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Jeff Sessions Testifies He Never Discussed Election With Russians

14 June 2017

The hearing, at times, grew tense, as Democrats hammered Sessions over his refusal to talk about his interactions and communications with Trump.

"There is no legally binding basis for refusing to answer questions unrelated to an ongoing investigation unless the President is invoking executive privilege", William Yeomans, a 26-year veteran of the Justice Department and fellow at American University Law School, told CNN."That privilege is not absolute - it can be overcome by a sufficient interest".

Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina laid out questions that he wanted addressed, including Sessions' meetings with Russian officials or proxies while working for the Trump campaign or as Attorney General.

Whether Trump campaign officials spoke with Russian officials or businessmen during the campaign.

The attorney general on March 2 recused himself from the FBI investigation into Russia's role in the election, saying he felt he was required to do so because he had been a prominent figure in Trump's campaign.

Sessions was sworn in February 9 but did not actually step away from the investigation until March 2, the day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed Kislyak meetings. Dianne Feinstein after she asked him if he and Trump had talked about Trump's decision to fire former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey.

"My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering", Comey said last week. Sessions told the committee he is protecting Trump's right to later on assert executive privilege "if he chooses".

Warner followed up: "But there was nothing in your notes or memory so that when had a chance to correct the record about the other two sessions in response to Senator [Al] Franken and Senator [Patrick] Leahy, this one didn't pop into your memory, that in an overabundance of caution, that you ought to report this session as well?"

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Senators will surely ask Sessions about these threads and others, but it is not clear how forthcoming he will be.

Sessions declined to answer a series of questions from Democrats on Tuesday that touched on conversations he had with Trump, or even about the existence of such conversations. "I did", Sessions said. He does not acknowledge the unanimous conclusions of the USA intelligence community that Russian Federation massively intervened in our election.

Sessions opened his testimony to the panel with a fiery assertion that he never had any conversations with Russians about "any type of interference" in the 2016 presidential election.

He said there are "facts I can not discuss in an open setting" that made him believe Sessions had to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe and that Sessions and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner knew he shouldn't have been left alone with the president.

Sessions and Kislyak bothattended an April 2016 Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.

Following the heated exchange with Wyden, Sessions repeatedly said he was not aware of any undisclosed meetings between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.

Asked about the in the meeting later in the hearing, Sessions said, "I could say that I possibly had a meeting but I still do not recall it".

According to Comey, Trump said of Flynn: "He is a good guy".

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"Sen. Heinrich, I'm not able to share with this committee private communications", Sessions said.

As Harris interrupted Sessions to ask another question, the attorney general snapped back, "Will you let me qualify it?"

Attorney General Jeff Session, right, and Vice President Mike Pence attend a Cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump, Monday, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington.

Sessions responded, "I can say that absolutely and I have no hesitation to do so". "But that in itself is not problematic".

"I can tell you that for absolute certainty".

"I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice".

Sessions cited the unnamed policy to deflect questions about how President Trump dealt with the Russian Federation inquiry and the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Wyden, one of the Senate intelligence committee's most liberal members, lit into Sessions more than one hour into the hearing - prying into why Comey believed Sessions had been compromised.

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