violate my recusal". Sessions had written a letter to Trump recommending Comey's firing.
One of the main lines of inquiry involved Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's now-famous memo advising the president to fire Comey, which Sessions wholeheartedly endorsed.