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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sworn in before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions explicitly denied that he'd been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the federal government's investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election. During a heated exchange with Sen. Pat Leahy during a Justice Department oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions hesitated and hinted that he'd have to clear his answer with Mueller before his denial.

More on Sessions' interactions with Russians: Leahy also asked Sessions if he'd discussed a few different topics with any Russian officials since the start of the 2016 campaign: emails ("I don't recall"), Russian interference in the 2016 election ("No"), sanctions like the Magnitsky Act ("I don't believe I've ever had any discussion at any time about the Magnitsky Act"), and Trump's positions ("I think that's a possibility").

More from Sessions' testimony:

  • On discussing conversations with Trump: "I can neither exert executive privilege nor can I disclose the content of my private conversations with the president."
  • On his refusal to assert executive privilege: "[T]he burden is on those who want to breach a core privilege of the president…to show precisely what it is that you'd like him to waive it on."
  • On Comey's firing: "I don't think it's been fully understood the significance of the error that Mr. Comey made on the Clinton matter."
  • On Mueller's probe: "He will produce the work in the way he thinks is correct — and history will judge."
  • On whether the U.S. is doing enough to prevent future election interference: "Probably not."
  • On the travel ban: "It's a lawful, necessary order that we are proud to defend."
  • On DACA: Sessions said the legal basis to rescind the policy came via its blanket implementation when the Office of Legal Counsel had approved its use on an individual basis. He refused to discuss any discussions with Texas' attorney general regarding the state's suit against the policy, claiming privilege via work product.
  • On supporting DREAM Act with border security: "I have not supported explicitly anything about citizenship but I am prepared to say…I think something could be worked out on this but it can't just be one-sided."
  • On DOJ defending Trump in emoluments cases: "It is the responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the office of the presidency in carrying out its duties against charges that are not deemed meritorious…We believe this is defensible."
  • On the process behind the pardon of Joe Arpaio: "The president has the power to issue pardons with or without the DOJ involved…I'm just saying to you that I'm not personally at this moment prepared to give you an accurate answer."

Go deeper

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.

Congress passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate voted 69-28 to pass legislation Thursday night to fund the government until February 18.

Why it matters: The move staves off a government shutdown but lawmakers still have a busy month ahead: Congress needs to work out a deal to raise the debt ceiling in a few weeks and Democrats are trying to pass their behemoth social spending bill.

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

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