Sessions won’t talk Trump conversations

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WASHINGTON (AP) Developments on Tuesday, June 13, about investigations into possible contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russia (all times Eastern Daylight Time).

  • 4:30 p.m.

Members of the Senate intelligence committee expressed confusion over why Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not disclose his conversations with the president.

Sessions won’t describe his conversations with President Donald Trump about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Yet he said he didn’t have the power to invoke executive privilege, and the president has not asserted it.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked a number of questions about the basis for Sessions’ refusal to answer questions.

Sessions said the president was not asserting executive privilege and that Sessions was simply protecting Trump’s right to do so if he chooses.

  • 4:00 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions angrily denied there were problems related to his decision to recuse himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russian activities during the election.

Comey testified earlier before the Senate intelligence committee said he knew of reasons why it would be problematic for Sessions to remain involved in the Russia investigation, even before he recused himself.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons.

“There are none,” Sessions said to Sen. Ron Wyden.

Sessions bristled at Wyden, telling the Oregon senator that people are suggesting through innuendo that he had not been honest.

  • 3:55 p.m.

Sessions said Comey should have shared his concerns about a meeting with Trump with another Justice Department official.

Comey testified he did not tell Sessions that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia because he suspected Sessions would soon need to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

But Sessions said Comey should have relayed his concerns to Dana Boente, who was then acting as deputy attorney general and Comey’s direct supervisor. He said Comey should have talked to Boente, especially if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russia investigation.

  • 3:52 p.m.

Sessions said Comey’s decision to announce that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails was a “usurpation” of the Justice Department’s authority.

Sessions said he recommended Comey’s firing after a number of concerns about his job performance. But his very public handling of the Clinton email investigation was chief among them.

He said Comey’s decision to announce the results of the investigation without Justice Department approval was “a stunning development” because “the FBI is the investigative team. They don’t decide prosecution.”

He called Comey’s move “a thunderous thing” and it caused him to conclude “that a fresh start was appropriate.”

  • 3:36 p.m.

Sessions said he never had conversations with Comey about his job performance before Comey’s firing.

Sessions recommended the firing in May, which raised questions about whether he violated his recusal from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia. But Sessions said he had concerns about Comey’s job performance even before he was confirmed. He said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed it and “we both agreed that a fresh start at the FBI was probably the best thing.”

Sessions said “he was involved in Comey’s firing because he oversees the FBI. Sessions added that, “to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation” would render him unable to manage the leadership of the FBI would be “absurd.”

  • 3:20 p.m.

Sessions said he recused himself from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia because he was involved in the campaign.

Sessions said his recusal was not because he had done something wrong or was, himself, the subject of the investigation. He said he stepped aside because Justice Department rules prevent such a conflict of interest. Sessions became attorney general in February but did not recuse himself from that probe until March.

He said it “became clear to me over time that I qualified as a principal adviser to the campaign and it was appropriate and right for me to recuse myself.”

  • 3:10 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions contradicting fired FBI director James Comey’s testimony about his concerns over a meeting he had with Trump.

Comey testified last week that Sessions did not respond when he complained that he did not want to be left alone with President Donald Trump again. This was after a February meeting in which Comey said Trump told Sessions and others to leave the room before asking him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia.

Sessions said he was not silent, saying he stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.

He said he was confident that Comey understood and would abide by the Justice Departments rules on communications with the White House about ongoing investigations.

  • 3:05 p.m.

Sessions said the suggestion that he colluded with Russians in the 2016 presidential election “is an appalling and detestable lie.”

Sessions’s comments came during his Senate testimony on whether he met privately with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Sessions said he was there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump and members of Sessions’ staff also were there.

He said the suggestion he was “aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie.”

Sessions added that he has no knowledge of  “any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”

  • 3:00 p.m.

Sessions said he did not have third meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

His impassioned response came after Senate Democrats raised questions about whether Sessions privately met with Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Sessions said he was there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump and members of Sessions’ staff were also in attendance.

But he said he did not recall any private meetings or conversations with Russian officials at that event.

Sessions in March stepped aside from the federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the presidential campaign after acknowledging that he had met twice last year with Kislyak.

  • 2:58 p.m.

Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr said that so far, the panel has interviewed more than 35 individuals, including Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of homeland security, in connection with its investigation of Russian activities during last year’s campaign.

The North Carolina Republican senator gave the update at the beginning of an open hearing to hear testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

  • 2:40 p.m.

McConnell said he has confidence in the Department of Justice’s special counsel investigating Russian interference in U.S. elections.

McConnell told reporters that “I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller.”

The comments came a day after a close friend of President Donald Trump was quoted in a television interview as saying the president was considering dismissing Mueller.

  • 11:35 a.m.

Rosenstein said he will “defend the integrity” of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. elections.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Rosenstein that she believed it would be “catastrophic” if special counsel Robert Mueller were fired on the orders of Trump. She said such a move would “destroy any shred of trust in the president’s judgment that remains over here.”

Rosenstein said he appointed the special counsel, he thought it was the right thing to do and “I am going to defend the integrity of that investigation.”

Feinstein also asked if Rosenstein had an estimate for how long the investigation will take.

“I regret that I do not,” Rosenstein said.

  • 11:35 a.m.

Rosenstein said a history of political giving was not a disqualifier for those who work for the Department of Justice’s special counsel investigating Russian interference in U.S. elections.

Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R – S.C., Rosenstein said that having given political donations is not a disqualifier. Graham also asked him if it would be a disqualifier to have worked for Hillary Clinton, who ran against President Donald Trump in the election and was a subject of a separate Justice Department investigation into her email practices.

Rosenstein said “I think the answer is no” but said it would depend on the circumstances.

Federal Election Commission records indicate that some members of Mueller’s team have made political donations to Democrats, according to a CNN report.

  • 11:05 a.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he wouldn’t follow orders from President Donald Trump or anyone else to fire special counsel Robert Mueller unless they were “lawful and appropriate orders.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, asked Rosenstein at a budget hearing Tuesday what he would do if Trump ordered him to fire Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the U.S. elections and possible Russian ties to Trump’s campaign.

Rosenstein said that if he fired Mueller, he would be required to explain it in writing. He added that “if there were good cause, I would consider it. If there were not good cause it wouldn’t matter what anyone said.”

Rosenstein said Trump has not discussed the special counsel with him.

  • 11 a.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says he consults with a career ethics official when questions arise about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.

Under questioning from Sen. Brian Schatz about the scope of Sessions’ recusal, Rosenstein said Sessions “actually does not know what we’re investigating, and I’m not going to be talking about it publicly.”

If questions arise about what matters Sessions should stay away from, he said, a career official in Rosenstein’s office is consulted.

Rosenstein says it would be inappropriate for him to discuss Sessions’ recusal and adds, “we don’t talk about the subject matter of investigations while they are ongoing.”

  • 10:40 a.m.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he has seen no evidence of good cause to fire the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia investigation.

The comment came in response to questions from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. She asked about news reports suggesting that President Donald Trump was already thinking about “terminating” Robert Mueller from his position as special counsel. She asked whether he has seen “any evidence of good cause” to fire Mueller.

“No I have not,” Rosenstein responded.

Rosenstein said the attorney general would be the only one who could fire Mueller. And since Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, Rosenstein is acting in that capacity.

He said he was confident that Mueller will have “the full independence he needs” to investigate thoroughly.

  • 10:25 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said the president and his administration should let the special counsel’s investigation continue, and await vindication.

“The best advice would be to let Robert Mueller do his job,” Ryan told reporters.

Ryan commented in response to Ruddy, who suggested the president was already thinking about “terminating” Mueller from his position as special counsel. Such a move would create a firestorm coming weeks after Trump fired Comey.

Ryan said the smartest thing for the president to do would be to let the investigation continue and be vindicated.

“I know Bob Mueller. I have confidence in Bob Mueller,” said Ryan.

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