Sessions defiant in Senate panel testimony
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 14, 2017,
Jun 14, 2017, 19:03
U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions refused Tuesday to answer questions about the firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, leading Democratic senators to accuse him of "obstructing" and "stonewalling" a legislative committee.
Democratic senators pressed him on the legal rationale for his refusal to discuss those private conversations, as Sessions acknowledged that Trump had not asserted executive privilege around the hearing.
During Sessions' two-and-a-half-hour standoff with many on the committee, particularly Democrats, he was repeatedly accused of "stonewalling" when asked about his conversations with the president.
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. "DOJ traditionally does not discuss ongoing investigations in public, but ultimately must answer questions unless executive privilege is properly invoked and upheld". But he denied reports that he had a third, previously undisclosed meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington in April 2016.
His testy exchanges with Democratic senators contrasted with the Republican senators' treatment, which tended to support Sessions' contention that he was being unfairly painted by allegations of being involved in Russian meddling.
Asked to explain his decision, the attorney general said he believed he had to recuse himself under Department of Justice rules.
"What was it about the Attorney General's own interactions with the Russians, or his behavior with regard to the investigation, that would have led the entire leadership of the FBI to make this decision?"
There are none! I can tell you that for absolute certainty.
But Sessions on Tuesday declined to divulge much information about Comey's firing beyond what was already publicly known.
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.
Sessions lent his support to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is now in charge of the Justice Department's Russian Federation investigation.
"There is a long history of attorneys general standing beside the president, saying that conversations are confidential", Lankford said. Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, asked Sessions.
On another hot-button issue, Sen.
"Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign", he said.
"You are obstructing this congressional investigation by not answering these questions", New Mexico senator Martin Heinrich said.
Sessions also said he is unaware that the president has a system for recording meetings in the White House.
Sessions revealed Tuesday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had discussed Comey and his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), who was cut off in the Senate while asking a question. "I know nothing but what I've read in the paper".