Amid questions about the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on Capitol Hill before the Senate Intelligence Committee, getting a chance to tell his side of the story in a public session, as Sessions told his former colleagues in no uncertain terms that he did not collude with Russia or have knowledge of any Russian election meddling.
Here is a rundown of today’s hearing:
5:06 pm – Chairman Burr asks Sessions to go back and see if he can work with the White House to allow responses to Senators’ questions on subjects where Sessions refused to give answers.
5:03 pm – Wrapping up questioning for Democrats, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) raises red flags again about Sessions not answering a number of questions.
5:00 pm – Asked by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about Russian foreign policy goals, Sessions sounds like he’s back in his old job as Senator, saying Russian hostile actions are in many ways a threat. But asked if he raised concerns about Russian election interference, Sessions doesn’t recall discussions about that.
4:54 pm – Sessions continues to say that his advice was given based on the Hillary Clinton investigation; Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) suggests that was a cover story to paper over the reason stated by President Trump, that Comey was fired because of the Russia probe.
4:48 pm – Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) using his time to bolster the case against James Comey, based on his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. Sessions said the background was “stunning” in how Comey mishandled that probe.
4:43 pm – Once again, a line of questioning by Harris has drawn criticism from other GOP Senators.
4:41 pm – Pressed by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sessions again defends his refusal to answer certain questions about his conversations with President Trump. But he doesn’t really outline why, other than a general argument that top officials should not reveal details of talks with the President.
4:36 pm – As Chairman Burr tells Sessions that “we are very much focused on Russia’s involvement,” fellow Republican Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) is heard saying, “Doesn’t seem like it.”
4:33 pm – Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) chides Democrats over the hearing, saying none of them have asked today about any collusion involving President Trump, as he said critics of the President are going down all sorts of “rabbit trails”
4:25 pm – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) again asks Sessions why he has never received a briefing on the Russian interference; Sessions says it’s very important to investigate what the Russians did, because there may have been an impact on the election.
4:19 pm – Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) sticks up for Sessions: “You speak as a man eager to set the record straight.” Lankford compares Sessions to former AG Eric Holder, whom he says didn’t turn over documents and cooperate.
4:13 pm – Sessions says the President has not asserted executive privilege; Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asks why Sessions is not answering certain questions.
4:11 pm – Sessions acknowledges that he has not received a briefing about the Russia investigation.
4:07 pm – Sessions gets a very friendly line of questioning from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).
4:01 pm – Asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) if he is invoking executive privilege, Sessions says, “It would be inappropriate” to share private conversations with the President.
3:59 pm – Sessions says Comey should have spoken with then Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, about any concerns with conversations involving President Trump.
3:58 pm – Sessions says he does not regret being involved in the decision to fire Comey, “I think I had a duty to do so.”
3:54 pm – Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) bores in on what Sessions did on the Comey firing.
3:52 pm – Sessions gets mad at Wyden, as Wyden asks about Comey’s statement last week, that there was something “problematic” that would require Sessions to recuse himself.
Here is the video from last week, with Comey hinting at some kind of secret reason why Sessions would be recusing himself. This is what Sessions is getting mad about.
3:51 pm – Sessions says he basically recused himself on his very first day as Attorney General, because he did not look at any materials related to the Russia probe.
3:49 pm – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) says there is no legal basis for “stonewalling” by Sessions and other officials when asked direct questions by lawmakers on the Russia probe. Sessions fires back: “I am not stonewalling.”
3:46 pm – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) takes Sessions back through an Oval Office meeting where the President had Comey stay behind. Sessions also asked about Trump recording conversations in the White House; “I don’t know,” Sessions says of possible recordings.
3:41 pm – Pressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sessions cites Comey’s work during the investigation of the Hillary Clinton email question – “it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the FBI was the appropriate thing to do,” as Sessions said it was the right decision to fire Comey.
3:39 pm – Sessions says he is not able to discuss, confirm or deny questions of what they spoke about with President Trump when it comes to Comey’s dismissal as FBI Director.
3:37 pm – Sessions says he never heard anyone on the Trump campaign say anything about Russian involvement in 2016. Asked if he would have left the campaign upon getting that news, Sessions said “maybe.” That was quickly noted by Democrats watching on TV.
3:35 pm – Sessions says he can absolutely say that he had no conversations with any Russian officials, says there was no hint of help coming from Moscow, as he says the underlying investigation is a “serious matter.”
3:34 pm – Sessions again says it is “absolutely false” that he colluded at all with the Russians during the 2016 campaign.
3:23 pm – Sessions is asked about potential pardons by President Trump; Sessions says he can’t talk about such matters. Not clear if he has had such a discussion with Mr. Trump.
3:20 pm – Sessions is asked by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) if the President is thinking about removing Robert Mueller as Special Counsel; Sessions says he knows nothing about those reports.
3:14 pm – Sessions says he did not recuse himself from the Russia investigation because he was the focus of any investigation – rather it was because of his involvement in the Trump Campaign.
3:09 pm – The Q&A begins after a very strong statement from Attorney General Sessions.
3:07 pm – Sessions: false attacks, innuendo, and leaks will “not intimidate me.”
3:02 pm – Sessions giving no ground in his opening statement, flatly denying that he has done anything to interfere in the Russian investigation.
2:58 pm – Sessions says any suggestion that he was part of Russian collusion was an “appalling and detestable lie”
2:56 pm – Sessions foreshadows that he will not talk about private conversations with President Trump. The Attorney General also denies
2:54 pm – After opening statements from the top members of each party, Attorney General Sessions takes the oath and begins his statement.
2:45 pm – Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) rattles off four main questions for Sessions, focusing on contacts with Russia officials and any role in the firing of Comey. Burr says he wants a “candid and honest” discussion.
2:42 pm – The gavel is down. Toe meets leather.
2:40 pm – To the sounds of clicking shutters from still photographers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrives in the hearing room and walks to the witness table.
2:33 pm – We may see some tough questions from Democrats, who weren’t pleased with Sessions leaving the Senate and becoming the Attorney General in the first place.
2:27 pm – What kind of questions might get asked of Sessions? Look back to Comey’s testimony from last week, and that gives us some clues.
2:26 pm – This hearing may get started a few minutes late, as the Senate is now taking a vote on the floor. Sessions is no stranger to this committee room, Hart 216, which has been used in a number of high profile events over the years. Last week, Senators heard from Comey in this same spot.