5 things we learned at Jeff Sessions' hearing

Elias Hubbard
June 14, 2017

U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions has said that any suggestion of collusion between him and Russian Federation is "an appalling and detestable lie", as he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we heard at the end of the meeting - of the hearing, rather, the chairman, Richard Burr, Senator Burr, asked the attorney general to go back to the White House to see if there's more of his communications with the president and with anyone in the White House that they can share.

Democratic senators expressed frustration with Sessions on several occasions.

His testimony came just six days after James Comey, the fired Federal Bureau of Investigation director, appeared before the same committee.

Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice Russia investigation in March, but then signed a letter endorsing Comey's firing in May. "I can tell you that for absolute certainty".

So the hearing, which will require him to answer questions under oath, could get interesting.

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions replied.

The Justice Department subsequently released decades-old memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that it said supported Sessions' position.

Republicans said it appears Democrats don't care about this anymore, ever since Comey said the president himself was not under investigation for election collusion.

Sessions responded to Cotton with his own literary allusion.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the attorney general points to the nationwide opioid epidemic and argues that the laws aid "transnational drug organizations and unsafe traffickers who threaten American lives".

"While the President has the right to, he has no intention to do so".

Sessions denied any collusion with Russian to meddle in the US presidential election, saying the accusations are "scurrilous", "appalling", "detestable".

The testimony by Sessions marked the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged the Republican Trump's first five months as president and distracted from his domestic policy agenda including major healthcare and tax cut initiatives.

"The suggestion that I participated with any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country... is an appalling and detestable lie".

During his questions, Cotton noted there's still no public evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign actively colluded with Russian Federation during the 2016 election.

Lawmakers also asked Rosenstein whether it was appropriate for Sessions to be involved in the firing of Comey given Sessions's recusal from the Clinton email investigation, which he offered because of his role on the Trump campaign.

Rumors have recently circulated that the president may seek to sack Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to head the high-stakes Russian Federation investigation following Comey's ouster.

Such a move would be complicated and potentially politically explosive.

Meanwhile, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said he would only fire special counsel Robert Mueller if the request was "lawful and appropriate".

Sessions, a close Trump adviser during the battle for the presidency, said in his opening statement that it was a "detestable and appalling lie" to suggest he was aware of or participated in any collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign.

So, in the midst of all this, Sessions insists he could still properly recommend Comey's firing. He met with Kislyak twice while he was a US senator.

The former Republican U.S. senator from Alabama, one of Trump's most avid supporters on the campaign trail, will likely have to explain why he told lawmakers in January he had no dealings with Kremlin officials past year.

Sessions, a close campaign adviser to Trump and the first senator to endorse him, stepped aside from the investigation in early March after acknowledging he had spoken twice in the months before the election with the Russian ambassador.

Days after that, Mr Sessions also corrected his confirmation hearing testimony to inform the committee about the two meetings with Mr Kislyak.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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