Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election does not interfere with his ability to oversee the Department of Justice, and therefore did not interfere with his ability to recommend that former FBI Director James Comey should be fired.
Democrats have argued that his recusal from the Russia probe means he should not have made that recommendation. But Sessions said there is no conflict.
"The scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI, which has an $8 billion budget and 35,000 employees," Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
"I presented to the president my concerns, and those of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, about the ongoing leadership issues at the FBI as stated in my letter recommending the removal of Mr. Comey along with the Deputy Attorney General's memorandum, which have been released publicly by the White House," he said. "It is a clear statement of my views."
"It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render an Attorney General unable to manage the leadership of the various Department of Justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations," Sessions added.
Sessions also stressed again that he recused himself from the Russia probe because of his connection to the campaign, not because he may be a subject of the investigation.
"I recused myself from any investigation into the campaigns for President, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations," he said.
Sessions said after being sworn in as attorney general, he met with Justice Department officials to discuss things reported by the media and that "might have some bearing on the issue of recusal."
From that point on, until he announced his decision to recuse himself from the investigation on March 2, Sessions said he never received information on any investigative details and didn't access information about the investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials.
"As such, I have no knowledge about this investigation beyond what has been publicly reported, and I have taken no action with regard to any such investigation," Sessions told the committee.
Sessions' testimony comes days after Comey appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss the details of his interactions with President Trump, including one conversation during which Trump encouraged Comey to end the FBI's investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn.
Trump decided to fire Comey last month, and following his dismissal, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to oversee the Russia probe.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has since ramped up its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and has requested documents from several Trump campaign associates, as well as others close to Trump.