Tempers flare: Sen. Ron Wyden and Jeff Sessions have heated exchange at hearing

He contended on Tuesday that writing a letter did not violate his earlier recusal. Sessions said it is not a “sound position” to say he could not carry out his duties related to the agencies he oversees because of one investigation.

Sessions said Tuesday that he and Rosenstein had a “clear view” that the FBI had “problems” and needed a fresh start. They were asked their opinions and felt comfortable putting them into writing, the attorney general said.

Their full exchange is below:

WYDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing in the open, in full view of the American people where it belongs. I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling. Americans don’t want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged and off-limits or that they can’t be provided in public or that it would be “inappropriate” for witnesses to tell us what they know. We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable and General Sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. It’s not a question.

Last Thursday, I asked Director Comey about the FBI’s interactions with you, General Sessions, prior to your stepping aside from the Russian investigation. Mr. Comey said that your continued engagement with the Russian investigation was “problematic” and he, Mr. Comey, could not discuss it in public. Mr. Comey also said that FBI personnel had been calling for you to step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you finally did so.

Now, in your prepared statement, you stated you received only “limited information … necessary to inform [your] recusal decision,” but given Director Comey’s statement, we need to know what that was. Were you aware of any concerns that the FBI or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the Russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the Russian investigation.

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