WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified Tuesday that he never received — or even requested — a detailed briefing on Russia’s effort to meddle in the 2016 election.
The rather shocking claim from the head of the Justice Department came during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked if Sessions believed the Russians did in fact interfere.
“It appears so. The intelligence community seems to be united in that,” Sessions told King. “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 how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”
King mentioned an Oct. 9 memorandum from the intelligence community that he said detailed what the Russians were up to. “After the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?”
“No,” Sessions said.
“You never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports?” King asked.
“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.
King interrupted to clarify he was not talking about the campaign. Again he asked if Sessions had ever received a briefing on Russia’s possible influence in the election.
“No, I don’t believe I ever did,” Sessions said.
In earlier testimony Tuesday, the former senator from Alabama became defensive at suggestions that he might be involved in such a Russian effort.
“I was your colleague in this body for 20 years, and the suggestion that I participated in any collusion or that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honor for over 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” he said.