Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions fought back on Tuesday against what he called “appalling, detestable” lies during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions defended himself against allegations relating to the Russia investigation. Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner chaired the hearing.
Sessions had requested that this open hearing take place before his official testimony, and he began by saying that any interference in American elections by the Russians must not be tolerated. He went on, however, to make it perfectly clear that he has seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Specifically, he defended himself against claims that he had met in private with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Attorney General also said that he had no recollection of ever having a conversation with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador during an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel. Firing back, Sessions said that the fact he was at the same event as Kislyak was completely “besides the point” of the investigation currently taking place.
Sessions was visibly shocked that former colleagues could have accused him of attempting to undermine democracy, saying that he has never met or held any conversations with Russians relating to the presidential campaign. Sessions also said that the mere suggestion that he would engage in any such activity against a country he has served for 35 years, was both an “appalling” and “detestable” lie.
A Media Witch Hunt
The media has focused heavily on the claim that Sessions had met in secret with Russian officials during the campaign, and a Newsweek article this week went as far as asking whether Sessions lied to congress. The piece, by Greg Price, talked of Senator Al Franken’s “doubling down” on his accusation of perjury to Sessions.
Franken claimed that the Attorney General lied to Congress earlier this year during a confirmation hearing. Other outlets have argued that Sessions had misled the panel by saying that he had not had any communications with Russian diplomats.
Recusal from the Russia Investigation
When Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, many considered it a sign that he was guilty. He took his time during his public hearing to clear that up, explaining that he had only recused himself because of Department of Justice regulations.
The Attorney General explained how the DOJ required employees of the department to not participate in any investigations relating to campaigns where they had previously served as advisors. Sessions said that it was “absurd” for the media or politicians to suggest he had any other motivation, or that his recusal meant he was unable to properly manage the DOJ.
Talk of James Comey
The topic also turned to the former director of the FBI, James Comey. Sessions was asked about the firing of James Comey, and whether he was able to provide some more information about the conversations the pair had. The committee is aware that Sessions and Comey had previously met after a threat briefing, and during the meeting, Comey told Sessions about his concerns regarding communication with the White House. Sessions confirmed during the hearing that he understood the concerns of the former FBI director, but that he believed Comey would take steps to ensure proper communication with the Trump administration.
When asked about his involvement with the Comey firing, Sessions simply explained that the president had asked him to write a letter outlining his personal opinion. He told the hearing that he believed the FBI needed a “fresh start,” and to find somebody more capable of serving the people working at the FBI.