At hearing, attorney general denies improper Russia contacts

Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of stonewalling Tuesday during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said.

In March, Mr. Sessions recused himself from overseeing a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into ties between the Kremlin and Mr. Trump's presidential election campaign, after The Washington Post revealed two of Mr. Sessions's meetings with Mr. Kislyak - one at the Republican National Convention last summer, and another two months later at his Washington office.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: What is the question?

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.

But as the Senate continues to investigate Trump and Russian Federation, it's not clear how long they'll be able to continue avoiding those questions without legal basis.

Sessions charged that "these false attacks, the innuendos and the leaks, you can be sure, will not intimidate me" and said that in the end, the attacks on him have "only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty". Comey's decision to announce previous year that Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails was a "usurpation" of the Justice Department's authority, Sessions said.

Sessions was talked into a corner a few times when it came to the actual legal basis for the argument, by Sen.

Sessions originally said that he disaffiliated himself simply because he was an adviser to Trump during the campaign, but doubt was cast on that explanation when Comey testified last week and said he thought Sessions would recuse himself earlier than he did for "problematic" reasons that needed to be discussed in a closed session.

Executive privilege is a power that can be claimed by a president or senior executive branch officials to withhold information from Congress or the courts to protect the executive branch decision-making process.

The then-acting deputy attorney general was Comey's direct supervisor, and if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russian Federation investigation, Sessions said he should've brought those concerns to her attention.

The committee's chairman, Republican Richard Burr, told Sessions the hearing was "your opportunity to separate fact from fiction" and "set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press".

Mueller was recently appointed to lead the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to influence the 2016 presidential election. Sessions requested an open hearing, though he made clear in his opening remarks and several times during his testimony that there were some things he would not discuss, including confidential conversations with the president.

Sessions on Saturday said he would appear before the intelligence committee, which has been doing its own investigation into Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

Sessions said he had no recollection of speaking with Kislyak at the meeting, but said nothing inappropriate would have been discussed if they had met.

Sessions is the most senior member of Trump's administration caught up in the Russian Federation controversy.

Sessions is the first US senator to show public support for Trump's campaign. I never met with them.

CORNISH: Sessions testified before the same Senate committee that heard from James Comey just last week.

However Democrat Congressman Jim Langevin said Sessions fell short of the standard of evidence required at such a hearing.

"I believe it was the next day that he said something, expressed concern about being left alone with the President".

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing is the latest step in multiple ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election and Trump's firing of another FBI chief, James Comey, who was heading the investigation into Russian meddling when Trump dismissed him a month ago.

His staffers have since acknowledged that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Franken is now calling for Sessions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Franken sits on.

The announcement caps the drama that started over the weekend when Sessions canceled two appearances Tuesday, citing former Comey's blistering testimony last week.

The abrupt dismissal of Comey prompted Trump's critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation.

Sessions took particular aim at news reports about a possible meeting he had with a Russian official during an April 2016 event at the Mayflower hotel, where Trump gave a pro-Russian speech.

  • Salvatore Jensen