Comey testified that he decided not to report the president’s request to Sessions at the time, because the attorney general was weighing his recusal from all matters related to the Russia investigation – largely for his failure to acknowledge two previous meetings with the Russian ambassador during his January confirmation hearing – and for other “facts” the former director said he could not disclose in a public session.
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.
“Let me state this clearly, colleagues: I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States”.
The attorney general stepped aside from the Justice Department probe into Russian meddling in the campaign on March 2, the day after The Washington Post reported on two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Sessions told Wyden he “basically recused” himself from the Russian Federation investigation during his first day as attorney general because he “never accessed files, never learned the names of investigators, never met with them, never asked for any documentation”.
He said: “I recused myself not because of asserting wrongdoing or any belief that I may have been involved in wrongdoing in the campaign”.
Sessions, in opening remarks before the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election to help President Donald Trump win, said he made a decision to remove himself from oversight of the criminal investigation of the Russian interference because of rules at the Justice Department prohibiting his involvement because he was a key campaign adviser to Trump.
“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations”.
Sessions may also have to answer for what role, if any, he played in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Comey said he later told Sessions about the dialogue, and asked that he “prevent any future direct communication” between Trump and himself.
“I can not and will not violate my duty to protect the confidential communications I have with the president”, he said. “I knew that Director Comey, long-time experienced in the Department of Justice, could handle himself well”, Sessions told Sen. Wyden went on to state that he wanted to know what was problematic in Comey’s view, leading Sessions to angrily claim that he didn’t know and felt he was being slandered.
“This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it”, he added. He says Comey should have talked to Boente, especially if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russian Federation investigation.
“Sen. (Al) Franken asked me a rambling question after some six hours of testimony”, Sessiona said.
During his appearance, Sessions refused to answer certain questions about private discussions he had with Trump, saying it’s traditional Justice Department policy to shield such talks with a president. And he objected when Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, suggested he was stonewalling.
“I don’t have any information that he had done so”, Sessions replied. Trump told NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt that Comey’s ouster was related to the Russian Federation probe. He described Mueller as operating independently from the Justice Department in his investigation.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein pressed Sessions on whether he’d ever discussed Comey’s handling of the Russian probe with the president. While Comey’s opening statement was seen as some as a bombshell, Sessions’ testimony still held the promise of a revelation.
Sessions had one major goal – to protect himself after Comey thrust him into the center of the Russian Federation maelstrom.
“As long as I’m in this position, he’s not going to be fired without good cause”, Rosenstein said.