Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Sessions: DOJ regulations mandated my recusal from Trump-Russia probe

Sessions: DOJ regulations mandated my recusal from Trump-Russia probe

Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden accused Attorney General Jeff Sessions of stonewalling Tuesday during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.

Sessions, a former Republican US senator and an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign, is expected to be asked to explain why he told senators in January that he had no dealings with Russian officials previous year while serving as an adviser to candidate Trump.

(Sessions) "There are none". He dodged and weaved through the questioning like Muhammad Ali in his prime, and invoked such phrases as "To the best of my recollection", "I don't recall", and "I can't remember" with such frequency that it made you think he should consult a neurologist.

"I take the president at his word - that I was sacked because of the Russian Federation investigation", Comey said.

Sessions said it would be "inappropriate" for him to reveal private conversations with Trump when the president "has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer".

Sessions recused himself from the Russian Federation probe the next day.

The attorney general managed to avoid inflicting significant damage on his boss but, having got his soundbite out, failed to answer the most important questions during a teeth-grindingly frustrating afternoon. Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice Russia investigation in March, but then signed a letter endorsing Comey's firing in May.

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As multiple investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections hang like a cloud over Washington, the current USA political drama often reads like a spy novel.

He started with a declaration well suited to old-school newspaper headlines, insisting that the claim he was involved in collusion with Russian Federation was "an appalling and detestable lie". There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty.

COTTON: Have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plotline so ridiculous that a sitting United States senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of history of (inaudible)?

"If President Trump ordered you to fire Special Counsel Mueller, what would you do?" asked Sen. He said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had long discussed their concerns with Comey's job performance. The appearance before the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday gave Sessions a chance to defend himself, but offered little new insight. Ron Wyden of OR asked Sessions whether there were any undisclosed reasons for his recusal from the Russian Federation probe.

He also has vented frustration to aides on Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation, a decision that led to Rosenstein's appointment of a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, a former FBI director. Trump has suggested there might be tapes of his encounters with Comey; Comey said last week that "lordy" he hopes there are. Sessions: "Not exactly." Sen. Sessions said he had followed a "principle", which apparently is more of an oral tradition or something. "And as a leader of the DOJ, I should comply with the rules obviously", Sessions said. During questioning, Comey said he had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before the decision was announced, saying the bureau had "facts I can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued involvement in a Russian Federation investigation problematic".

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. He did not reply", Comey said last week. And attorneys general of the past did not send their second-in-command in their stead because the members of this committee have questions they may not want to answer.

The abrupt dismissal of Comey prompted Trump's critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation.

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