Attorney General to talk publicly at US Senate panel

Elias Hubbard
June 14, 2017

Then last week, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Kamala Harris of California tried to pin him down with a yes or no answer on whether or not he would write a letter granting total independence to Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Testifying at a packed Senate hearing, Sessions, who was a close Trump adviser during the battle for the presidency, also rejected any idea of misconduct in the ouster of FBI Director James Comey and vowed to defend his honor "against scurrilous and false allegations".

In his prepared opening statement to the committee, Sessions said, "I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations". Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.

The public testimony should yield Sessions' most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.

While he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions said, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honour against scurrilous and false allegations".

In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Sessions contradicted a contention made by Comey at a hearing before the same panel last week.

Sessions, the former US senator from Alabama, called suggestions that he colluded with adversaries "an appalling and detestable lie".

Comey referred frequently to the attorney general and included the tantalizing tidbit that there were "facts that I can't discuss in an open setting".

While no new bombshell details emerged from the Sessions testimony Tuesday, there were a number of threads and themes that are sure to crop up again as hearings continue on Russian election meddling.

Democratic senators expressed frustration with Sessions on several occasions. "You either answer the question under oath, or you invoke executive privilege".

"I can assure you nothing improper, if I had a conversation with [Kislyak]", Sessions said.

"Our committee will want to hear what you are doing to ensure that the Russians - or any other foreign adversaries - can not attack our democratic process like this ever again".

King mentioned a memo from October in which the U.S. Intelligence Community wrote that they were confident that the Russian government were responsible for government email hacks and that those "thefts and disclosures are meant to interfere with the USA election process".

And while he had recused himself from the Russian Federation probe, Sessions insisted, "I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations".

He also said he doesn't recall any conversations with the ambassador during a reception held ahead of Trump's speech.

"If there were good cause I would consider it", said Mr Rosenstein.

Mr Sessions told committee members he could not speak about his discussions with the President concerning Mr Comey, as they were covered under executive privilege. He is a good guy.

"Can you please tell me what you mean when you say 'appropriate?'" Harris shot back.

Media reports last week said Mr Sessions offered to resign because of tensions with Mr Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's Russian Federation probe. The FBI is part of the Justice Department that Sessions heads. Sessions, however, would not confirm Comey's account when Rubio asked him to, only saying he remembered being one of the last people to leave. Sheldon Whitehouse, the top Democrat on a subcommittee of the Judiciary panel, said: "As someone who served in the Department of Justice, I would love to know what he is talking about".

From his first day in office, Sessions said, he was concerned that he might have to recuse himself because he had been a "principal advisor" to President Trump's campaign.

Rosenstein said that if the president ordered him to fire the special counsel handling the Russian Federation investigation, he would only comply if the request was "lawful and appropriate".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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