By Eric Tucker, Alan Fram and Kimberly Chandler
WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a raised voice and defiant tone, strongly defended himself Tuesday against allegations that he had misled members of Congress about his knowledge of communications between Russians and associates of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
“In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory,” Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee. “But I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”
Sessions, who as an Alabama senator led a foreign policy advisory council for the Trump campaign, has been dogged since January by his evolving explanations about his own foreign contacts during the campaign and about how much he knew of communication between Trump associates and Russian government intermediaries.
“I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie,” Sessions said.
Those questions have only deepened since the guilty plea last month of George Papadopoulos, a former Trump adviser who served on the council Sessions chaired and who proposed arranging a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. As well, another aide, Carter Page, told Congress in private statements that he had alerted Sessions about a meeting he planned in Russia during the campaign.
Sessions said he had no recollection of the conversation with Page. And he said that though he did not initially recall a March 2016 conversation with Papadopoulos, he now believes that he told Papadopoulos that he was not authorized to represent the Trump campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government.
Papadopoulos was arrested by the FBI and pleaded guilty to lying to authorities about his own foreign contacts during the campaign.
“I pushed back, I’ll just say it that way,” Sessions said under questioning.
The oversight hearing came one day after the Justice Department said Sessions had directed federal prosecutors to look into whether a special counsel might be merited to investigate allegations that the Clinton Foundation benefited from an Obama-era uranium transaction involving a Russia-backed company.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Bob Goodlatte, who has represented Virginia’s sixth congressional district since 1993, did not ask Sessions any questions about his communications with Russia. Goodlatte announced last Thursday via Twitter that he would not seek re-election in the sixth district.
Sessions also voiced no skepticism Tuesday of accounts by women accusing Roy Moore of groping or pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teens, and hinted the Justice Department might look into allegations against the besieged Republican Alabama Senate candidate.
“I have no reason to doubt these young women,” Sessions told a House committee. His words seemed certain to carry heft in Alabama, where he was a long-time GOP senator until becoming President Donald Trump’s attorney general this year and remains one of that state’s most influential Republican voices.
Answering questions before the House Judiciary Committee, Sessions didn’t rule out a federal probe into the charges.
“We will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated,” Sessions said.