Less than a week after former FBI Director James B. Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the spotlight turned to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and his role in Comey's firing, the Russia investigation and other issues.
Here are key moments:
Sessions does not remember meeting any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said Tuesday it was possible he met the Russian ambassador at a reception in April 2016 but said he did not recall any conversation between them and he denied any wrongdoing.
"I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any private conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel," Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The FBI has been investigating whether Sessions had an undisclosed meeting with the Russian envoy at the hotel. Sessions said he was there for a Trump campaign speech, which drew several foreign ambassadors.
Sen. Martin Heinrich accused Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions of "impeding" the Senate investigation by not answering questions before the chamber's Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
"You are obstructing" the Senate investigation, the New Mexico Democrat told Sessions, pushing the attorney general on whether he is invoking executive privilege to refuse to answer.
Sessions, who avoided claiming executive privilege during the Intelligence Committee hearing, said he is "protecting the president's constitutional right" to confidential communications. Several administration officials over the last week have refused to answer questions from senators but have not specifically invoked executive privilege.
While he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the election, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions argues he didn’t step down from supervising the Justice Department – or from being able to recommend firing FBI Director James B. Comey.
Sessions said he spoke about the need to get rid of Comey with Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein long before a meeting about the FBI director with President Trump last month.
“It was something we both agreed to, that a fresh start at the FBI was a good thing,” Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions took a page from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's book during Tuesday's testimony, avoiding a tough question about President Trump's comments by saying that they speak for themselves.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the San Francisco Democrat, asked whether Sessions knew it was Trump's opinion that he would have fired FBI Director James Comey regardless of the official Justice Department recommendation when he signed his own letter recommending that Comey be fired.
“I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves," Sessions said.
Sessions, channeling Spicer: "I would let his words speak for themselves."
Observations from Times' political writer Cathleen Decker on the hearing so far:
To recap: Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said earlier that former FBI Director James B. Comey was fired for deficiencies. Pressed about President Trump's having said Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation, Sessions wouldn't elaborate.
Sessions says he "felt comfortable" listing his criticisms in writing. When asked whether Comey's firing was because of to Russia, Sessions again defers to Trump.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): asks: "When you wrote your letter, did you know Trump already planned to fire Comey?" Sessions tells Feinstein that Trump's words speak for themselves.
Asked whether he would have "headed for the exit" had he heard any indication that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, Sessions lightly says: "Maybe."
An hour in, here are the headlines: Sessions says he can't remember any more Russian meetings, "detestable" lies abound and Comey was uncomfortable with Trump.
Sessions is laying all the blame on meetings with Trump on Comey, as opposed to Trump. But he also confirms Comey's uneasiness.
Since his first hearings before the Senate, Sessions has gone from flatly denying Russian meetings to saying he doesn't remember. Is that from a lawyer impact?
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was boring in on the urgency with which the administration fired Comey — there were no previous talks about supposed deficiencies, just swift action. This is the second time in which Sessions has said that Comey's firing was because of his deficiencies. But Trump told NBC the reason for his firing was Russia. To the extent that any normal people are watching, Sessions' explanation of Comey's firing will seem unusual: No groundwork was laid at all, just boom.
Tonally, Sessions is much more emotional than Comey — and in keeping with earlier hearings where he bridled at criticisms of his integrity.
Sessions confirms that Comey came to him with concerns about President Trump's speaking individually to him. Sessions testifies that he said to abide by the rules.
Comey, in his testimony, suggested there was no big response from Sessions and instead was more of a whaddaya-want-me-to-do shrugging.
Left unstated: After Comey complained about Trump, did Sessions say anything to Trump? (He said he would not describe conversations with Trump.)
Trump would have to claim executive privilege, but Sessions could speak of those talks to the committee. So far, though, he's acting like other administration officials.
Asked why he will not answer some questions, Sessions cites "longstanding [Department of Justice] policy ... for confidential reasons," not executive privilege.
Does Sessions support special prosecutor Robert Mueller III? "I have confidence in Mr. Mueller, but I'm not going to discuss any hypotheticals. ... I know nothing about the interview."
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions refused to answer Tuesday whether President Trump told him that James B. Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation was the reason he planned to fire the FBI director.
Sessions’ dodging of questions posed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California left it unclear whether the attorney general had honored his pledge to recuse himself from all matters involving the investigation of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign.
The veteran Democratic senator pressed Sessions to explain why he wrote Trump a letter recommending the firing of Comey if he knew the president had already made up his mind, as Trump acknowledged in an NBC News interview.