In his open hearing on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave sworn testimony regarding contacts he is accused to have had with Russian officials while participating in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In his opening remarks to the Senate Intelligence Community on Tuesday, Sessions gave the members of the committee a peppery defense of his “honor” when he said he has never had any conversations with Russians about “any type of interference” in the 2016 presidential election.
“The suggestion that I participated in any collusion...is an appalling and detestable lie,” Sessions said. He reminded the members of the committee that he had served for 20 years in the Senate and in other government posts. He said that he was unaware of any details of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Moreover, Sessions said he was “never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation,” even before he recused himself from the case.
Sessions said that his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation was a result of his role in Trump’s political campaign instead of any inappropriate interaction with Russian officials. “I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for President, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations,” Sessions said.
Also in his opening statement, Sessions said he is bound to protect private communications with the president. He suggested that he would not answer some questions about the firing of FBI director James B. Comey. He said that he reminded Comey to adhere to established rules and precedent regarding communications with the White House. Last week, Comey told the Intelligence Committee that President Trump ushered Sessions and Jared Kushner out of the Oval Office during a meeting in February of this year. Comey claimed that Trump asked him to "go easy" in an FBI investigation into the activities of erstwhile National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Comey released the contents of that conversation in memo he recorded of the conversation that he leaked to the media. Sessions also said that while it was not improper for Trump to meet with Comey, but it was improper for Comey to disclose the content of those conversations.
Deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the same day, answering questions about comments made on Monday by Christopher Ruddy, a Trump associate, that the president might fire Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The latter was appointed last week to lead the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Rosenstein said that if Trump were to order him to fire Mueller, he would do so only if Trump’s request were “lawful and appropriate.” He said, “I’m not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders.” Later, Rosenstein said, “As long as I’m in this position, he’s not going to be fired without good cause,” which he said he would have to put in writing.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Tuesday he had confidence in Mueller and dismissed reports that Trump might fire Mueller as “rumors.”