Sessions to face sharp questions on Russian Federation contacts

Former FBI Director James Comey, in a little-noticed moment during his Senate Intelligence Committee testimony last week, said Trump never once asked him about Russia's interference in the U.S. election as it related to national security during their nine conversations before he fired Comey in early May.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 13, 2017.

Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director James Comey cryptically told lawmakers on Thursday that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from an investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions was involved in the Trump campaign since early 2016.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that he couldn't recall ever raising concerns about Russia's interference in the 2016 election in the meetings he had with Russia's ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak previous year.

Sessions went on to say allegations that he or anybody in the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians as an "appalling and detestable lie".

Former FBI Director James Comey raised additional questions at a hearing on Thursday, saying that the FBI expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he actually did.

Sessions denied any collusion with Russian Federation to meddle in the US presidential election, saying the accusations are "scurrilous", "appalling", "detestable".

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". - Sen. Ron Wyden to Sessions. "Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the Trump campaign", Sessions said. No. I've racked my brain to make sure I could answer those questions correctly and I did not. Sessions replied that he "possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it".

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HARRIS: So did you not consult it before you came before this committee, knowing we would ask you questions about that? "I attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama".

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.

Trump could decide whether to invoke his executive privilege, and on which conversations he had, and Sessions could then be asked to testify again. But his former Democratic colleagues pressed him repeatedly on his contacts with Russian Federation and his role in the dismissal of Comey - who led the FBI's probe on Russian Federation until he was ousted. He later amended the record by revealing he met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, twice over the course of the 2016 campaign. Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) then jumped into the conversation and told Harris to let Sessions speak. "And, yet, I just don't understand the legal basis for your refusal to answer", said King.

"As did the senior intelligence officials who testified last week, Sessions wants to have it both ways", Ned Price, former senior director at the National Security Council under Barack Obama, said in an email.

SESSIONS: You might have been very critical if I as an active part of the campaign was seeking intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign. His insistence that there was no reason to recuse himself from the dismissal of Comey because it was due to Comey's improper handling of the Hillary Clinton's email case and not to end the Russian Federation investigation, as Trump himself said in a TV interview, was just not believable.

Sessions said on Tuesday he did not recuse himself because he felt he was a subject of the investigation himself but rather because he felt he was required to by Justice Department rules. The Oregon Democrat was questioning Sessions about why he could sign the letter recommending the firing of Comey if it violated his recusal. "But that in itself is not problematic".

During this week's hearing, Sessions repeatedly explained his repeated non-disclosures by citing what he called a long-standing Department of Justice policy.

"It was my best judgment that a fresh start at the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the appropriate thing to do", Sessions told the committee, yet he also revealed he did not inform Comey of his concerns related to his performance prior to Comey's termination.

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