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Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he was never briefed on Russian Federation probe

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he was never briefed on Russian Federation probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sworn in prior to testifying before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C., the United States, on June 13, 2017.

Sen. Kamala Harris questions Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his Tuesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sessions' testimony comes less than a week after Comey's explosive account before the same panel in which he asserted that President Trump fired him in order to derail the bureau's wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

But the attorney general left Democratic senators deeply frustrated when he declined to go into the reasons for Comey's dismissal and wouldn't say whether the President ordered him out of the Oval Office so he could talk privately with Comey on February 14, in an encounter the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director said included a request for him to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

As expected, lawmakers grilled Sessions about his role in Comey's firing, his own involvement in the Trump campaign and his meetings with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US. But the revelations prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March.

Ahead of the hearing there had been suggestions that Sessions might have had a third, unreported, encounter with Kislyak in April 2016, at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where candidate Trump was giving his first major foreign policy speech.

Justice officials have strongly denied that such a meeting occurred.

"(Sessions) believes it is important for the American people to hear the truth directly from him and looks forward to answering the committee's questions tomorrow", a Justice Department spokesperson said. Charles Schumer of NY, the Senate's top Democrat.

It is not clear whether Sessions plans to answer all the questions or if he will invoke executive privilege to avoid disclosing private conversations with the president.

Sessions said he would not discuss confidential communications with the president.

As news of his testimony broke, Sessions attended a Cabinet meeting with Trump at the White House.

Mr Comey had also said that Mr Sessions had lingered in the Oval Office following a group meeting, just before the private encounter during which he has said the president asked him to pull back on his investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Some Democrats said Trump's actions could amount to an obstruction of justice.

"Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign", Sessions said.

"I don't recall it", Sessions said.

Sessions said that "it probably would have been better and would have been consistent with the rules of the Department of Justice to never have talked about the investigation to begin with".

"It is really unclear what he is going to say, and I am a little bit surprised because in the past, he has gotten into trouble when he said things and they turned out not to be entirely true", said Jens Ohlin, a professor of law at Cornell University.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel on Russian Federation issues last month. The president said he is willing to testify under oath on these points.

Sessions said it would be "inappropriate" for him to reveal private conversations with Trump when the president "has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer". They also emphasized Comey's admission that he arranged to have contents of his memos leaked to the news media. He said at his January confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russians during the campaign. "Totally illegal? Very 'cowardly!'"


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