Jeff Sessions' turn in the hot seat

Comey himself testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, suggesting possible conflicts of interest or even obstruction of justice.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of OR asked Sessions about suggestions arising from Comey's testimony last week that there was something "problematic" about his recusal. Since that hearing we've learned that the former Alabama senator lied under oath about undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador.

Sessions was also pressed about what he and Trump talked about before Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

But Trump's subsequent statement on NBC that he was thinking of the Russian Federation probe when he sacked the Federal Bureau of Investigation director would call into question any such explanation by Sessions.

Though the Justice Department maintains that it has fully disclosed the extent of Sessions' foreign contacts past year, lawmakers have continued to press him for answers about an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where both Sessions and Kislyak attended a foreign policy speech by Trump.

In March he acknowledged he met twice past year with Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak.

SESSIONS: I have no idea. He added that Mueller will have the "full independence he needs to conduct that investigation" and that there was "no secret plan" to fire him. "And so I don't doubt that he was", said Sessions, as he was questioned by committee Chairman Sen. "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have - did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it", end quote. Trump could recommend to the Justice Department that the special counsel be fired.

The former Republican U.S. senator from Alabama, one of Trump's most avid supporters on the campaign trail, will likely have to explain why he told lawmakers in January he had no dealings with Kremlin officials past year. Since Sessions is recused from these matters, he would likely would send such a recommendation to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

Finally, Mr. Franken got down to his question: What would Mr. Sessions do - as attorney general - if evidence ever actually surfaced suggesting that the Trump campaign really had conspired with the Russian government to rig the American election.

In a February meeting, Comey said, Trump told Sessions and other administration officials to leave the room before asking him to drop a probe into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's contacts with Russian Federation.

Comey further claimed that he and members of the FBI leadership team did not discuss Trump's alleged request for the FBI director's loyalty as the group believed Sessions would inevitably recuse himself from the Russian Federation investigation.

Lawmakers for weeks have demanded answers from Sessions, particularly about meetings he had last summer and fall with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Sessions said that from that moment, until the announcement of his recusal on March 2, he "did not access any information about the investigation".

Sessions says the president was not asserting executive privilege and that Sessions was simply protecting Trump's right to do so if he chooses. But he said that he was unable to say whether he had discussed Comey's handling of the FBI investigation on the principle that his conversations with the President should be kept confidential. Sessions says he was there for a speech by then-candidate Donald Trump and members of Sessions' staff also were there.

Sessions testified that he had been at an event at the Mayflower hotel previous year when Trump was giving a foreign policy speech.

Sessions was adamant that he did not have a private meeting with Kislyak at that event. "I am going to protect the integrity of that investigation". Russian Federation has denied interfering in the USA election.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, told reporters on Tuesday he had heard only rumours about Mueller, but said, "The best advice would be to let Robert Mueller do his job".