Testifying at a Senate hearing early today, Australian time, he vowed to defend his honour “against scurrilous and false allegations”.
Sessions said it was a “detestable and appalling lie” to suggest he participated in or was aware of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In his dramatic appearance before former colleagues, Sessions contradicted former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony from last week.
Comey claimed after feeling pressured in a conversation with President Donald Trump to back off an investigation into the former national security adviser, he “implored” Sessions to make sure he was never left alone with the president again – but Sessions didn’t respond.
“He didn’t recall this, but I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policy” regarding contacts with the White House, Sessions said.
Sessions rejected the assertion he’d misrepresented himself during his confirmation hearing by saying he hadn’t met with Russian officials during the campaign.
He said he recused himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation only because of a regulation to require the step because of his involvement in the Trump campaign.
He insisted he never knew anything about the Russia probe or had any role in it.
As for his role in Comey’s firing, Sessions told senators that he and his second-in-command, Rod Rosenstein, had a “clear view… that we had problems there, and it was my best judgement that a fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do. And when asked I said that to the president”.
But Sessions said that despite his sense of problems at the FBI, he never raised that with Comey.
And asked about Trump’s own contention that he fired Comey with the Russia probe in mind, and regardless of any recommendation from anyone else, Sessions said: “I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves. I’m not sure what was in his mind specifically.”
Sessions refused to say whether he had ever discussed the Russia investigation with Trump, arguing that he could not disclose private communications with the president.
Asked whether Trump records his conversations in the White House, Sessions said he did not know.
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