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Russia collusion claim 'detestable lie': US Attorney General

15 Juin 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions captivated Washington Tuesday, beating back rumors of a private meeting with Russia's ambassador to the United States and mounting a defense for President Donald Trump, one week after former FBI Director James Comey artfully unloaded on both men.

The Senate Intelligence Committee questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday afternoon in regards to any possible ties to Russian Federation.

"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.

Burr said he wanted to know from Sessions what meetings he had with Russian officials or their proxies on behalf of the Trump campaign, why he recused himself from the Russia investigation and what role, if any, he played in the firing of Comey.

In his opening statement, Sessions also said he is bound to protect private communications with the president, suggesting he will not answer some questions about the firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James B. Comey.

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions replied, saying he was simply following Justice Department policy not to discuss confidential communications with the president. "So, I need to be correct as best I can", Sessions said.

He again cited a Justice Department rule. But the revelations prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March. It would have been unthinkable for Comey to say the questioning made him nervous, or to become agitated and tetchy as Sessions did under cross-examination by the Democratic senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon.

Wyden asked Sessions what problematic issues exist.

"You said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth", Heinrich told Sessions. "There are none, Senator Wyden, there are none", Sessions insisted, his voice rising. "People are suggesting through innuendo that I have been not honest. and I've tried to be honest".

After two days and nearly six hours of high-stakes public testimony, I'm struck by the total lack of any compelling claims supporting the "big" collusion narrative, that Russian Federation conspired with Trump or Trump officials to "hack" election. Today, Sessions says his January testimony came in the context of a specific breaking news story that Franken had asked about.

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But Republicans often came to Sessions' defense, reiterating that Comey's firing had to do with his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe, not Russian Federation, and calling attention to illegal information leaks within the government.

Mueller also won votes of support Tuesday from the top two Republicans in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, both of whom said they have confidence in him.

Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swiveled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russian Federation issue. I asked him specifically that if these reports were true, what would he do as attorney general?

The attorney general's refusals to divulge certain information ran up against the reason he gave for agreeing to appear before the committee in the first place: refuting key parts of the detailed testimony former FBI Director James Comey provided last week. "I'm not sure what was in his mind specifically".

In his hearing on Tuesday, Sessions denied having violated the recusal, but repeatedly declined to answer questions about his conversations with Trump, particularly regarding Comey's handling of the Russian Federation investigation. Sessions told the committee he is protecting Trump's right to later on assert executive privilege "if he chooses".

The Justice Department has said that while Sessions was there, for a speech by candidate Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters.

Sessions was adamant he never had a third meeting with the Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., asked Sessions if Trump records his conversations in the White House.

Comey testified that after what he called a "disturbing" private talk with Trump, he went to Sessions.

"That'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.

Russia collusion claim 'detestable lie': US Attorney General