Critic's Notebook: Jeff Sessions Dodges and Demurs His Way Through Senate Testimony

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis in the Rose Garden at the White House Friday

'In retrospect in looking at it I think it was more egregious than I may have even understood at the time, ' Sessions said Tuesday.

"He told me repeatedly that he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current attorney general, and had learned that I was doing a great job and that I was extremely well-liked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation workforce", Comey told the committee.

Sessions' clash with the Democratic senators was the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged Trump in his first five months as president and distracted from his domestic policy agenda including major healthcare and tax cut initiatives.

On another hot-button issue, Sen.

"I can't discuss with you the nature of private conversations I may have had with the president".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions heatedly denied on Tuesday having an undisclosed meeting with Russia's ambassador to the USA or conversations with any Russian officials about the US election that sent Donald Trump to the White House. During his testimony, the Attorney General was asked if he had been given some of the details about the "active measures" used by Russian Federation to interfere in the US elections - his answer was, no, as Sessions said he had stayed away from anything to do with the matter, to honor his recusal as Attorney General.

Whether executive privilege is invoked "depends on the scope of the questions", White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday.

Here's a look at the top quotes from Sessions' hearing.

When asked by Sen.

The attorney general, who recommended Comey be fired, declined to discuss his conversations with the president on the subject, citing a "longstanding policy" that Justice officials not comment on such private discussions. The FBI is part of the Justice Department that Sessions heads.

"Without in any way suggesting I had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that", he told Feinstein, "there are privileges of communication within the Department of Justice that we share, all of us do".

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Sessions maintained that he had not been briefed on the Russian Federation investigation between the time of his February swearing-in and his March 2 recusal.

When asked whether this DOJ custom had a written source, a DOJ official pointed CNN to two 1982 memoranda. Senator Harris, let him answer. "The basis for this historical practice is laid out in the 1982 memos from President Reagan and then-Assistant Attorney General Olson".

At other times, Sessions explained that he was merely out of the loop. I never met with them.

"I affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the Department of Justice. You don't walk into any committee meeting and reveal confidential communications with President of United States".

Legal experts said there was some merit to Sessions' argument. He answered numerous questions with claims that he couldn't "recall" the answer or "couldn't remember". Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) accusing Sessions of obstructing a congressional investigation.

Though the Justice Department maintains that it has fully disclosed the extent of Sessions' foreign contacts previous year, lawmakers have continued to press him for answers about an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where both Sessions and Kislyak attended a foreign policy speech by Trump.

Sessions hedged nearly all of his answers about whether/when he met with Russians, or why he was involved in firing Comey, or how he feels about the president's decisions, with: "I don't recall" or "I believe so" or "maybe".

Following his testimony, CNN reported that Sessions has simply not discussed with the White House whether Trump had made a decision to invoke executive privilege regarding their conversations. "Now you're not answering questions". But essentially, any member of the executive branch can invoke it. Richard Burr, committee chairman to Sessions before his opening testimony.

It's unfair to say that the Trump administration is failing to make any progress. "That's much more of a gray area".

In his testimony last week, Comey said he and Trump had a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office on February 14 about the investigation into the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.