US Attorney General Jeff Sessions vehemently denied on Tuesday that he colluded with an alleged Russian effort to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump's favour.
Sessions is the most senior member of Trump's administration caught up in the controversy over whether associates of the president colluded with Russia to help Trump win November's election.
"I have never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States," Sessions told a closely watched hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"The suggestion that I participated with any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country, which I have served with honour for 35 years, or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie."
Addressing allegations that he had unreported meetings with Russian officials while he advised the Trump campaign, Sessions said he had already acknowledged two meetings last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
But he denied an alleged third encounter with Kislyak at an April 27, 2016 reception for Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.
"I did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel," he told the panel.
"Though I do recall several conversations that I had during that 'Free Speech' reception, I do not have any recollection with meeting, talking to the Russian ambassador or any other Russian officials."
The committee's chairman, Republican Richard Burr, told Sessions the hearing was "your opportunity to separate fact from fiction" and "set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press".
Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee just five days after James Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI director on May 9, told the panel Trump ousted him to undermine the agency's investigation of the Russia matter.
Sessions said he had written a letter to Trump recommending Comey's firing.
The abrupt dismissal of Comey prompted Trump's critics to charge that the president was trying to interfere with a criminal investigation, but Sessions said the Russian probe had nothing to do with the dismissal.
The testimony by Comey marked the latest chapter in a saga that has dogged the Republican Trump's first five months as president.
Source: News agencies