His testy exchanges with Democratic senators contrasted with the Republican senators' treatment, which tended to support Sessions' contention that he was being unfairly painted by allegations of being involved in Russian meddling.
Tuesday's hearing follows on the heels of former FBI Director James B. Comey's dramatic testimony before the same committee last week, when he raised intrigue by telling lawmakers that FBI officials had expected Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from all Russia-related issues "for a variety of reasons".
Warner pressed Sessions on whether he has confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to lead the Russian Federation probe by Rosenstein and is still building his investigative team. Several media outlets have reported that Comey told the Intelligence Committee in closed session last week that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was examining whether Sessions met with Kislyak at a Washington hotel past year.
"I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States", the Trump's top lawyer said.
Sessions also said he has "no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign". Because this question has gotten reasonably complicated.
The first real fireworks flew nearly 90 minutes into the testimony. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) accused Sessions of stonewalling after Sessions cited a Department of Justice "communications policy" for not publicly discussing his conversations with Trump and other White House staff.
"The president asked for our opinion", Sessions answered. "I got rid of that nutjob.' That came to you as a complete surprise?" "Wyden. There are none!" he said. "There are none - I can tell you that for absolute certainty", he continued, adding that he doesn't appreciate "secret innuendo" being leaked about him.
Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican, countered that Democrats were seeking to score political points without looking at the larger issues of tampering by foreign adversaries in the US election and leaks of national security secrets to the media. Since his appointment, Mueller has hired a seasoned group of investigators and former prosecutors to look into potential links between Trump's campaign and Russian government officials.
Tuesday morning, Trump supporter Ari Fleischer, who served as President George W. Bush's press secretary, again highlighted the issue of Mueller's probe being handled by attorneys who have donated mostly to Democrats, a message that Donald Trump Jr. quickly retweeted to his own 1.7 million followers. Sessions wasn't having any of that.
Pressure mounted at the start of the week following reports that Sessions offered his resignation to Trump because the President blamed Sessions for exacerbating his Russian Federation problems by recusing himself from the probe. "I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice". "Americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged".
Besides Wyden, several other Democratic senators pressed Sessions over his refusal to discuss his conversations with President Trump over Comey's firing.
"I'm not claiming executive privilege, because that's the President's power", Sessions told Sen.
"Obstruction is criminal - there's a criminal aspect to that", committee Chairman Sen.
Republicans said it appears Democrats don't care about this anymore, ever since Comey said the president himself was not under investigation for election collusion.
In general, as with most of the Russia-related hearings conducted by Congress, it was a tale of two parties. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
SESSIONS: Yeah, Alan Furst, David Ignatius.
KING: Never - you never asked for a briefing or.
Sessions himself largely pleaded ignorance to the entire Russian Federation inquiry.
President Trump on Thursday criticized reports that he is now under investigation for obstruction of justice in connection with the firing of FBI Director James Comey, denouncing it as another "witch hunt" that is unfairly targeting him.
Sessions insisted he stepped aside from the Russian Federation investigation because he was a principal adviser to the Trump campaign, not because he did something wrong or was a subject of the probe.