Senate Questions Jeff Sessions About Contacts With Russian Officials

President Donald Trump smiles during a Cabinet meeting, Monday in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours or so, some allies of President Trump have floated the idea that the president might consider firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Coats will also meet with members of the Senate intelligence committee Thursday, one week after his tense grilling by the panel, according to a committee source. To his boss? To his former Senate colleagues? Sessions cited a Justice Department policy which blocks officials from testifying about private discussions with the President. Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress last week he believes he was sacked by Trump to undermine the agency's Russian Federation probe. He also had prior conversations with Comey, who testified last week that, following a February 14 meeting with Trump, he told Sessions that he never again wanted to be left alone with the president. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Sessions on why the attorney general actually recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation. "It would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege", he said. I can tell you that for absolute certainty.

Sessions insisted that he didn't want to be rushed during his questioning, because he didn't want to be later accused of lying should he not properly qualify his answers.

As a longtime senator from Alabama, Sessions will be granted some degree of deference, at least from Republicans.

Warner made clear in his opening remarks they were already planning to bring Sessions in for questioning later this year, well before Sessions offered to appear before them.

Plain and simple. He even said it himself.

Like Trump, Sessions had betrayed a deep lack of curiosity about Russia's interference in the presidential election, admitting he had never received an official briefing on it.

Sessions came under fire earlier this year after he denied meeting with Russian officials during his January confirmation hearing, but later told reporters that he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice. Comey - a man whom, it was revealed Tuesday, Sessions wanted gone before Day 1 - intimated in testimony last week that Sessions' potential conflicts went deeper than were originally known.

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.

"Well, I guess I'm concerned about your recollection, really, because it's not that long ago", Sessions said.

At one point during his hearing, Comey said that he voiced concerns about conversations with President Trump to Sessions. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are.

Wyden said Monday that Sessions hasn't engaged in anything close to a real recusal. "I basically recused myself the first day I got into the office because I never accessed files" about the probe, he said.

Trump has also signaled his disappointment with Sessions in recent weeks, but for different reasons. Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice Russia investigation in March, but then signed a letter endorsing Comey's firing in May.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, center, testifies as he is photographed on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 13, 2017, before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about his role in the firing of James Comey, his Russian contacts during the campaign and his decision to recuse from an investigation into possible ties between Moscow and associates of President Donald Trump.

  • Larry Hoffman