On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify on several matters, including the controversial and unproven Trump-Russia connection.
Although Democrats aggressively pressed him regarding his conversations with the president related to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Sessions repeatedly said he did not collude with Russia and would not discuss the communications he had with the president, calling them confidential.
When asked to discuss his conversations with Trump, he said “consistent with longstanding Department of Justice practice, I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications with the president.”
Sessions was then hostilely accused of stonewalling.
“I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling. Americans don’t want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged or off limits,’’ said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) “We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable.’’
“I’m not able to comment on conversations with high officials in the White House,” said Sessions. “I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.’’
Although Sessions would not divulge his conversations with the president, he took the hearing as an opportunity to defend himself on the issue.
“I recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations,” said Sessions to the Senate Intelligence Committee. “At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process and since becoming attorney general, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards.”
Session specifically denied having any meetings with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador about how to manipulate the 2016 election.
“I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,” said Sessions. “Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign. I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel. I did not attend any meetings at that event separate prior to the speech I attended by the president.”
He called claims that he was involved with Russia in a collusion an “appalling and detestable lie.”
“The suggestion that I participated with any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” said Sessions.
He also defended why he decided to recuse himself from the investigation.
“So many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong,” said Sessions.”But this is the reason I recused myself: I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice and as a leader of the Department of Justice, I should comply with the rules, obviously.”
Another favorite topic, the investigation into the former national security adviser Michael Flynn was brought up. In Comey’s recent hearing, the former FBI director said that he “implored” Sessions to join meetings with the president after Trump allegedly told him to back off on the investigation into Flynn.
Sessions said that Comey did not mention Trump’s alleged request to him.
“Following a routine morning threat briefing, Mr. Comey spoke to me and my chief of staff. While he did not provide me with any of the content of the substance of the conversation, Mr. Comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol,’’ said Sessions. “I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policy.”
Sessions also defended Trump’s decision to fire Comey in May.
He said that “a fresh start at the FBI was probably the best thing” after the former director announced the findings of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. He also said Comey overcompensated in his explanations about the investigation.
“When Mr. Comey declined the Clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation and a stunning development. The FBI is an investigative team. They don’t discuss prosecution policies,” said Sessions. “If you decline, you decline and don’t talk about it.”
He said that Comey “indicated to me a lack of discipline and caused controversy on both sides of the aisle, and I had come to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate and did not mind putting that in writing.”
Sessions got more heat from democrats at another meeting that he wasn’t even present for.
Session testified in front of the Intelligence Committee instead of appearing at Appropriations Committee to make a case for the Justice Department’s budget. Session sent Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein in his place.
“I won’t mince words,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont to Rosenstein. “You’re not the witness we were supposed to hear from today. You’re not the witness who should be behind that table. That responsibility lies with the attorney general of the United States.”
Author’s note: Sessions testified on live television and like Comey’s hearing, there was no revelations or another scandalous. His refusal to talk about his conversations with Trump were more than just honorable, he doesn’t want to get in trouble like Comey. Comey leaked Trump’s memos, which are potentially privileged communication.