Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday—and yes, it was a mess.
In case you missed it, Sessions agreed Monday to testify regarding ties with Russia. Early Tuesday, speculation began to stir once news broke that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. But before his testimony even began, Sessions reportedly told senators he wouldn’t be acting upon orders from Don Cheeto to do so—at least not without good reason. Sessions also reportedly came under fire for sending deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning.
But it was the conversation surrounding the Russian probe that took center stage. Chairman Richard Burr laid out the main questions at the start of the hearing:
- Did Sessions have any meetings with Russian officials as a proxy of the Trump campaign or as attorney general?
- What was Sessions’ involvement with the candidate’s foreign policy team, and what were their interactions with Russians?
- Why did Sessions decide to recuse himself from the probe of Russian interference in the campaign?
- What role, if any, did Sessions play in the removal of Mr. Comey?
And from there? Calamity.
Check out some highlights below, then head to Wall Street Journal for more updates.
Sessions (sort of not really) addressed questions Re: the Mayflower Hotel event.
“I came there as an interested person, very anxious to see how President Trump would do in his first major foreign policy address,” he said, though he initially would not confirm whether he knew the Russian ambassador was present. “I could say that I possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it,” Sessions said. Later: “I didn’t have any formal meetings with him, I’m confident of that, but I may have had an encounter with him during the reception.”
Sessions claimed he recused himself from the DOJ Russia probe…
“…Not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any belief that I might have been involved in any wrongdoing,” but because DOJ regulations required it. He added his recusal “does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI.”
Sessions confirmed Comey’s concerns with Trump…
…But he wouldn’t talk about convos with Trump and other White House officials. In fact, there were a lot of things he wouldn’t discuss, allegedly out of “duty to protect confidential communications with the president.”
Sessions was asked by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) if Trump records his conversations…
…And if he does, does he keep them? “I don’t know,” Sessions responded. “Probably so.” Important to note: Trump declined to confirm whether he had possession of tapes last week.
At one point, sh*t got tense.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Oregon) accused Sessions of “stonewalling,” leading to one of the hearing’s most tense exchanges. “I am not stonewalling,” Sessions said. “I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice.” Wyden also asked Sessions about alleged confidential matters that could compromise his involvement. “What are they?” Wyden asked, to which Sessions vehemently responded, “Why don’t you tell me?” He then expressed disapproval about the “secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”
And then there was the amazing moment during which Sen. Kamala Harris made Sessions nervous.
Sessions may have tried to dance around multiple questions throughout the afternoon, but Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Ca) wasn’t here for the bullsh*t. She kept her line of questioning sharp and relentless, causing Sessions to snap: “You let me qualify. If I don’t qualify, you accuse me of lying, so I need to be correct as best as I can. I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”
This story was updated on June 13, 2017 at 5:46 p.m. EST.