Key takeaways from Sessions' testimony

Frederick Owens
June 14, 2017

"You are obstructing that congressional investigation by not answering that question", charged Senator Martin Heinrich.

Why did Sessions recuse from the Russian Federation investigation?

Sessions' hearing marked the first time the attorney general had testified before Congress since he recused himself from the Justice Department's probe into Russian meddling in last year's election, and since the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

SESSIONS: I - that - why don't you tell me?

"I am not stonewalling", Sessions told Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Sessions bristled at Wyden, telling the OR senator that people are suggesting through innuendo that he has not been honest.

Questions have swirled around Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his interactions with Russian officials while he was a Trump campaign surrogate and about what role he played in President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Dianne Feinstein after she asked him if he and Trump had talked about Trump's decision to fire former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. According to Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein drafted it, and that Sessions concurred with its substance.

Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee he could not discuss his conversations with Trump because they were private.

Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, was brought on to the Trump campaign as the chairman of its foreign policy team in 2016.

LIASSON: Well, he stuck to his - the reasons he gave for Comey's firing in that memo where they blamed Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. "They don't decide prosecution".

Sessions' testimony came days after fired FBI Director James Comey testified that he believed he was sacked as part of an effort to influence the agencies investigation into Russian meddling.

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In a show of either impressive discipline or impressive self-delusion, Sessions refused to acknowledge even once that Trump had no interest in his and Rosenstein's critique of Comey except insofar as it served as a convenient cover for his actual motives.

Two months after his recusal, Mr. Sessions signed off on Mr. Comey's firing.

Ron Wyden, D-Ore., pressed Sessions on why the attorney general actually recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation.

"I'm not able to be rushed this fast, it makes me nervous", Sessions said. He says he stepped aside because Justice Department rules prevent such a conflict of interest. Days after that, Sessions also corrected his confirmation hearing testimony to inform the committee about the two meetings with Kislyak. Harris was pressuring Sessions and Sessions was tap dancing artfully when John McCain suddenly interrupted to complain that Harris wasn't allowing Sessions to respond.

He insisted he never knew anything about the Russian Federation probe or had any role in it. Today, Sessions said that he thought it was inappropriate that Comey decided not to prosecute her.

In the gaggle on Air Force One on Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said the President wasn't able to watch "much of it", but from "what he did see and what he heard, he thought that attorney general Sessions did a very good job and in particular was very strong on the point that there was no collusion between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign".

Democrat Senator Ron Wyden from OR appeared on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Tuesday night to discuss Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Addressing allegations that he had unreported meetings with Russian officials while he advised the Trump campaign, Sessions said he had already acknowledged two encounters a year ago with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Sessions adds that he has no knowledge of "any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign". Several Senators and the Attorney General shared the common perspective that Russian Federation interfered with the 2016 election and has stepped up its espionage efforts within the United States.

His impassioned response came after Senate Democrats raised questions about whether Sessions privately met with Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. It had always been reported that Kislyak was in attendance for Trump's foreign policy speech, as were a handful of other foreign dignitaries.

Many of those who posted the picture noted that Sessions was speaking to Kislyak, making it seem as if Sessions was purposely lying about not speaking to Kislyak or not remembering the meeting, but in the photo, the Russian ambassador was actually seated several rows away from Sessions.

He has acknowledged two meetings past year with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak.

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