Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls allegations he colluded with the Russians a 'detestable lie' during Senate hearing

WASHINGTON, June 13 (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, appearing at a high-stakes Senate hearing, on Tuesday denounced as "an appalling and detestable lie" the idea that he colluded with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sessions testified about his dealings with Russian officials and whether he intentionally misled Congress as the Senate Intelligence Committee probes the Russia matter.

"I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States. Further, I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected with the Trump campaign," Sessions said.

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

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Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

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"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.

As Sessions entered the crowded hearing room, a swarm of news photographers clicked away with their cameras. Sessions is the most senior member of President Donald Trump's administration caught up in the controversy over whether associates of the president colluded with Russia to help Trump win the election.

The committee's chairman, Republican Richard Burr, told Sessions the hearing was "your opportunity to separate fact from fiction" and "set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press."

Even before Sessions testified, attention in Washington swiveled to whether Trump might seek to fire Robert Mueller, the former FBI director named last month by the Justice Department to head a federal probe into the Russia issue.

SEE ALSO: Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin comments on impeachment reports

Such a move would be complicated and potentially politically explosive. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the person who would be responsible for carrying out any such dismissal, told a different congressional panel on Tuesday he would not fire Mueller without good cause and he had seen no such cause.

Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee just five days after James Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director on May 9, told the panel Trump ousted him to undermine the agency's investigation of the Russia matter. Sessions had written a letter to Trump recommending Comey's firing.

Burr said he wanted to know from Sessions what meetings he had with Russian officials or their proxies on behalf of the Trump campaign, why he recused himself from the Russia investigation and what role, if any, he played in the firing of Comey.

RELATED: Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony

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Reactions to James Comey's Senate testimony
This is history in the making, folks. #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony #TimeToSetTheRecordStraight #ComeyPleaseSaveUs https://t.co/BvLx0eWjdY
At some point I hope he tells us what he's been binge watching on Netflix since he lost his job #ComeyTestimony
What idiot decided to call it the #ComeyTestimony instead of James and the Giant Impeach?
#comey "It confused me when I learned on television that I was fired over the Russia investigation." #ComeyTestimony
I hope this #ComeyTestimony pilot gets picked up for a full season. It's a bit House of Cards meets American Horror Story, but it's solid.
Comey has now said that Trump has aimed to defame him and the FBI. He literally just called Trump a liar. #ComeyTestimony
Do you have any doubt of Russia's interference in the 2016 election? Comey: None #ComeyTestimony
Comey: "The FBI is honest, the FBI is strong. The FBI is and always will be independent." #ComeyTestimony
Was the FBI able to confirm any allegations in the dossier? "not a question I can answer in an open setting" #ComeyTestimony
If you're tweeting about ANYTHING other than #ComeyTestimony right now...don't. This is maybe the most important thing this year. #comeyday
Sure sounds like the Steele dossier is “credible,” but honestly is anyone at this point surprised? #ComeyTestimony
Maaaaaan this ain't no Super Bowl #Comey #ComeyTestimony #Testicomey
"Not a question I can answer in an open setting"? Come on Comey you don't have a job to lose. #ComeyTestimony
Twitter waiting on Trump tweets #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/pCUiZJoCnR
Comey: Bill Clinton's meeting with AG Loretta Lynch contributed to his decision to publicly discuss Clinton email probe. #ComeyTestimony
One thing is CLEAR: Comey is a highly respected, former member of our government. I can feel the sadness of many. #ComeyTestimony
"I was concerned he might lie." -- former FBI director about the President of the United States. #ComeyTestimony
Now we know what Trump whispered into Comey's ear: "I really look forward to working with you" #ComeyTestimony https://t.co/d0Ij5kYYnV
Comey says he was confused when @realDonaldTrump kept asking him if he wanted the job after telling him 3x he could stay. #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Oval mtg: "I'm 56 yo. I've seen a few things...I knew something was about to happen that I needed to pay very close attention to."
It's sad that I enjoy this far more than I do watching any sporting event. #ComeyTestimony #DCSuperBowl
Comey just gave a good lecture on using leaked info, which is often wrong or misleading #ComeyTestimony
"I take the President at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation." - #ComeyTestimony
Comey on Trump's loyalty demand: "I don't know the president well enough to read him well. … it was very awkward." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: Lordy, I hope there are tapes. #ComeyTestimony
Feinstein with the most important Q so far: why didn't you tell #Trump this wasn't appropriate? #ComeyTestimony
"Nice job you got there. 'I hope' nothing happens to it." #ComeyTestimony
Whoever is in charge of hiding the president's phone this morning deserves a raise. #ComeyTestimony
"... the odor of Presidential abuse of power is so strong." - Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon. #ComeyTestimony
"A J. Edgar Hoover situation" can mean a lot of things. #ComeyTestimony
Comey is a really good, experienced witness #ComeyTestimony
OK. The written testimony needed to be pre-reading for ALL of the senators. #ComeyTestimony
I've never wanted Trump to tweet so badly in my entire life. Pick your phone up! Do it!! DO IT!!!!
"A gut feel" = why #ComeySays he kept memos of Trump meetings #ComeyTestimony
#ComeyTestimony "The Russians interfered in our election in 2016-2017... there is no fuzz on that... that's about as unfake as you can get"
Why did he kick everyone out….As an investigator that's a very significant act. #ComeyTestimony
"They'll be back," Comey says of election meddling by the Russians. #ComeyTestimony
Comey says he broke date night with his wife to attend dinner with President Trump. Moral of story, never break date night? #ComeyTestimony
Comey on leaking to the media: "Like feeding seagulls at the beach"
"I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." Front pages today @BostonGlobe @bostonherald #ComeyTestimony @boston25 https://t.co/fIjAlmwqDe
#comey was asked if he thought he would've been fired if Hillary Clinton was president: "I don't know." #ComeyTestimony
Comey: If @realDonaldTrump taped me, 'my feelings aren't hurt. Release all of the tapes. I'm good with it' #ComeyTestimony
"That's Bob Mueller's job to sort that out." When asked whether this arises to obstruction of justice. #ComeyTestimony
Laughter as Comey says he's 'between opportunities' right now. #ComeyTestimony
Senators have 7 minutes to ask questions; not sure why they waste 90 seconds of it on waffle-y preamble #ComeyTestimony
Trump's lawyer expected to make a statement after the Comey hearing finishes #ComeyDay #ComeyTestimony
“I’m not sure if he’s watched any of” #ComeyTestimony, “it’s a regular Thursday of the White House,” says @SHSanders45.
If Comey didn’t trust Trump, he should have resigned. #ComeyTestimony
"I was fired to change the way the Russian investigation was being conducted." #ComeyTestimony
"I'm not going to sit here and try to interpret the president's tweets." - Comey #ComeyHearings #ComeyDay https://t.co/HLXrGxWHZ8
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The testimony by Comey marked the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged the Republican Trump's first five months as president and distracted from his domestic policy agenda including major healthcare and tax cut initiatives.

Sessions, a former Republican U.S. senator and an early supporter of Trump's presidential campaign, is expected to be asked to explain why he told senators in January that he had no dealings with Russian officials last year while serving as an adviser to candidate Trump.

In March he acknowledged he met twice last year with Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak. His staff said Sessions did not mislead Congress because the encounters were part of his job as a U.S. senator, not as a Trump campaign representative. But the revelations prompted Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March.

The abrupt dismissal of Comey prompted Trump's critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation.

SEE ALSO: Trump confidant Chris Ruddy slams Spicer over Mueller flap

The attorney general will also face questions about whether he met Kislyak on a third occasion. Several media outlets have reported that Comey told the Intelligence Committee in closed session last week that the FBI was examining whether Sessions met with Kislyak at a Washington hotel last year. The Justice Department has denied such a meeting occurred.

MUELLER'S FATE

Trump has been publicly dismissive of the Russia investigation for months. A Trump confidant, Chris Ruddy, told "PBS NewsHour" on Monday the president was weighing whether to fire Mueller.

Amid the firestorm over Comey's dismissal, the Justice Department's Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe into Russian election interference and any collusion by Trump aides. Russia has denied interfering in the U.S. election. The White House has denied any collusion.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help Trump in part by hacking and releasing damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

RELATED: Jeff Sessions through the years

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Jeff Sessions through the years

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pauses at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., March 2, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama arrives at Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump works from home November 15, 2016. Making the vital choices for President-elect Donald Trump's White House cabinet has sparked intense infighting, CNN reported Monday, with one source calling it a 'knife fight.' The jobs to be filled include national security positions and West Wing posts, the television news network said, as Trump gathered with transition team members in New York.

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump greets Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's picks for attorney general, during a thank you rally in Ladd-Peebles Stadium on December 17, 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. President-elect Trump has been visiting several states that he won, to thank people for their support during the U.S. election.

(Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., right, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., nominee for attorney general, talk near the Ohio Clock after a meeting in the Capitol, November 30, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., speaks during a 'USA Thank You Tour 2016' event at the LaddPeebles Stadium in Mobile, AL on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Senator Jeff Sessions, attorney general pick for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, right, listens as Senator Charles 'Chuck' Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, speaks during a meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S, on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Sessions, the 69-year-old, four-term Alabama Republican is a hard-liner on free trade and immigration, arguing that prospective immigrants don't have constitutional protections.

(Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

US President-elect Donald Trump (C) talks with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (2nd L) and US Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (L) as he arrives in Mobile, Alabama, for a 'Thank You Tour 2016' rally on December 17, 2016.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Pence, 2016 Republican vice presidential nominee, left, and Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, gesture during a campaign event for Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, not pictured, in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Trump returned to form in Phoenix Wednesday night with a nativist immigration plan definitively ruling out legal status for undocumented immigrants, as well as proposing to build a wall on the southern border of the United States and forcing Mexico to cover the cost.

(Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

MADISON, AL - FEBRUARY 28: United States Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, beomes the first Senator to endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States at Madison City Stadium on February 28, 2016 in Madison, Alabama.

(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)(L) speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, February 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan on President Obamas FY2016 budget request. Also pitcured are (L-R), Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Rob Poertman (R-OH).

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (2nd L) speaks as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) (R) listen during a news conference September 9, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The legislators discussed on immigration reform during the news conference.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL., and members of the House Budget Committee during the House Budget Committee's news conference on the 'Introduction of the FY2013 Budget - Pathway to Prosperity.'

(Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call)

Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., left, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, leave the Capitol en route to a news conference to oppose the immigration reform bill in the Senate.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performs during the National Prayer Breakfast as First Lady Michelle Obama (L), US President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Senator Jeff Sessions (3rd L), R-AL, watch on February 7, 2013 at a hotel in Washington, DC.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL., talks with Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA., as they make their way to the Senate policy luncheons through the Senate subway in the U.S. Capitol on September 17, 2013.

(Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is interviewed by the press during the weekly Senate policy luncheons. The Senate vote will this afternoon on Obama's small-business tax relief legislation.

(Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., speaks at the 'Iran Democratic Transition Conference,' hosted by the Institute of World Politics in Capitol Visitor Center. The conference explored the prospects of political change in Iran.

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call)

US President Barack Obama (C) signs the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office of the White House, on August 3, 2010 in Washington, DC. The law will aim to correct the disparities between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. Also in the picture (L to R); Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Democratic Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas. Previously, people in possession of powder cocaine could carry up to one hundred times more grams than crack offenders and receive the same sentence.

(Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan (L) shakes hands with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (R), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, while Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) looks on, after she arrived for the first day of her confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill June 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. Kagan is U.S. President Barack Obama's second Supreme Court nominee since taking office.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The new co chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Jeff Sessions (D-AL) works in his office on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning May 02, 2009. Sen. Sessions speaks to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) before visiting with US Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

(The Washington Post via Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama (3rd-R) and Vice President Joe Biden (3rd-L) meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (2nd-R) ,D-NV, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (2nd-L),R-KY, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (R) ,D-VT, and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (L),R-AL, about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination on May 13, 2009 at the White House in Washington, DC.  

(TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (R) listens as ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) (L) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor during the second day of her confirmation hearings July 14, 2009 in Washington, DC. Sotomayor faces a full day of questioning from Senators on the committee today. Sotomayor, an appeals court judge and U.S. President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, will become the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court if confirmed.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

US President George W. Bush (L) listens as Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) speaks during a Republican fundraiser for Sessions at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama, 21 June 2007.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President George W. Bush (2R) waves as he stands with First Lady Laura Bush (R), Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (2L) and his wife Mary (L) after a Republican fundraiser for Sessions at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, Alabama, 21 June 2007.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Baghdad, IRAQ: US Senators Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, (L) and Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, speak to the media after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, 28 April 2007. Maliki told a delegation of visiting US lawmakers today that foreign powers should not try to influence the Iraqi political process. He also resisted calls for his Shiite-led government to rehabilitate former members of ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein's regime. Maliki met a group of US congressmen shortly after their chamber voted for a law calling for a timetable for American troop withdrawal from Iraq.

(KHALID MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL, (C) speaks with the media as (L-R) U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA), U.S. Representative David Dreier (R-CA) and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) listen at the White House after participating in a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush on March 16, 2006 in Washington, DC. Senators from various states, including U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), participated in a line item veto legislation meeting.

(Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., during a news conference after the Senate took a step Wednesday toward the 'security first' approach to immigration control promoted in the House, paving the way for action on legislation that would require construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing along segments of the U.S. border with Mexico. Despite Democratic charges that Republicans were moving the bill (HR 6061) to score political points seven weeks before Election Day, the Senate voted 94-0 to limit debate on a motion to proceed to formal consideration of the measure. The bill (HR 6061), which would also authorize a 'virtual fence' of sensors, cameras, unmanned aerial vehicles and other surveillance technology along the entire southwest border, was passed by the House last week. Three more targeted border security and internal immigration enforcement measures are set for House action, possibly as early as Thursday. Frist supported an earlier Senate comprehensive bill that would offer a path to citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. Sessions did not; he considers that aspect of the bill amnesty.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L), speaks with U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) during a Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Alberto R. Gonzales January 6, 2005 in Washington, DC. U.S. President George W. Bush has nominated Gonzales to be the U.S. Attorney General.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in his office in the Russell Senate Office Building.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Senator-elect Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., talk in the Ohio Clock Corridor during the election meeting for Senate Republican leadership.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Sen. Jeff Sessions at a hearing to examine 'President Clinton's Eleventh Hour Pardons.'

(Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

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If Trump were targeting Mueller, dismissing him would not be a simple matter. Trump could recommend to the Justice Department that the special counsel be fired. Since Sessions is recused from these matters, he would likely would send such a recommendation to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

In a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Rosenstein offered assurances about Mueller. "I am confident that he will have sufficient independence," he told a Senate panel evaluating a Justice Department budget request.

Rosenstein told the panel he had seen no evidence of good cause for letting Mueller go, and that lacking such evidence he would not follow any theoretical order to fire him. (Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Richard Cowan, Andy Sullivan, Amanda Becker, Warren Strobel, Steve Holland, Daqvid Alexander and Mohammad Zargham; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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