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US attorney general Sessions evasive on Russia probe: congressman

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer questions on Thursday during a closed congressional hearing about whether President Donald Trump ever instructed him to hinder the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a Democratic congressman said.

Sessions testified behind closed doors for several hours before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

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Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, told reporters he was troubled by Sessions’ refusal to answer what he believes are essential questions.

“I asked the Attorney General whether he was ever instructed by the president to take any action that he believed would hinder the Russia investigation and he declined to answer the question,” Schiff said after the hearing.

“There is no privileged basis to decline to answer a question like that. If the president did not instruct him to take an action that would hinder the investigation, he should say so. If the president did instruct him to hinder the investigation in any way, in my view that would be a potential criminal act,” Schiff said.

Sessions declined to comment to reporters as he left the secure hearing room.

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The House Intelligence panel is among several congressional committees, along with the Justice Department’s special counsel Robert Mueller, investigating allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign.

Moscow has denied any meddling and Trump has said there was no collusion.

Another source familiar with his testimony said that Sessions said he could not remember the answers to many important questions, and the answers he did provide concerning meetings with Russians tracked statements he had previously made in other congressional hearings.

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A spokeswoman for Sessions said he has consistently declined to discuss his communications with Trump in the past, and that he has also previously said he was never instructed to do anything illegal or improper.

When he was a Republican U.S. senator, Sessions was an early supporter and close adviser to Trump during his run for the White House.

Democrats have accused Sessions of repeatedly changing his sworn testimony throughout several prior congressional hearings about meetings and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

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Schiff said committee members asked Sessions questions during the closed hearing about his prior testimony and about “interactions the campaign had with Russia.”

Later on Thursday, the intelligence committee was meeting with Erik Prince, who founded the private military contractor Blackwater and was a supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Schiff said the Republican-led Intelligence committee is planning to publicly release the transcript after Prince’s closed hearing, but that there was no plan to release a transcript from Sessions’ testimony.

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(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Trott and Grant McCool)


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Right-wing activists call on Mitch McConnell to stop blocking election security bills

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On Wednesday, CNN reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing renewed pressure to take up election security legislation, from a pair of unlikely sources: Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, and FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon.

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DNI whistleblower complaint stems from promise Trump allegedly made in phone call to foreign leader: report

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On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the source of the whistleblower complaint currently being suppressed by the Director of National Intelligence is a phone conversation between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader.

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White supremacists are making a list to track Jews critical of them

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The next step of the white supremacist attack on the United States is creating a list of Jewish people.

Mother Jones reported the story Wednesday that any Jews who complain about white nationalists are listed and tracked by a fast-growing group on the app Telegram.

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