Attorney General Jeff Sessions began his testimony in front of the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday by denying any knowledge of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, calling such allegations an “appalling and detestable lie.”
Sessions also denied reports that he met with a Russian official while attending a speech by then candidate Donald Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016.
“Now, let me address some issues directly: I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel,” Sessions read from his prepared opening remarks during the first moments of the hearing. “I did not attend any meetings at that event.”
Sessions also said that he attended a small reception before the speech and had brief conversations with many people, but did not definitively say that the Russian ambassador was not one of them.
“If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador during that reception, I do not remember it,” he said.
The attorney general’s connections to Russia have been an issue throughout his tenure in the position. During his confirmation hearings, Sessions initially denied having had any contact with Russian officials while advising Trump’s presidential campaign, but later admitted to meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on two separate occasions.
Amid the ensuing firestorm, Sessions recused himself from the federal government’s investigation into alleged Kremlin meddling in the 2016 election.
Speculation about a possible meeting at the Mayflower Hotel increased after former FBI Director James Comey reportedly told senators last week in a closed-door meeting — following his public testimony in front of the Senate intelligence committee — that Sessions may have had a third contact with Kislyak.
Sessions appeared to slightly walk back his denial of the meeting later in the hearing when questioned by the committee.
“I possibly had a meeting but do not recall it,” Sessions said.
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