Sessions defiant in Senate panel testimony

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a star player in two key controversies about the Trump administration: the investigation into Donald Trump campaign's connections with Russian Federation and whether the president improperly interfered in an FBI investigation.

Sessions on Tuesday denied any involvement in possible collusion between Russian Federation and members of Trump's campaign, testimony Sessions called "unsettling".

The attorney general stepped aside from the Justice Department probe into Russian meddling in the campaign on March 2, the day after The Washington Post reported on two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had long discussed their concerns with Comey's job performance.

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.

- The details of a February 14 Oval Office meeting, where Sessions and other top aides left the room and Trump talked to Comey alone.

"This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it", he said, criticizing the reports about the committee's closed session with Comey.

Comey testified last week that as of February 14, he still believed Sessions had not recused himself - but that he nearly certainly would.

Another memorable moment during Wyden's questioning came right before the "smell test" comment when Wyden talked about Comey's testimony that Sessions was recusing himself from the Russian Federation investigation for a variety of reasons.

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

He vowed to defend his honor "against scurrilous and false allegations".

Worse, Sessions refused to commit to tell senators more in a classified, closed-door session as Adm. Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency director, did on Monday evening. The FBI is part of the Justice Department that Sessions heads.

Sessions hedged nearly all of his answers about whether/when he met with Russians, or why he was involved in firing Comey, or how he feels about the president's decisions, with: "I don't recall" or "I believe so" or "maybe". For one thing, the attorney general testified in a separate congressional hearing: "I have confidence in Mr. Mueller".

But in the rat-a-tat-tat of follow-up questions, Sessions slowly pried that door open again, by increasingly hedging his answers.

Sessions was talked into a corner a few times when it came to the actual legal basis for the argument, by Sen.

Following the hearing, a White House spokeswoman said Trump "has no intention" of dismissing Mueller.

The Justice Department has responded, citing the need to follow "appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House".

Sessions declined to comment on those reports, stating only that he had "confidence" in Mueller and would not be involved in any effort, should it arise, to fire the special counsel.

"Because you're invoking executive privilege", Heinrich interjected.

Andrew Wright, a professor at Savannah Law School and associate counsel under former President Barack Obama, said it was not unusual for government employees to refuse to discuss conversations with the president in order to preserve the right to invoke executive privilege later.

Comey testified that after what he called a "disturbing" private talk with Trump, he went to Sessions. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are.

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