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Jeff Sessions Kept 'Forgetting' Things During His Testimony About Trump & Russia

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sessions has been the subject of much speculation since March, when he recused himself from the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. This could have something to do with his possible contacts with Russian officials.

Following up on former FBI Director James Comey’s key testimony last week, the main idea was clear: In response to every question, Sessions either denied “collusion" with Russia, or forgot about Russian communications entirely.

“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,” Sessions asserted in his opening remarks.

“Further, I have no knowledge if any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign,” Sessions continued. He later called the mere suggestion that he was involved with the Kremlin State to sway the election an “appalling and detestable lie.”

Despite his outright denials, he also seemed to be forgetting a lot. According to NPR, Sessions claimed he couldn’t “recall” 18 times. For instance, he denied meeting Russian ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016 by saying, “If any brief interaction occurred in passing with the Russian ambassador, I do not remember it.”

Sessions almost entirely avoided or refused any questions relating to his and President Trump’s conversations. And several top Democrats were not having it.

“You’re impeding this investigation,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said. “Your silence speaks volumes.”

“I believed the American people have had it with stonewalling,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) said, echoing the sentiments of Sen. Heinrich and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif).

“I am not stonewalling!” Sessions fired back at Wyden. “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.”

Apparently, Sessions was excusing his behavior by pointing out—but somehow not invoking—executive privilege. That was the "historic policy" he was referring to. According to Business Insider, executive privilege can only be claimed by members of the executive branch, including the president himself, in order to withhold certain information from courts.

However, Sessions is not a member of the executive branch, so he can't invoke executive privilege. Instead, he claimed he was trying to protect Trump’s future rights to executive privilege...somehow. "I'm protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses," Sessions said. "The president will either assert the privilege or not, or some other privilege can be asserted, but at this point I believe it's premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligence choice about executive privilege."

Essentially, Sessions likely had no idea what would or wouldn’t be acceptable to Trump for him to say in the testimony. So he chose not to really say anything at all.

When it came to Sen. Harris’ turn to ask Sessions some questions, she pressed him on his recollections (or lack thereof) of his meetings with Russian personnel. Instead of answering, Sessions said, “I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.” After that, GOP Chairman Sen. Richard Burr told Harris that her questioning time had expired.

During his testimony, Sessions also denied part of Comey’s testimony last week. The Department of Justice protocols suggest strongly against any solo meetings with sitting presidents in order to prevent any interference in investigatory decisions. However, Comey testified that Trump made everyone leave the Oval Office before he strongly suggested that Comey stop investigating his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's ties to Russia. Comey claimed that Sessions, his official superior, said nothing against Trump’s actions.

“I responded to his comment by agreeing that the F.B.I. and Department of Justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the White House,” Sessions said.

In fact, Sessions was involved in the decision to fire Comey, who had served as FBI Director since 2013—though Sessions' explanations of why he thought Comey needed to be fired keep changing.

If nothing else is clear from Sessions testimony, even going under oath won’t make Trump’s closest allies budge on anything to do with Russia.