In dramatic Senate testimony, Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied suggestions he colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign as an “appalling and detestable lie” — while defending his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
“I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”
Democrats used the forum to bombard Sessions with challenging questions. Even accusing him of “stonewalling” and impeding the congressional probe.
The normally reserved Sessions showed his fiery side in response, pushing back on what he called the “secret innuendo” being leaked about his contact with Russians and challenging portions of Comey’s testimony.
In a passionate opening statement, Sessions specifically contradicted Comey’s claims that he remained silent when the former FBI Director expressed his concerns over a meeting with President Trump.
“I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow Department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House,” Sessions said, adding he was confident that Comey understood the rules on communicating with the White House about ongoing investigations.
After failing to disclose his meetings with a Russian Ambassador, Sessions had recused himself from all matters relating to the Russia investigation.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden asked Sessions about conflicting accounts rising from Comey’s testimony and claims that there was something “problematic” about Sessions’ role before his recusal.
Asked what issues might be problematic, Sessions raised his voice: “Why don’t you tell me? There are none, Senator Wyden, there are none … This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”
Sessions staunchly denied a third meeting with the Russian liaison at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington during a campaign event in April.
“I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” he said. “I did not attend any meetings at that event. Prior to the speech, I attended a reception with my staff that included at least two dozen people and President Trump. Though I do recall several conversations I had during that pre-speech reception, I do not have any recollection of meeting or talking to the Russian ambassador or any other Russian officials.”
Sessions’ testimony came on the heels of Comey’s explosive testimony last week on Russia’s medding in U.S. elections and allegations that Trump tried to kill the investigation.
During Comey’s hearing, he mentioned that Sessions may also have had ties with Russia during the campaign.
“We were also aware of facts that I cannot discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia investigation problematic,” Comey said.
The Justice Department, as well as Sessions himself, have contested these accusations. Sessions also faced questions from Democrats about why he was involved in recommending Comey’s firing even after he recused himself from the Russia investigation. He responded by saying that he has a duty to oversee the FBI and the DOJ.
“I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for President. I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations,” he said.
Unlike Comey, who stated he tried to avoid being alone with Trump and began documenting their interactions, Sessions is a strong supporter of the President.
Sessions was very active in the Trump campaign, and was also one of the first Congressmen to endorse Trump.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio asked Sessions whether Trump had recorded conversations he had in the White House with Comey.
Comey said last week that he hopes there are tapes and encouraged the White House to release them.
“I do not [know],” Sessions said when asked whether he knows whether the President records his conversations.
Sessions also mentioned that he has full confidence in special council Robert Mueller. With rumors spreading that Trump is considering removing Mueller, Sessions said that with his recusal, he will not have any say in the decision.