Steve Merczynski: US Attorney General denies meeting with Russian ambassador
- Author: Leroy Wright Jun 15, 2017,
Jun 15, 2017, 3:43
Sessions, a former Republican US senator and an early supporter of Trump, is expected to be asked to explain why he told senators in January he had no dealings with Russian officials past year while serving as a Trump adviser.
"I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States".
Asked about media reports that he had met with Kislyak on a third occasion at a Washington hotel past year, Sessions testified that did not remember meeting or having a conversation with the ambassador at the event. If he did have a conversation with the ambassador, it was "certainly nothing improper".
His staffers have since acknowledged that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But he said essentially that he was flustered by a question from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., after many hours of testimony.
At the conclusion of a February 14 meeting, the sacked Federal Bureau of Investigation chief testified, Trump urged everyone but Comey to leave the Oval Office, including Sessions. "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign", Mr. Sessions told the panel, his voice rising with pique.
But he refused to discuss the reports "because I know nothing about the investigation". He asserted that "I am protecting the right of the president to assert it, if he chooses, and there may be other privileges that may apply".
At one point, Sen. "I don't understand how you can have it both ways", King said. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he would control the hearing and the witness should be allowed to answer questions. "We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable".
And while he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions insisted, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations". "I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice, and basically backed him up in his concerns". He says Comey should have talked to Boente, especially if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russian Federation investigation. Worse, Sessions refused to commit to tell senators more in a classified, closed-door session as Adm. Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency director, did on Monday evening. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. There are none, Sen.
"Why don't you tell me?"
"This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me and I don't appreciate it".
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Trump's decision to fire Comey, a move recommended by Sessions despite having already recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, prompted critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation.
"At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards", he said.
In one heated exchange with Sen. He was being asked about Comey's testimony. The Justice Department has denied that, saying Sessions stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies. "What are they?", Wyden asked.
But Sessions was among the officials whose recommendation was cited by Trump as justification for firing Comey last month, a move that prompted lawmakers to question whether the attorney general had stepped beyond the parameters of his recusal. Comey said that the attorney general didn't say anything but that Sessions' body language gave him the sense that he was powerless to do anything.
"If there were good cause, I would consider it", Rosenstein testified.
In addition, Comey has said Sessions did not respond when he complained that he did not want to be left alone with Trump again. 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. Harris pressed on. Sessions replied that they had talked about it and about the principle of executive privilege. He later noted that it was up to Mueller to determine whether the issue might be part of his investigation, and he thought Mueller "ought to review that".
Sessions declined to comment on those reports, stating only that he had "confidence" in Mueller and would not be involved in any effort, should it arise, to fire the special counsel.
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. I don't even read that carefully.