Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions testified in front of the Senate today, vowing to defend his honor against “scurrilous and false allegations.” The former Junior Senator from Alabama and Trump-appointed Attorney General volunteered to answer questions in an open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, claims made by ousted FBI Director, James Comey and Sessions’ own decision to recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump presidential campaign. A recusal which did not happen until March and came only after intense political pressure in the wake of Sessions’ failure to answer honestly about the history of his own meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during confirmation hearings.
Sessions appeared to be on the defensive as his opening remarks unfolded, calling suggestions that he was in any way aware of or participated in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia a “detestable and appalling lie.” As for his failure to recall three separate meetings with Kislyak while being questioned by Senator Al Franken back in January, Sessions described Franken’s question as “rambling” and defended his original answer to Franken as truthful to the scope of the question.
Sessions Testifies Voluntarily, Refuses to Answer Key Questions
A lot of ground was covered during the 2 ½-hour hearing today, though not much shared was revelatory. High points include:
· Sessions agreed with Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director Comey and believed it was the right action even before Deputry Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made his recommendation.
· Sessions refused to reveal details of conversations with Trump regarding the investigation into Russian tampering. When asked if Trump had claimed executive privilege over their conversations, Sessions said no, but he thought it was inappropriate to reveal private conversations with the President, in case Trump wanted to invoke executive privilege over those conversations at some point in the future, stating “I am protecting the right of the president to assert it [executive privilege] if he chooses and there may be other privileges that may apply.”
· Sessions denies a third, unreported meeting with Kislya at the Mayflower Hotel in April, 2016. According to Sessions, he and Kislyak may have attended the same VIP-only Trump campaign event, and may have encountered one another, but did not hold a private meeting.
· Sessions testifies he does not know if Trump has recorded conversation with Comey or others.
· Sessions claimed to support special counsel, Robert Mueller and expressed confidence in Mueller’s ability to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian tampering.
· Sessions maintains he recused himself because he believed it was required under Department of Justice rules, not because he had done something wrong or worried he himself was a subject of investigation.
· Sessions testifies regarding the now-infamous one-on-one meeting between Trump and Comey. He affirms having a conversation with Comey about the importance of following proper communication protocol, and he had confidence the FBI Director would do so.
Throughout the hearing there were several questions for which Sessions could not recall an answer. He could not remember details about his September meeting with Kislyak nor did he recall “lingering” (Comey’s words) when Trump asked all present at a policy meeting to clear the room so he might speak with Director Comey alone. One point Sessions clearly remembers no matter the question, is that he did nothing wrong.