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Senate Questions Jeff Sessions About Contacts With Russian Officials

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate intelligence committee for more than two hours this afternoon. The hearing was at times fiery. Senators questioned him about his dealings with the Russian ambassador and the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Here's one exchange between Sessions and independent Senator Angus King of Maine. King was incredulous to learn how little Sessions says he knew about the intelligence on Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANGUS KING: Do you believe the Russians interfered with the 2016 elections?

JEFF SESSIONS: It appears so. The intelligence community seems to be united in that. But I have to tell you, Senator King, I know nothing but what I've read in the paper. I've never received any detail briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.

KING: Well, between the election, there was a memorandum from the intelligence committee on October 9 that detailed what the Russians were doing. After the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?

SESSIONS: No.

KING: Never - you never asked for a briefing or...

CORNISH: Republican senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas offered more sympathetic questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOM COTTON: Do you like spy fiction - John le Carre, Daniel Silva, Jason Matthews?

SESSIONS: Yeah, Alan Furst, David Ignatius...

COTTON: (Unintelligible) Jason Bourne or...

SESSIONS: ...Just finished Ignatius's book.

COTTON: Do you like Jason Bourne or James Bond movies?

SESSIONS: No - yes, I do.

(LAUGHTER)

COTTON: Have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plotline so ridiculous that a sitting United States senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of history of (inaudible)?

SESSIONS: Thank you for saying that, Senator Cotton. It's just, like, through the looking-glass.

CORNISH: Keep listening for analysis of the hearing elsewhere in the program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.