Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a Senate committee Tuesday that any suggestion he colluded with Russian Federation during last year's US presidential campaign was an "appalling and detestable lie".
While members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have portrayed their work as a non-partisan search for truth about Russian campaign interference, questions to Sessions on Tuesday afternoon generally had a party-line flavor. Democrats pressed Sessions repeatedly to say if he had discussed Russian Federation and Comey with Mr. Trump, but didn't get very far about those conversations between Sessions and the President.
Sessions told Wyden he "basically recused" himself from the Russian Federation investigation during his first day as attorney general because he "never accessed files, never learned the names of investigators, never met with them, never asked for any documentation". But he refused to discuss the reports "because I know nothing about the investigation".
Asked about Trump's own contention that he fired Comey with the Russian Federation 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".
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters later that Trump thought Sessions "did a very good job" and was especially "strong" on denying any collusion between Trump's campaign and Russian Federation.
Rosenstein testified that he is the only one who has the authority to fire Mueller, who was appointed following the May 9 ousting of James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, and that he had seen no good cause to do so.
Sessions corroborated that Comey came to him the next day and asked not to be alone with the president. "What are they?", Wyden asked.
"I took it as a concern that he might be asked something that was improper", Sessions said, adding that he told Comey to follow Justice Department policy regarding interactions with White House officials.
Sessions said it would be "absurd" to suggest that a recusal from a single investigation would render him unable to manage the leadership of the FBI.
The Justice Department subsequently released decades-old memos from its Office of Legal Counsel that it said supported Sessions' position.
He told King that he never sought details on the Russian Federation investigation because of his close connections to Trump's presidential campaign.