Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday afternoon. During his opening statement, he made it clear that while he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election he was there to defend himself.
“I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for President, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations. At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards,” he said.
“I’ve earned a reputation for that at home and in this body, I believe, over decades of performance. The people of this country expect an honest and transparent government and that is what we are giving them,” he added.
Sessions made several points during his testimony:
- He did not have any private meetings or conversations with Russian officials during an event at the Mayflower Hotel (that he could recall).
- He testified that he never had any meetings or conversations with Russian officials or any other foreign official “concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.”
- He also testified that he had no knowledge of any Trump campaign staff having any such conversations.
- In response to accusations that he misled the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to a question asked by U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN). It was later reported that he did have meetings with Russian officials in his role as U.S. Senator. Sessions stated, “It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and list any conversations I may have had with Russians in routine situations, as I had with numerous other foreign officials.”
- In light of his recusal from the Russia investigation, he said that he does not receive briefings on the investigation and does not have any more information than what is publicly reported and said he doesn’t read that information closely.
- Some have said Sessions recusal should have prohibited him from firing former FBI Director James Comey. To that charge, he replied, “The scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI, which has an $8 billion budget and 35,000 employees.”
- Sessions contradicted Comey’s testimony that he never heard any feedback from Sessions about his meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. “I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow Department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House,” he stated.
- Sessions also made it clear that he would not answer questions dealing with conversations he had with President Trump.
Watch his whole opening remarks below: