US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions testifies on meetings with Russians, James Comey’s firing
Tuesday - 13/06/2017 16:44
US ATTORNEY-GENERAL Jeff Sessions has vehemently denied colluding with an alleged Russian bid to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour.
“I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States,” Mr Sessions told a closely-watched hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“The suggestion that I participated with any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honour for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”
Addressing allegations that he had unreported meetings with Russian officials while he advised the Trump campaign, the 70-year-old said he had already acknowledged two meetings last year with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
But he denied an alleged third encounter with Mr Kislyak, at an April 27, 2016 reception for then-candidate Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
“I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower hotel,” he told the panel.
“Though I do recall several conversations that I had during that ‘Free Speech’ reception, I do not have any recollection with meeting, talking to the Russian ambassador or any other Russian officials.”
In January, Mr Sessions told politicians he had no dealings with Kremlin officials last year.
His staffers have since acknowledged that he met twice with Mr Kislyak. They say he did not mislead Congress because the encounters were part of his job as a senator, not as a surrogate of the Trump campaign.
But the revelations forced Mr Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March, and it is now being handled by a special counsel.
WHY SESSIONS RECUSED HIMSELF
Mr Sessions, a former federal prosecutor from Alabama, told the panel he stepped aside from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia because he was involved in the campaign.
He said his recusal was not because he had done something wrong or was, himself, the subject of the investigation.
He claimed he recused himself because Justice Department rules prevent such a conflict of interest. Mr Sessions became Attorney-General in February but did not recuse himself from that probe until March.
He said it “became clear to me over time that I qualified as a principal adviser to the campaign and it was appropriate and right for me to recuse myself.”