U.S. attorney general angers Democrats with refusal to testify on Trump conversations

Posted June 15, 2017

In his testimony last week, Comey said he and Trump had a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on February 14 about the investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. To his boss? To his former Senate colleagues?

Sessions said he agreed with firing Comey, and said he thought that before deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein recommended he be fired.

Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director James Comey cryptically told lawmakers on Thursday that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from an investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

" We were asked our opinion and when we expressed it -which was consistent with the letter [firing Comey] and I felt comfortable providing that information in writing", Sessions said.

Reports have said Comey told the committee in a closed hearing last week that the undisclosed issue was a possible third meeting with Kislyak.

Senate Democrats have raised the possibility that Sessions and Kislyak could have met there, though Justice Department officials say there were no private encounters or side meetings.

And some senators on the other side of the aisle pushed back on that answer - or lack thereof.

Ron Wyden (D-OR) had a heated exchange with Sessions, in which Wyden said "the American people have had it with stonewalling".

As a longtime senator from Alabama, Sessions will be granted some degree of deference, at least from Republicans.

Earlier Tuesday, Rosenstein appeared before lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Some say he perjured himself.

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USA 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. Perhaps most important, Sessions claimed that he knew so little about Comey and the Russian Federation investigation because he had effectively recused himself in his own mind long before he made his recusal official when it was reported that he had undisclosed meetings with Kislyak.

Trump has disputed Comey's recollection and said last week he is "100 percent" willing to give his own version under oath. "It's something that we both agreed to that a fresh start at the Federal Bureau of Investigation was probably the best thing", Sessions said of his conversations with Rosenstein regarding replacing the Federal Bureau of Investigation director before Comey was sacked. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.

When Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Sessions, "Did you discuss director Comey's handling of the investigations with the president or anyone else?" the Attorney General declined to answer. And he advised the president as much, mainly for the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. But in a subsequent interview with NBC, Trump said that he when he made a decision to fire Comey he told himself, "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story".

"Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them". "When you're recusing yourself, you are stepping aside, and this sure doesn't look like that", he said. The committee can also work with the Trump administration to come up with a solution.

He again cited a Justice Department rule.

Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swivelled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, the former FBI director named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russian Federation issue.

In recent days, Trump supporters such as Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have questioned if Mueller can conduct a fair inquiry.

"I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel".

During Tuesday's Intelligence Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Kamala Harris, who was interrupted while questioning the attorney general.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, said Sessions' "silence speaks volumes".