Jeff Sessions dedicated his opening remarks of his Senate confirmation hearing to be the next attorney general on Tuesday to pledging to work independently of Donald Trump and avoid using the position to become a "mere rubber stamp" for the president-elect's political agenda.
But when later asked by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) if he would be willing to prosecute the Russian hacking allegations—even if the investigation were to negatively affect Trump or members of his inner circle—Sessions deflected the question.
"Can you assure us that in any conflict between the political interests of the president and the interests of justice, you will follow the interests of justice even if your duties require the investigation and even prosecution of the president, his family, and associates?" Whitehouse asked.
"If there are laws violated, and if it can be prosecuted, then of course you'd have to handle that in an appropriate way," Sessions answered. He then quickly changed the subject to Chinese hacking—a topic Trump has also brought up when asked about Russian meddling in the November elections.
Sessions' response appeared to contradict his earlier assurances that he'd be willing to challenge Trump. Sessions also said that he had done "no research" into claims Russia interfered with the presidential election in order to help Trump win, as high-level intelligence officials have concluded. Sessions did say, however, that he believed the conclusion was "honorably reached."