US attorney-general dodges Trump questions, angering Democrats

On Tuesday, Donald Trump's attorney general faced grilling from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee about his alleged meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., back in April 2016.

"It's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer", Sessions said.

"From that point, February 10th, until I announced my formal recusal on March 2nd, I was never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation".

Sessions' answer echoed, but did not illuminate, the account of former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.

1 - Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen.

Barely a month after Trump dismissed Comey, rumors have been circulating that he may yet seek to sack Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed following the FBI chief's ouster to head the agency's Russian Federation investigation.

A few days later, Mr Trump individually asked Mr Coats and Mr Rogers to issue public statements to the effect that there was no evidence of co-ordination between his campaign and Russian Federation.

Sessions responded: "I am not stonewalling".

But the underlying facts and information remained out of public view during the three-hour Capitol Hill hearing.

Sessions' clash with the Democratic senators was the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged Trump in his first five months as president and distracted from his domestic policy agenda including major healthcare and tax cut initiatives. I'm not able to be rushed this fast. "Now you're not answering questions".

"There's still no evidence of obstruction, and current and former leaders in the intelligence community have repeatedly said there's been no effort to impede the investigation in any way".

American intelligence agencies believe that Russian hackers were directed by the Kremlin to try to sway the presidential election in Trump's favour.

"Beyond that, what I said earlier, I don't have anything more to add", Sanders said, when a reporter asked if Trump has confidence in Mueller.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of OR aggressively asked Sessions about suggestions arising from Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal. "And when asked I said that to the president".

Rosenstein said he is the only Justice Department official who could dismiss Mueller because Sessions has recused himself from oversight.

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions replied, saying he was simply following Justice Department policy not to discuss confidential communications with the president.

What's not clear is if Trump will be forced to invoke executive privilege to stop Sessions from testifying again, or from handing over the documents senators requested Tuesday.

Sessions criticized Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which the White House had initially cited as the ostensible reason for his firing.

"Will you let me qualify it?"

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to interfere in the election to help Trump in part by hacking and releasing damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Yet in his testimony, the Attorney General all but admitted that he had never made any effort to get to the bottom of the allegations.

In a series of tweets during the hearing, U.S. Sen. It began over the weekend when Trump's lawyer wouldn't rule it out; then his associate Newt Gingrich appeared to call for it, as did some conservative commentators; Trump's friend Chris Ruddy said he was actually considering it.

And he avoided answering the key question raised by Comey's testimony: What did Sessions learn about the Russian Federation investigation between February 10 and March 2 that made "his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic?"

But analysts disagreed on whether the attorney general was appropriately using executive privilege to advance a worthy goal, or merely suggesting it as a shield to fend off questions he did not want to take.

  • Leroy Wright