Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he was never briefed on Russian Federation probe

During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly denied having any knowledge of or involvement in colluding with Russian Federation to impact the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, calling such a suggestion an "appalling and detestable lie".

The president and aides noted that Comey testified that he told Trump three times he was not personally under investigation over Russian contacts.

But whether I ever attended a reception where the Russian Ambassador was also present is entirely beside the point of this investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 campaigns.

It's not clear if Sessions meant to pay penance to Trump after their relationship strained over the President's concerns that Sessions burned him by stepping aside from the Russian Federation probe - but he did a good job defending the White House anyway.

He also said he would not support firing former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel looking into ties between the Russians and Trump's presidential campaign.

"I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie", he said. "Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged or off limits".

The first real fireworks flew nearly 90 minutes into the testimony. Sen.

Sessions argued that his statement at the confirmation hearing was not lie because of the context in which it was made - a "rambling" question from Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota about collusion.

"You raised your right hand here today and said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth", Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said. There are none, Sen. "I can tell you that with absolute certainty". But he angrily denounced such claims as "secret innuendo", a likely reference to media accounts of a closed-door briefing lawmakers had last week with Comey that suggested the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been looking into whether another meeting had taken place.

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.

Accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation faded, and Democrats shifted their focus Tuesday to trying to build a case for obstruction of justice against President Trump. Sessions wasn't having any of that.

"I think your silence, like the silence of Director Coats, like the silence of Admiral Rogers, speaks volumes", said Sen. "DOJ traditionally does not discuss ongoing investigations in public, but ultimately must answer questions unless executive privilege is properly invoked and upheld".

"America's very fortunate to have Jeff Sessions as attorney general, and I expect him to acquit himself very well", unusual said, adding that Sessions is to be commended for his willingness to testify: "It says everything about his character". He didn't declare executive privilege, but he did say it was the policy of the Department of Justice not to talk about conversations with the president. Here's one exchange between Sessions and independent Senator Angus King of Maine.

Risch then said, "Mr. Sessions, has any person from the White House or the administration, including the president of the United States, either directed you or asked you to do any unlawful or illegal act since you've been Attorney General of the United States?"

In general, as with most of the Russia-related hearings conducted by Congress, it was a tale of two parties.

"No, Sen. Risch, they did not", Sessions responded. In doing so, he asked a purely hypothetical question, created to allow Sessions to paint a picture of himself as a morally rigid, independent figure.

"Maybe", Sessions said. "This is a serious matter". But Sessions just repeated his rationale.

"Do you like Jason Bourne or James Bond movies?" asked Cotton.

But Sessions said he had no recollection of that.

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

"Thank you for saying that, Sen". He also asked why Sessions recused himself from oversight of the FBI's Russian Federation probe and wanted to know what role in played in Comey's dismissal. The Oregon Democrat was questioning Sessions about why he could sign the letter recommending the firing of Comey if it violated his recusal.

The reason the deputy attorney general is in charge is his boss has recused himself.

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