Attorney General Jeff Sessions was never briefed on alleged Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election, even after becoming the top law enforcement officer in the country, he said Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Under a line of questioning by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Sessions declined to say whether he believes Russia attempted interfere in last year’s election.
“The intelligence community seems to be united in that,” Sessions said. “But I have to tell you, Sen. King, I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper. I’ve never received any detailed briefing on how hacking occurred or information that was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”
He told King that he never sought details on the Russia investigation because of his close connections to Trump’s presidential campaign.
“You might have been very critical of me if I, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign,” Sessions said.
“I’m not talking about the campaign, I’m talking about what the Russians did,” King responded. “You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?”
"No, I don't believe I ever did," Sessions said.
Sessions recused himself in March from a federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign after acknowledging that he had met twice last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States. He had told lawmakers at his January confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russians during the campaign.
He denied allegations Tuesday that he perjured himself with that statement.
“Sen. (Al) Franken asked me a rambling question after some six hours of testimony,” Sessiona said. “I was taken aback by that explosive allegation ... I wanted to refute that immediately.”
Sessions is the highest-ranking official to be called to testify in the ongoing investigation into possible ties between Russian hackers and the Trump presidential campaign.
The attorney general's testimony comes days after Comey told congressional investigators that FBI leaders expected Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation before the attorney general's March announcement, however, he declined to publicly say what led to that assessment.
"Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons," Comey said. "We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.