US attorney general Jeff Sessions has denied holding a third, undisclosed meeting with a Russian official at the Mayweather Hotel in Washington DC during last year's presidential election campaign.
Speaking to the Senate intelligence committee yesterday, he also described allegations of collusion with Moscow as "an appalling and detestable lie" and denied ever receiving, or asking for, any briefing on the topic of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"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," he said.
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He also refused to discuss his conversations with Donald Trump, saying he wanted to give the President the chance to review the questions before answering.
"It was as if the attorney general was trying to pre-emptively invoke executive privilege - the right of a president to candid counsel from his advisers - without using those magic words," says the BBC's Anthony Zurcher.
Sessions was also asked why he had played a role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey, despite having recused himself from the investigation into Russian collusion.
"It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render the Attorney General unable to manage the leadership of the various Department of Justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations," he said.
Sessions previously admitted to two meetings with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which he failed to reveal during his confirmation hearing, but recent unsubstantiated reports suggest he may be concealing a third encounter.
"Confirmation of such a meeting could prove devastating for Sessions, whose relationship with Trump has already showed signs of strain," says the New York Times.
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