Jeff Sessions denies 'false and scurrilous Russian Federation allegations'

He said the attorney general's refusal to speak about discussions with Mr Trump "speaks volumes".

Former FBI boss James Comey was sacked by the President over a "lack of discipline", United States attorney general Jeff Sessions has claimed.

Hitting out at "scurrilous and false accusations" over his decision, Mr Sessions said he had "dedicated myself to the highest standards".

In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Mr Sessions also contradicted a contention made by former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week.

In a February meeting, Comey said, Trump told Sessions and other administration officials to leave the room before asking him to drop a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation.

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 argued that in the context of that hearing, "my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as I understood it".

Sessions was sworn in February 9 but did not actually step away from the investigation until March 2, the day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed Kislyak meetings.

Though the Justice Department maintains that it has fully disclosed the extent of Sessions' foreign contacts previous year, lawmakers have continued to press him for answers about an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where both Sessions and Kislyak attended a foreign policy speech by Trump.

Sessions was adamant he never had a third meeting with the Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He did allow for the possibility that he encountered him in a reception that he said was attended by a couple dozen people, though he said he had no specific recollection of that.

He's been hounded by speculation over the possibility of a third meeting, with Democratic senators calling for an investigation.

Lawmakers, including Al Franken of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have asked the FBI to investigate and to determine if Sessions committed perjury when he denied having had meetings with Russians.

Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director Comey cryptically told lawmakers last week that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from the investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions said it would be "absurd" to suggest that a recusal from a single investigation would render him unable to manage the leadership of the FBI. That was not so, he said.

Sessions insisted he stepped aside from the Russian Federation investigation because he was a principal adviser to the Trump campaign, not because he did something wrong or was a subject of the probe.

After admitting Mr Trump had not invoked privilege, Mr Sessions was accused of "stonewalling" by Democratic senator Ron Wyden.

Mr Wyden asked Mr Sessions what problematic issues existed. But time and again, Sessions returned to lines such as "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". There are none, Sen.

Raising his voice, he said: "This is a secret innuendo being leaked there about me and I don't appreciate it".

Spicer, the spokesman, declined to say then that Sessions enjoyed Trump's confidence, though spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later in the week that the president had confidence "in all of his Cabinet". And he can expect questions about his involvement in Comey's May 9 firing, the circumstances surrounding his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's investigation, and whether any of his actions - such as interviewing candidates for the FBI director position or meeting with Trump about Comey - violated his recusal pledge. "I have confidence in Mr. Mueller", he said. A friend of the president suggested a day earlier that Trump was considering such an ouster.

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".

  • Arturo Norris