Sessions denies 3rd meeting with Russians

Frederick Owens
June 15, 2017

U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions refused Tuesday to answer questions about the firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, leading Democratic senators to accuse him of "obstructing" and "stonewalling" a legislative committee. It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and to list any conversations that I may have had with Russians in routine situations as I had many routine meetings with other foreign officials.

The public testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence committee should yield Sessions' most extensive comments to date on questions that have dogged his tenure as attorney general and that led him three months ago to recuse himself from the Russian Federation probe.

Sessions' testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT), keeps the political spotlight on the Russian Federation issue, sidelining President Donald Trump's domestic agenda.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons.

But not long after Jeff Sessions denied any knowledge of a meeting with Sergey Kislyak, a picture began making the rounds showing that the two were indeed together on the day of Trump's speech at the Mayflower Hotel - or so it seemed.

Sessions is the first US senator to show public support for Trump's campaign.

FRANKEN: Yes. I think the chairman can - I mean, he is the attorney general.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., compared Session's situation to science fiction, beginning his line of questioning by asking the attorney general if he liked spy movies.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions did exactly what he needed to do Tuesday - help himself in the eyes of his boss, President Trump; and, in turn, help Trump, NPR reports.

That possibility of a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions at the Mayflower had taken on potentially new meaning last Thursday when Comey said there were a number of reasons Sessions had to recuse himself in the Russian Federation investigation, but that he could only discuss the matter in a closed hearing. Sessions said Trump had not invoked executive privilege regarding the conversations. "It is something that I adhere to", Sessions said. Sessions responded saying he was "not aware" of any such activities.

Sessions testified that the first time he heard about meetings he held with Russian officials came from a news reporter who contacted his office in March.

"I recuse myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any belief that I may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation... required it", said Sessions.

His highly anticipated testimony came less than a week after former FBI Director James Comey sat in the same hot seat.

Sessions was adamant that he did not have a private meeting with Kislyak at that event. Instead, Sessions repeatedly refused to comment about the conversations citing what he claimed was the Justice department's "longstanding policy" and tradition.

Trump has been publicly dismissive of the Russian Federation investigation for months.

The White House, which was slow to say whether President Trump has confidence in Sessions, finally confirmed at the end of last week that the president does have confidence in the country's top law enforcement officer. "It's not only highly unusual, but I'm not sure it's appropriate", Mr. Cramer, a security and business consultant with Berkeley Research Group, said in an interview.

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