Attorney general slams assertions he worked with Russia as ‘detestable lie’
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday steadfastly denied any improper contacts with Russian officials during a sometimes blistering congressional hearing.
"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 told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He slammed any assertion he colluded with Russia to tilt the outcome of the 2016 presidential race in favor of Donald Trump, calling the claim a "detestable lie".
Explaining his decision to recuse himself from any Justice Department investigation into Russia's role in the election, he denied any "asserted wrongdoing" played into his decision-making process, instead saying he did so in line with a department regulation that barred employees from participating in campaign investigations if they served on the campaign.
Sessions was a Trump campaign surrogate during last year's race.
He also said his recusal did not bar him from recommending Trump dismiss ousted FBI Director James Comey as the bureau investigated possible cooperation between the Trump team and what U.S. intelligence officials have called an "influence campaign.
"That does not pass the smell test," remarked Sen. Ron Wyden.
During Sessions' two-and-a-half-hour standoff with many on the committee, particularly Democrats, he was repeatedly accused of "stonewalling" when asked about his conversations with the president.
“You are obstructing,” charged Sen. Martin Heinrich.
Sessions adamantly maintained he was not, but insisted that he was following the "historic polices" of the Justice Department.
He said while Trump has not invoked executive privilege, he was seeking to protect "the right of the president to assert it if he chooses”.
He declined to specify which practice he was using to refuse to answer senator's questions.
Shortly after the hearing, Sen. Kamala Harris dismissed Sessions' reasoning, appearing to dispute the existence of his claimed "historic policies".
"It's unacceptable that Sessions - the top law enforcement official in the country - cannot name his legal basis for evading questions," Harris, a former Attorney General of California, said on Twitter.