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LATEST: Sessions won't talk Trump conversations

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Latest on probes into possible contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russia (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

Members of the Senate intelligence committee are expressing confusion over why Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not disclose his conversations with the president.

Sessions won't describe his conversations with President Donald Trump about the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Yet he says he does not have the power to invoke executive privilege, and the president has not asserted it.

Maine independent Sen. Angus King asked a number of questions about the basis for Sessions' refusal to answer questions.

Sessions says the president was not asserting executive privilege and that Sessions was simply protecting Trump's right to do so if he chooses.


4:00 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has angrily denied that there were problems related to his decision to recuse himself from the FBI's investigation into Russian activities during the election.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier before the Senate intelligence committee said he knew of reasons why it would be problematic for Sessions to remain involved in the Russia investigation, even before he recused himself.

Sessions raised his voice to the Democratic senator pressing him for an answer, insisting there were no such reasons.

Sessions said to Sen. Ron Wyden: "There are none."

Sessions bristled at Wyden, telling the Oregon senator that people are suggesting through innuendo that he has not been honest.


3:55 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says fired FBI Director James Comey should have shared his concerns about a meeting with President Donald Trump with another Justice Department official.

Comey testified last week that he did not tell Sessions that Trump had asked him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia because he suspected Sessions would soon need to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

But Sessions says Comey should have relayed his concerns to Dana Boente, who was then acting as deputy attorney general and Comey's direct supervisor. He says Comey should have talked to Boente, especially if he had concerns about Sessions staying involved in the Russia investigation.


3:52 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says fired FBI director James Comey's decision to announce that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted over her emails was a "usurpation" of the Justice Department's authority.

Sessions says he recommended Comey's firing after a number of concerns about his job performance. But his very public handling of the Clinton email investigation was chief among them.

He says Comey's decision to announce the results of the investigation without Justice Department approval was "a stunning development" because "the FBI is the investigative team. They don't decide prosecution."

He called Comey's move "a thunderous thing" and it caused him to conclude "that a fresh start was appropriate."


3:36 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he never had conversations with FBI Director James Comey about his job performance before Comey's firing.

Sessions recommended the firing last month, raising questions about whether he violated his recusal from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia. But Sessions says he had concerns about Comey's job performance even before he was confirmed. He says he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discussed it and "we both agreed that a fresh start at the FBI was probably the best thing."

Sessions says he was involved in Comey's firing because he oversees the FBI. Sessions added that, "to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation" would render him unable to manage the leadership of the FBI would be "absurd."


3:20 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he recused himself from the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia because he was involved in the campaign.

Sessions says his recusal was not because he had done something wrong or was, himself, the subject of the investigation. He says he stepped aside because Justice Department rules prevent such a conflict of interest. Sessions became attorney general in February but did not recuse himself from that probe until March.

He says it "became clear to me over time that I qualified as a principal adviser to the campaign and it was appropriate and right for me to recuse myself."


3:10 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is contradicting fired FBI director James Comey's testimony about his concerns over a meeting he had with Trump.

Comey testified last week that Sessions did not respond when he complained that he did not want to be left alone with President Donald Trump again. This was after a February meeting in which Comey said Trump told Sessions and others to leave the room before asking him to drop a probe into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia.

Sessions says he was not silent, saying he stressed to Comey the need to be careful about following appropriate policies.

He says he is confident that Comey understood and would abide by the Justice Departments rules on communications with the White House about ongoing investigations.


3:05 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the suggestion that he colluded with Russians in the 2016 presidential election "is an appalling and detestable lie."

Sessions's comments came during his Senate testimony on whether he met privately with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Sessions says he was there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump and members of Sessions' staff also were there.

He says the suggestion he was "aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country which I have served for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie."

Sessions adds that he has no knowledge of "any such conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign."


3:00 p.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he did not have third meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

His impassioned response came after Senate Democrats raised questions about whether Sessions privately met with Sergey Kislyak at an April 2016 foreign policy event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Sessions says he was there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump and members of Sessions' staff were also in attendance.

But he says he does not recall any private meetings or conversations with Russian officials at that event.

Sessions in March stepped aside from the federal investigation into contacts between Russia and the presidential campaign after acknowledging that he had met twice last year with Kislyak.


2:58 p.m.

Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr says that so far, the panel has interviewed more than 35 individuals, including Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of homeland security, in connection with its investigation of Russian activities during last year's campaign.

The North Carolina Republican senator gave the update Tuesday at the beginning of an open hearing to hear testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Burr says the committee staff met with Johnson on Monday.

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