Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) face off at Tuesday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. Wyden accused Sessions of stonewalling and refusing to give answers on the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Sessions told Wyden he did not appreciate the "secret innuendo being leaked out there about me."
"I tried to give my best and truthful answer to any committee I have appeared before and it's really -- people are suggesting through innuendo that I have been not honest about matters and I've tried to be honest," Sessions said to Wyden.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): Thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing in the open and in full view of the American people where it belongs. I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling.
Americans don't want to hear the answers are privileged and off limits or they can't be provided in public or it would be inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable. General Sessions acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. So now to questions. Last Thursday, I asked the former director Comey about the FBI's intersections with you prior to your stepping aside from the Russia investigation. Mr. Comey said your continued engagement with the Russian investigation was "problematic " and he said he could not discuss it in public.
Mr. Comey had also said that FBI personnel were calling for to you step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you finally finally did so. In your prepared statement you said you received, quote, limited information necessary to inform your recusal decision. Given director Comey's statement, we need to know what that was. Were you aware of any concerns at the FBI or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the Russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the Russian investigation?
ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: Senator Wyden, I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice. You don't walk into hearing or committee meeting and reveal confidential communications with the President of the United States who is entitled to receive conventional communications in your best judgment about a host of issues and have to be accused of stonewalling them. So I would push back on that.
Secondly, Mr. Comey, perhaps he didn't know, but I basically recused myself the first day I got into the office because I never accessed files. I never learned the names of investigators. I never met with them. I never asked for any documentation. The documentation, what little I received, was mostly already in the media and was presented by the senior ethics public -- professional responsibility attorney in the department and I made an honest and proper decision to recuse myself as I told Senator Feinstein and the members of the committee I would do when they confirmed me.
WYDEN: General Sessions, respectfully, you're not answering the question.
SESSIONS: What is the question?
WYDEN: The question is Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them. What are they?
SESSIONS: I -- why don't you tell me? There are none, Senator Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me and I don't appreciate it. And I tried to give my best and truthful answer to any committee I have appeared before and it's really -- people are suggesting through innuendo that I have been not honest about matters and I've tried to be honest.
WYDEN: My time is short. You made your point that you think Mr. Comey is engaging in innuendo. We're going to keep digging into this --
SESSIONS: Well, Senator Wyden, he did not say that.
WYDEN: He said it was problematic. And I asked you what is problematic about it?
SESSIONS: Some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in closed session.