Attorney General Sessions' Opening Statement To Senate Panel, Annotated

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify at a public hearing of the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday afternoon, the committee said in a statement. He called the suggestion that he colluded with Russian Federation during the campaign an "appalling, detestable lie".

"(Sessions) believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee's questions tomorrow", a Justice Department spokesperson said. Comey said that, after an encounter with President Donald Trump in which he said Trump pressured him to back off an investigation into the former national security adviser, Comey "implored" Sessions to make sure he was never left alone with the president again - but that Sessions didn't respond. Sessions said he was following Justice Department policy and would not discuss confidential communications with the president.

Mr Sessions was questioned about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador and other officials during the 2016 campaign.

It it appeared as though Sessions had consulted with a legal team - at the Department of Justice or the White House Counsel's Office - and burning that much time at the hearing without revealing any private conversations with the president had to be viewed as a victory.

Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation investigation on March 2, two weeks after Comey's Oval Office one-on-one with Trump. He never, he insisted, knew anything about the Russian Federation probe or had any role in it. He vowed to defend his honor "against scurrilous and false allegations".

Cooper agreed with Wyden and began asking how the Senate could force Sessions to cooperate.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who sits on the intelligence committee, said he fears that administration officials will "blur the lines between executive privilege and classification, and over-classification".

The committee's Republican chairman, Richard Burr, asked Sessions to ask the White House if there were areas officials there would be comfortable with him answering and provide written answers if so. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. There are none, Sen. "Wyden, there are none", Sessions insisted, his voice rising.

"This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it", he added.

Sessions continued to insist that he could both recuse himself from the FBI's Russian Federation investigation and support the dismissal of Comey as the FBI director.

"He refused, Anderson, to address the most basic issues today", Wyden replied.

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

As for Comey's firing, Sessions told senators that his recommendation had nothing to do with the Russian Federation probe, that he and his second-in-command, Rosenstein, had a "clear view. that we had problems there, and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the Federal Bureau of Investigation was the appropriate thing to do".

"I am not sure he is the best performer under questioning from fellow senators".

Despite that recusal, he was involved in Trump's decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the Russian Federation probe.

On another hot-button issue, Sen.

"I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go", Comey recalled Trump saying in the meeting. Asked whether he would ever take any action to remove Mueller, Sessions said, "I would not think that would be appropriate for me to do".

Later, when Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked if Rosenstein knew of any reason to fire Mueller, the deputy attorney general was curt: "No, sir".

His refusals to comment, including about conversations with Trump on Comey's firing, repeatedly irked Democrats. Comey suggested this indicated the attorney general's awareness that it was improper for Trump and Comey to meet alone together, given the specter of the Department of Justice's investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible ties with the Trump campaign.

"My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving, which is why he was lingering", Comey said last week.

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Sadie Gurman and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed.

Related News: