The nation’s top law enforcement officer insisted Tuesday that he was “not stonewalling” by declining to answer some questions involving “confidential communications” with President Trump, and any suggestion he colluded with Russian Federation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election was “an appalling and detestable lie”.
“I am not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of private conversations that I may have had with the president on this subject or others”, Sessions said.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has denied during a Congress hearing having undisclosed meetings with Russian officials at a Washington DC hotel.
This was among the many times Sessions attempted to explain that he is protecting the President’s right to choose to invoke executive privilege in not sharing the details of conversations.
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’ testimony comes just six days after James Comey, the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director, appeared before the same committee.
Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT), keeps the political spotlight on the Russian Federation issue, sidelining President Donald Trump’s domestic agenda.
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”.
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. Martin Heinrich, who took issue with Sessions declining to answer questions.
The attorney general said it was a “longstanding policy of the Department of Justice” not to reveal conversations between the attorney general and the president, saying he would need to share the questions with the president.
“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”.
“Following a routine morning threat briefing, Mr. Comey spoke to me and my chief of staff”. Senate Democrats have raised questions about whether the men met at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
Comey said Trump told Sessions and other administration officials to leave the room before Trump asked him in February to drop a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russian Federation. “And when asked I said that to the president”. Among the Trump associates under investigation by the bureau is Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. “There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty”. He described Mueller as operating independently from the Justice Department in his investigation.
Sessions supported President Trump on the campaign trail, and previously acknowledged two meetings with the Russian ambassador during the course of the campaign.
“I do want you to be honest”, Harris said. “But that in itself is not problematic”.
Harris was questioning Sessions about policies from the Department of Justice he was citing as the reason he was unable to answer certain questions during his testimony.
Testifying at a packed Senate hearing, Sessions, who was a close Trump adviser during the battle for the presidency, also rejected any idea of misconduct in the ouster of FBI Director James Comey and vowed to defend his honor “against scurrilous and false allegations”.