Why Jeff Sessions says he can't talk

"There is no legally binding basis for refusing to answer questions unrelated to an ongoing investigation unless the President is invoking executive privilege", William Yeomans, a 26-year veteran of the Justice Department and fellow at American University Law School, told CNN."That privilege is not absolute - it can be overcome by a sufficient interest. You're impeding this investigation".

Trump's dismissal last month of former Federal Bureau of Investigation director Comey - who was overseeing the Russian Federation probe - has led to questions about potential obstruction of justice.

The latest episode of As the Administration Turns featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions - or, as I prefer to call him, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III - testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions said: "It did not violate my recusal".

Sessions denied any collusion with Russian Federation to meddle in the US presidential election, saying the accusations are "scurrilous", "appalling", "detestable".

"It's my judgement that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer", Sessions said.

"Senator, I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe those are lawful and appropriate orders", Rosenstein answered. Instead, he described his refusal as a long-standing "policy" of the Department of Justice. Worse, Sessions refused to commit to tell senators more in a classified, closed-door session as Adm. Mike Rogers, the National Security Agency director, did on Monday evening.

Sessions said those policies that prevented him answering questions, despite various senators saying there was no legality that should limit him from answering.

Before the questioning started, committee chairman Richard Burr expressed hope that the senators wouldn't "take partisan or political shots". Federal agencies in the intelligence community released a report in early January concluding Russian Federation meddled in the presidential campaign cycle.

Lawmakers will also press Sessions about aspects of Comey's testimony last week.

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Those calls have escalated since fired FBI Director James Comey cryptically told lawmakers on Thursday that the bureau had expected Sessions to recuse himself weeks before he did from an investigation into contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election.

'The director's thinking was not clear, ' Sessions said, saying it would have been better had the investigation 'never been discussed publicly'. But the revelations prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation in March.

King mentioned a memo from October in which the U.S. Intelligence Community wrote that they were confident that the Russian government were responsible for government email hacks and that those "thefts and disclosures are meant to interfere with the United States election process". "I may have had an encounter" with Ambassador Kislyak at a District of Columbia hotel in April 2016, Sessions allowed. 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.

"I received only the limited information that the department's career officials determined was necessary to inform my recusal decision", he said. "I'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance".

He said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had begun discussing replacing Comey before either of them was confirmed in their jobs.

Sessions told the committee that his recusal from the probe did not in any way negate his authority to recommend the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. But in a subsequent interview with NBC, Trump said that he when he chose to fire Comey he told himself, "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story".

In March he acknowledged he met twice previous year with Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters Tuesday he had confidence in Mueller, and dismissed reports that Trump might fire Mueller as "rumors". He acknowledged being at the event and said he had conversations with those there, but did not remember any with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions: "I was not active in the platform committee and did not participate in that, and I don't think I had direct involvement".

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