Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he was never briefed on Russia probe

On Tuesday, it was as she asked questions to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsDurbin on Sessions testimony: Hard to see how he could continue to serve Kamala Harris questioning cut off for second week in a row Sessions decries "innuendo" surrounding him MORE. Similarly, he did not answer whether Trump had expressed concern to Sessions about the attorney general's March decision to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation.

Democratic Sen Ron Wyden of OR asked Mr Sessions about suggestions arising from Mr Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal.

Under a line of questioning by Sen.

Sessions, Comey claimed, "did not reply". According to long-standing Justice Department guidelines, contact between the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is supposed to be routed through the attorney general or deputy attorney general to avoid the appearance of undue influence.

"We have now heard from six of the eight Democrats on this committee - and, to my knowledge, I don't think a single one of them asked that question". Angus King, I-Maine, Sessions declined to say whether he believes Russian Federation attempted interfere in last year's election.

When asked about what the basis was for his refusal to answer certain questions, Sessions said: "I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses and there may be other protections that apply".

United States 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.

Sessions' determination to mount a vigorous rebuttal after Comey's testimony before the committee last week raised questions about the administration's conduct was clear from the moment he began his opening statement.

"That's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer", Sessions said.

"The people of this country expect an honest and transparent government and that is what we are giving them", Sessions said.

In his confirmation hearing, Sessions testified that he did not have "communications" with the Russians during the presidential campaign. But Sessions said nothing today that meaningfully justified his participation in the Comey firing despite his recusal.

Sessions refused to say whether he had ever discussed the Russian Federation investigation with Trump, arguing that he could not disclose private communications with the president.

That timing would strongly suggest that the Trump administration was not taking recusal seriously before Sessions was sworn in and continued to not take it seriously even after Flynn was forced to resign on February 13.

His staffers have since acknowledged that he met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

He recused himself from the Russia investigation after the meetings with the Russian ambassador were publicized in the news media.

The abrupt dismissal of Comey prompted Trump's critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation.

Ahead of the hearing there had been suggestions that Sessions might have had a third, unreported, encounter with Kislyak in April 2016, at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where candidate Trump was giving his first major foreign policy speech.

The attorney general's testimony comes days after Comey told congressional investigators that FBI leaders expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation before the attorney general's March announcement, however, he declined to publicly say what led to that assessment.

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