Jeff Sessions Senate hearing as it happened: Accusations of collusion with Russia 'detestable lie', says attorney-general

Jun, 13 2017 IST

Jeff Sessions Senate hearing as it happened: Accusations of collusion with Russia 'detestable lie', says attorney-general
  • 02:14 (IST)

    Did he have contact with Russian businessmen or Russian nationals?

     
    "Not to my knowledge. I do not recall that," Sessions says.
     

  • 02:02 (IST)

    Would Sessions be more forthright in a closed hearing?

    “I’m not sure. Executive privilege is not waived by going in camera or in closed session," says Sessions.
     

  • 01:56 (IST)

    Sessions says Trump hasn't invoked executive privilege


    "The president has not  invoked executive privilege to prevent me from answering questions. But I can't answer certain questions because the president might choose to do so in the future."
     

  • President Trump will be pleased
     

    Trump will be mighty pleased with Jeff Sessions. Here is a US president who decides policy in 3 am tweets, shocking his entire White House and Sessions is defending the right to stay mum and telling the Senate why secrecy is best during ongoing investigations.

    Just for context, the leaky vessels in the Trump administration have busted all records. It's Trump's closest aides who've gone all in to leak Russia stories, especially after Stephen Bannon was ousted from the National Security Council. The trouble with the Comey testimony, although sensational, is that it boils down to one man's word against another. That's not in the realm of law, it's politics. 


    Meanwhile, the embattled Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak hosted high powered Washington insiders and diplomats at the Russian Embassy Monday night and encouraged attendees to pose with "I love Russia" photos and post on social platforms.

  • 01:46 (IST)

    Sessions: No 'formal' meeting with Russian ambassador


    "I didn't have any formal meetings with him. I'm confident of that... but I may have had an encounter with him during the reception," Sessions says.
     

  • 01:39 (IST)

    Sessions: Comey firing letter did not violate recusal


    Sessions denies that signing letter recommending firing former FBI director Comey violated his recusal from Russia probe.

  • 01:30 (IST)

    If recordings exist, is Trump obliged to preserve them?

     
    "I don't know. Probably," Sessions says.
     
    Remember, Trump has refused to answer whether such tapes, do in fact exist. Lawmakers have asked the White House to turn them over.
     
     

  • 01:28 (IST)

    Does Trump tape White House conversations?

     
    Marco Rubio asks the question we're all dying to know. Are there tapes of Trump's conversations with Comey and anyone else? Sessions pours cold water, says he has no idea.

  • 01:24 (IST)

    Sessions won't confirm Trump asked him to leave room during Comey meet

     
    "I was one of the last persons to leave. We finished the briefing. People filtered out. Eventually, I left. Knew former FBI director Comey could handle himself."

  • Sessions playing dodgeball at Senate hearing
     

    In his deep Southern drawl, Sessions plays dodge at the Senate intelligence testimony on alleged Russian collusion in the US election in a town full of lawyers having the time of their life. Most questions by Republican Senators are sitting ducks, waiting to be slapped down with a one word answer: "No".

    The storyline so far is clear: Allow Republicans to feather their nests ahead of the mid-term elections due in 2018. Republicans enjoy a slim majority in the US Senate, Trump has not had a single legislative victory in almost half a year as president and Washington has slowed to a crawl, consumed by the many distractions of the Trump train.

    Since this is heading nowhere as of now, how about a post-it on Sessions' India angle: He's second to none in his opposition to the H1B visa which is going to figure prominently in the upcoming Trump-Modi summit.

  • 01:19 (IST)

    Sessions goes after Comey for 'mishandling' Hillary's email investigation

     
    "It was a stunning development that Comey held a press conference to announce that no charges would be levelled against Hillary. Comey usurped the prerogatives of justice department prosecutors by doing that. It is the FBI's job to investigate, not to prosecute. Comey's conduct showed a lack of discipline. FBI needed a fresh start."
     
     

  • 01:15 (IST)

    Did he discuss Comey's Russia probe with Trump? 


    “I’m unable to discuss that. Reasons for former FBI director's termination were made public by Trump."

     

  • 01:08 (IST)

    Sessions contradicts Comey's version of White House meeting

    “I was there. Without revealing any conversation that took place. I left. I believe everyone left. Comey was sitting in front of the president's desk. They were talking."

     

  • 01:05 (IST)

    Sessions can't confirm he met Russian ambassador


    "I didn't know he was going to be there. Don't remember speaking to him before or after the event."
     

  • Do not recall, the main soundbite
     

    Sergey Kislyak is the star of the Sessions testimony - as a 'forgettable' man. Just as America's crown prince Jared Kushner forgot to mention his meetings with certain Russians,  Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general, also does not "recollect" his contacts with the Russian ambassador. "I don't remember, I have no recollection" are the main soundbites we'll be left with at the end of this movie.

  • 01:00 (IST)

    Is Trump considering firing Mueller? Sessions refuses to answer.
     

     
    "Won't comment on conversations with president Trump or other White House officials. Not invoking executive privilege. Only the president can do that."
     

  • 00:57 (IST)

    Sessions: Haven't met Special Counsel Mueller
     
     
    "Haven't interacted with Mueller, who is overseeing Russia investigation. I have confidence in Mueller. No idea if president has confidence in Mueller. Haven't talked to him about it."

  • 00:53 (IST)


    Sessions: Not improper for US president to talk to FBI director 

     
     
    "There's nothing wrong with the president having a communication with the FBI director. What's problematic is for justice department officials to share information about investigations that have not been properly cleared at top levels."

  • 00:50 (IST)

    Sessions says Comey was 'concerned' about proper protocol
     
     
    "Comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the White House and the president. I responded by agreeing that the FBI and the Department of Justice needed to be careful. I was confident that he understood and would abide by well-established rules limiting communications with the White House.”
     

  • 00:48 (IST)

    Sessions defends his role in firing former FBI director Comey 



    "I stepped aside not because I did anything wrong, but I had a duty to run the FBI. That included firing Comey. Absurd to suggest that a recusal from a single investigation renders the attorney-general unable to conduct the leadership of FBI. There are thousands of investigations."
     

  • 00:44 (IST)

    Sessions says justice department regulations required him to recuse himself


    “I recused myself not because of any wrongdoing, but because of department regulation... employees should not participate in an investigation of a campaign if they participated as a campaign adviser.”

  • 00:38 (IST)

    Jeff Sessions' opening remarks

    "Recused myself from one case. Did not recuse myself from defending against scurrilous rumours. Did not recuse myself from defending my honour"

  • 00:37 (IST)

    Jeff Sessions' opening remarks


    "I was never briefed on details of Russian case. I received only limited information that the justice departments' career officials determined was necessary to inform my recusal decision."

  • 00:29 (IST)

    Jeff Sessions' opening remarks

  • 00:27 (IST)

    Jeff Sessions' opening remarks
     

    "Did not have any private meetings, do not recall any meetings with Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel. Do not remember talking to Russian ambassador or any other officials."

  • 00:26 (IST)

    Jeff Sessions sworn in to testify under oath
     

    "Thank you very much for allowing me to publicly appear before your committe today. I appreciate the committee's critically important efforts."

  • 00:24 (IST)

    Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia

     
    "I'm concerned that the US president does not recognise the Russian threat," Warner says.

  • 00:22 (IST)

    Committee chairman Burr lists questions for Sessions
     

    Did he meet Russian officials or proxies on behalf of the campaign?
    What was Sessions' involvement with the Trump foreign policy team?
    Were there interactions with Russians?

    Why did Sessions recuse himself from the Russia investigation?
    What role did Sessions play, if any, in the dismissal of Comey?

  • 23:19 (IST)

    Who is Jeff Sessions?
     

    Blunt and plainspoken, Sessions, 70, went from a GOP foot soldier to prosecutor to politician and ultimately one of president Donald Trump's leading champions, sharing his hardline views on national security and immigration. Trump rewarded his loyalty on the campaign by tapping him as the nation's top law enforcement officer.
     

    Read more here

  • 23:09 (IST)

    Trump attacks Jeff Sessions' predecessor 

     
     

  • 23:07 (IST)

    Ahead of Jeff Sessions' testimony, Donald Trump fires opening shot

US attorney-general Jeff Sessions is all set to testify publicly to a Senate panel on Tuesday, setting up another potentially dramatic congressional hearing on possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.

File image of Jeff Sessions. Reuters

File image of Jeff Sessions. Reuters

Sessions is likely to face questions by the Senate intelligence committee over his dealings with Russian officials during the campaign and whether he had a role in firing former FBI director James Comey, who testified last week before the same panel.

Until the panel chairman's statement on Monday, it had been unclear whether Sessions would testify in an open or closed setting.

Comey told the panel last Thursday that the FBI had information in mid-February on Sessions that would have made it "problematic" for him to continue leading a federal probe into Russian attempts to influence the presidential election.

Sessions recused himself from the inquiry in March after media reports that he had been in two previously undisclosed meetings last year with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Members of the committee are likely to ask Sessions about a possible third undisclosed meeting that is now under investigation, according to media reports.

Sessions, a former senator and an early supporter of Trump's election campaign, will be the most senior government official to testify to the committee on the Russia issue. The matter has dogged the Republican president's early months in office.

A justice department spokeswoman said Sessions requested the open setting because "he believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him."

Let's take a closer look at the man who has become a key figure in the probe:

Who is Jeff Sessions?

Blunt and plainspoken, Sessions, 70, went from a GOP foot soldier to prosecutor to politician and ultimately one of president Donald Trump's leading champions, sharing his hardline views on national security and immigration. Trump rewarded his loyalty on the campaign by tapping him as the nation's top law enforcement officer.

Sessions is a devout Methodist who came of age in the segregated south. He cut his teeth as a federal prosecutor in Mobile, Alabama, at the height of the drug war, and many of the policies he has tried to implement as attorney-general have roots in that time period. As a United States attorney in 1986, Sessions faced allegations of racially charged remarks, and they cost him a federal judgeship. Sessions has called those allegations "false charges," and said they were hurtful and has tried to move past them.

What were his Senate priorities?

Sessions generally leant right of his Republican colleagues, often articulating more conservative views than those of party leaders in the Senate.

Sessions was a leading opponent of the Senate's 2013 immigration overhaul, which he called too permissive. He instead advocated for broad presidential powers to curtail immigration, an issue that drew him to candidate Trump early. He opposed efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, supported expanded government surveillance and criticised the Voting Rights Act as placing an unfair burden on states. He joined a bipartisan push to reduce federal sentencing disparities that treated crack cocaine offences much more harshly than crimes related to powder cocaine, a disparity that disproportionally impacted minority communities. But he later opposed the Senate's effort to overhaul the criminal justice system, warning it could lead to violence.

What has he done in the justice department?

As attorney-general, Sessions has quickly worked to undo Obama-era policies. He signalled his strong support for the federal government's continued use of private prisons, reversing a directive to phase out their use. He also recently directed the nation's federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible against the vast majority of suspects, a rollback of Obama-era policies that aimed to reduce the federal prison population and show more lenience to lower-level drug offenders.

Keeping with the Trump administration's anti-immigration agenda, Sessions has also urged federal prosecutors to intensify their focus on immigration crimes such as illegal border crossing or smuggling others into the United States. And he has threatened to withhold coveted grant money from localities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities as they try to detain and deport people.

What's the trouble?

Sessions has been dogged by the Russia investigation. He recused himself from the federal probe in March after acknowledging that he met the Russian ambassador to the United States twice in 2016. He told lawmakers at his January confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russians during the campaign.

Questions are swirling about possible additional encounters with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Senate Democrats have raised questions about whether the men met at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The justice department has said that while Sessions was there, for a speech by Trump, there were no meetings or private encounters.

Media reports last week said Sessions offered to resign because of tensions with Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's Russia probe. The matter is also being investigated by several congressional panels, including the committee.

Russia has denied interfering in the US election. The White House has denied any collusion with Moscow.

Critics charged that by firing Comey on 9 May, Trump was trying to hinder the FBI's Russia probe and the ex-FBI chief added fuel to that accusation with his testimony last week. Trump has denied he tried to interfere with the probe.

 


Published Date: Jun 13, 2017 11:04 pm | Updated Date: Jun 14, 2017 02:35 am

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