Sessions to face sharp questions from Senate panel on Russia contacts

Comey testified he did not tell Sessions Trump had asked him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation because he suspected Sessions would soon need to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a star player in two key controversies about the Trump administration: the investigation into Donald Trump campaign's connections with Russian Federation and whether the president improperly interfered in an FBI investigation.

But the parameters of his recusal reemerged as an issue of controversy last month after Trump abruptly fired Comey, citing the recommendations of Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein.

"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false accusations", Sessions insisted.

Sessions (pictured below) wrote a letter to Trump recommending the abrupt dismissal of then-FBI Director James Comey, who was heading the investigation into ties between Trump's associates and the Kremlin in the 2016 campaign and transition. His insistence that there was no reason to recuse himself from the dismissal of Comey because it was due to Comey's improper handling of the Hillary Clinton's email case and not to end the Russian Federation investigation, as Trump himself said in a TV interview, was just not believable.

The attorney general has acknowledged two meetings previous year with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. He answered numerous questions with claims that he couldn't "recall" the answer or "couldn't remember". Comey said the president then leaned on him to halt the Flynn investigation.

Asked about Trump's own contention that the president fired Comey with the Russian Federation probe in mind, and regardless of any recommendation from anyone else, Sessions said: "I guess I'll just have to let his words speak for themselves". Sessions said: "It did not violate my recusal".

The former Federal Bureau of Investigation director also testified that the agency had believed Sessions was "inevitably going to recuse" for reasons he could not elaborate on. "The president can't not assert it, and you've testified that only the president can assert it and yet I just don't understand the legal basis for your refusal to answer".

But he denied meeting Kislyak a third time, at an April 27, 2016 reception for Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

Wyden asked Sessions what problematic issues existed.

In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Sessions forcefully denied that he had any involvement with or knowledge of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation in the 2016 election.

Sessions said that he was not sure what was "explicitly" in Trump's mind when he made a decision to fire Comey.

During Comey's testimony before the same Senate committee last week, he said he wasn't aware of those concerns. 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".

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Sessions' strategy throughout the hearing appeared to be to not answer any questions related to his conversations with president Trump.

Ron Wyden (D-OR) had a heated exchange with Sessions, in which Wyden said "the American people have had it with stonewalling". John McCain (R-Ariz.) as she questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his testimony Tuesday. Sessions added that, "to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation" would render him unable to manage the leadership of the FBI would be "absurd".

Sessions also mounted an impassioned defense on Trump, perhaps in the expectation that the President would be watching his appearance on Air Force One as he flew to Wisconsin.

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

"I don't recall a conversation like that", Comey said. "You are impeding this investigation", said New Mexico Sen.

  • Leroy Wright