2nd LD: US Attorney General calls Russian Federation collusion accusation "detestable lie"

Candice Alexander
June 14, 2017

"Gen. Sessions did a very good job and, in particular, was very strong on the point that there was no collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign", she said. There are none, Senator Wyden.

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.

When Wyden accused him of not answering the questions about Comey's reported remark that his behavior after recusing himself from the Russian Federation probe was "problematic", Sessions chuckled and then launched into his most theatrical defense of his actions.

He also declined to say if Trump opposed Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe in March, and whether Justice Department officials discussed possible presidential pardons of individuals being looked at in the probe.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Sessions addressed media reports that he may have had a third previously undisclosed meeting with Kislyak at Washington's Mayflower Hotel past year.

Following the bombshell report, Democrats swiftly demanded Sessions' resignation, while a growing group of Republicans called on the attorney general to recuse himself from campaign-related investigations. But he angrily denounced such claims as "secret innuendo", a likely reference to media accounts of a closed-door briefing lawmakers had last week with Comey that suggested the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been looking into whether another meeting had taken place.

In particular, Sessions tamped down Comey's recounting of the February 14 meeting Comey had with Trump - where Trump reportedly asked him stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"I basically backed him up in his concerns - and that was that he should not carry on any conversation with the president or anyone else about an investigation in a way that was not proper".

Wyden was unsatisfied, shooting back, "General Sessions, respectfully, you're not answering the question".

He denied that he violated his recusal by advising the president to fire the then-FBI director, James Comey. "No, I don't believe I ever did", Sessions replied. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. John Abney Culberson, R-Texas, Sessions said that he had been scheduled to discuss the Justice Department budget before House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees but that it had become clear some members would focus their questions on the Russian Federation investigation.

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These senators howled in protest. "You are impeding this investigation...." Martin Heinrich (D-NM) exclaimed. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden told Sessions, "I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling ".

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He did not say he was using executive privilege, but rather adhering to longstanding tradition of Justice Department leaders not revealing private conversations with the president.

"Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign", Sessions said.

Harris: Sir, I'm just asking you about the DOJ policy you referred to.

In the gaggle on Air Force One on Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said the President wasn't able to watch "much of it", but from "what he did see and what he heard, he thought that attorney general Sessions did a very good job and in particular was very strong on the point that there was no collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign".

Later however, Sessions appeared to raise the prospect that the meeting may have occurred and he had simply forgotten it.

He said he was avoiding saying anything in case the president might later choose to exercise his executive privilege to withhold certain evidence.

The Justice Department has said that while Sessions was there, for a speech by candidate Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters. Mr. Comey, perhaps he didn't know, but I basically recused myself the first day I got into the office.

The White House said Trump thinks Sessions "did a very good job" in his testimony.

Sessions repeatedly refused to discuss private conversations with Trump on a wide variety of topics.

Other reports by VgToday

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