Sessions Senate hearing fails to put Russian Federation rumours to rest

Lauren Perry
June 14, 2017

"Not one thing happened that was improper" in his two meetings as a senator with the Russian ambassador a year ago, he told the lawmakers, vowing to defend his "honor against scurrilous and false allegations". "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", Sessions told members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during a hearing on Russia.

Wyden got into a heated exchange with Sessions during the hearing over whether or not Sessions violated his recusal from the Russian Federation investigation by supporting the termination of former FBI Director James Comey.

Comey said he held back because he expected Sessions to withdraw from the Russian Federation inquiry, and the bureau was aware of "facts that I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic". But time and again, Sessions returned to lines such as "I am not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of private conversations that I may have had with the president on this subject or others". Yet he says he does not have the power to invoke executive privilege, and the president has not asserted it.

Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Sessions on why the attorney general actually recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation. He never, he insisted, knew anything about the Russian Federation probe or had any role in it.

Rosenstein said he appointed the special counsel, he thinks it was the right thing to do and "I am going to defend the integrity of that investigation". Ron Wyden. "I'm following historic policies of Department of Justice". Sessions became attorney general in February but did not recuse himself from that probe until March.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of OR asked Sessions about suggestions arising from Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal.

Some Democrats grew impatient, warning Sessions was stonewalling on vital issues. There are none, Sen.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons. "There are none - I can tell you that for absolute certainty", he continued, adding that he doesn't appreciate "secret innuendo" being leaked about him.

Sessions lent his support to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is now in charge of the Justice Department's Russian Federation investigation.

Speaking at a news conference, Ryan said he knows Mueller and his team and has confidence in his investigation. He pointed to a May memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that stated Comey repeatedly usurped the Department of Justice's authority during the Clinton investigation, among other missteps.

Following the hearing, a White House spokeswoman said Trump "has no intention" of dismissing Mueller.

"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations", he said.

Responding to questions about the firing of Mr Comey, Mr Sessions said he never informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation chief of concerns about his job performance, which the administration cited in his dismissal.

"As long as I'm in this position, he's not going to be fired without good cause", Rosenstein said.

Sessions also denied reports that he had a private meeting with the Russian ambassador during a Trump campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. Sessions told the committee he is protecting Trump's right to later on assert executive privilege "if he chooses".

The official fired back at lawmakers over claims that he colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election, calling it an "appalling and detestable lie".

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.

Democratic senators have seized on the possibility of a third meeting at that event to suggest that Sessions has not been forthcoming about the extent of his communications with the ambassador. Sens. Al Franken of Minnesota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont have sought an FBI investigation. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "I don't know how that occurred", Sessions replied. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the arguably the most vulnerable member of President Donald Trump's cabinet.

"Well, Sen. Wyden, he did not say that", Sessions said.

Other reports by VgToday

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