US Attorney General Jeff Sessions defends himself before lawmakers

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions makes a point while speaking during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The U.S. Attorney General faced tough questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill on a wide range of subjects, including interactions with Russian officials. It’s the latest testimony that could shed light onto alleged Russian interference in last year’s presidential race.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

AG Sessions fiercely defended himself on Tuesday against allegations he misled lawmakers about contacts with Russia. America’s top law enforcement officer was back on Capitol Hill facing tough questions from lawmakers. They covered a wide range of subjects, including interactions with Russian officials.

“Frankly, I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports,” Sessions said. “But, I will not accept – and reject accusations – that I have ever lied. That is a lie.”

The meeting Sessions spoke about involved George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who made headlines last month when it was announced he had reached a plea deal with federal investigators. Sessions, who once served as head of the campaign’s foreign policy team, now says he remembers that gathering, during which Papadopoulos offered to help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sessions said he pushed back against the idea.

In another line of questioning, Sessions said he doesn’t recall Carter Page, another campaign official, telling him that he was going to Moscow for meetings.

Sessions was the first top Republican to endorse Trump as a candidate. He was rewarded with a highly coveted cabinet position as head of the U.S. Justice Department. During his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions said he hadn’t met any Russian officials during the campaign. He later revised that characterization, admitting to meetings with Russia’s U.S. ambassador.

Months later, Sessions testified on the topic again before separate House and Senate committees. “Let me state this clearly colleagues,” Sessions said during a June 2017 hearing, “I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials considering any type of interference with any type of campaign or election in the United States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign.”

Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into alleged Russian election meddling. The move angered President Trump, who said he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions Attorney General had he known he would do that.

Meanwhile, Sessions is now facing pressure from some top Republicans and the President to appoint a second Special Counsel, this time to investigate Hillary Clinton. Sessions on Tuesday, however, threw cold water on the idea, suggesting there is not enough legal basis for such an investigation. He also said it would be inappropriate for the president to direct him to target a political rival.