Sessions and Franken Go at It in Heated Exchange on Russia Contacts

"That's why I want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be immigration police", he continued.

Sessions issued the blanket statement at the top of an oversight hearing, in response to a letter form panel Democrats expressing their intent to question him about his meeting with Trump and other White House officials the day before Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

In July 2016, Mr Comey had recommended that no charges be filed against Ms Clinton or her aides, effectively closing a probe into her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. But he won't say what, specifically, Trump's concerns with Comey were - and in particular, whether Trump was intent on getting rid of Comey to dispel the "cloud" he felt the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election had cast over his presidency.

"Senator Feinstein, that calls for a communication that I've had with the president and I believe it remains confidential", Sessions said. The attorney general said he had only read about it "in the papers" and not paid much attention. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Sessions whether he discussed the threatened lawsuit with the Texas attorney general before President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

"I don't think it's been fully understood the significance of the errors that Comey made on the Clinton matter", Sessions said.

Yet when asked during a Senate hearing on Wednesday about hypothetical scenarios in which the directive could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans, Sessions spoke like a man just learning about prejudice for the first time.

For now, it's unclear if Sessions believes federal contractors who maintain a place of public accommodation can turn away customers - as the Christian baker did - particularly given a 2014 executive order by former President Obama that bans LGBT discrimination by federal contractors.

But Sessions would not answer Wednesday when Sen. "I'm not sure I should without clearing that with the special counsel".

Sessions replied by claiming, absurdly, that when Franken asked him whether "there was a continuing exchange of information between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government", he thought the question was true only if each and every one of Trump's surrogates was in touch with Russian officials - an explanation that left Franken guffawing. Dick Durbin of IL brought up Sessions' Oct. 6 guidance memo, saying, "Under the guidance you released to all executive departments on religious liberty, let me ask you this question: Could a Social Security Administration employee refuse to accept or process spousal or survivor benefits paperwork for a surviving same-sex spouse?"

At a separate hearing in June, Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would not disclose his communications with Trump.

The Trump administration's attempts to restrict travel from some overseas countries in the name of national security, which range back to January, were dealt its most recent setback Tuesday when a Hawaiian district court judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking part of the ban. Earlier this year, the administration attempted to limit federal grants to "sanctuary cities" such as Chicago, which protect undocumented immigrants from deportation provided they have not committed serious crimes. He'll face questions about his swift reversals of Obama-era protections for transgender people and criminal justice policies.