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Sessions declines to say whether he has recused himself in Michael Cohen probe

Trump attacks Sessions on Twitter

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday afternoon. The topic is the Department of Justice's budget, but he almost immediately faced other, unrelated questions, particularly from Democrats.

Sessions, who has recused himself from the FBI's Russia investigation, declined to say whether he has recused himself in the investigation into Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, asked. Earlier this month, the FBI conducted raids on Cohen's apartment, office and hotel room. 

"It is the policy of the Department of Justice that those who recuse themselves not state the details of it..." Sessions said in response, adding that it would be "inappropriate" to discuss it. Sessions did say he is recusing himself in every case that comes before the DOJ, although he didn't elaborate.

Sessions has continued to defend his decision to recuse himself in the Russia probe, even as the president has continued to be critical of him and his DOJ. Sessions declined to answer questions from Leahy as to whether he would resign if Mr. Trump fired Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or anyone else, saying such a question was speculative. Later in his testimony, Sessions expressed his confidence in Rosenstein.

Leahy expressed concern for Mr. Trump's criticism of Sessions and other top DOJ officials, like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

"I worry that the walls intended to protect independence and credibility are at risk of crumbling," Leahy said in his opening statement.

Sessions defended the president's authority to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Dick Cheney associate "Scooter" Libby, but acknowledged they didn't go through the DOJ's pardon vetting office. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., asked if Arpaio's pardon went through the DOJ's pardon office.

"I don't believe it did," Sessions said. 

Van Hollen asked the same question about Libby's controversial pardon. 

"I don't believe it did," Sessions said again.

In his opening statement, Sessions said those who work at the DOJ — including those in the FBI — are the finest in law enforcement. 

"So finally, let me say, with all the strength that I can muster, no nation has a finer group of law officers than those who comprise the FBI, the DEA, the ATF and the United States Marshall Service. They are now in 24 hours a day in every corner of America working courageously and faithfully to protect this nation and our people."

This is a developing story and will be updated.