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tv   News Sessions Senate Testimony  CNBC  June 13, 2017 2:30pm-5:08pm EDT

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all right looking at the senate intelligence committee where attorney general jeff sessions expected to testify momentarily, however we are getting headlines from senate majority leader, republican leader mitch mcconnell maybe you can comment on this larry. i'm going to read you what i've got from a piece of paper. u.s. senate republican leader mcconnell will not say when he expect the healthcare bill to be released on a vote to be held. so, little non-info info there but should we read into this as a negative >> no, actually i'd read it as a positive -- >> we don't moe when, where and how. >> he's the majority leader, earlier statements saying we don't have the votes to do it and we except expectations rock bottom so this sounds -- i just tell you they're getting very close i just know that the group in
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the senate that's been deliberating between moderates and skif and conservatives are basically putting it together. >> can we make that lane from we don't know if we have the votes to we're not sure when we can vote on it but that is a positive step to larry's point >> well, it's possible that they will come out with a plan that will get 50 votes, no question about it i wouldn't bet a lot of money on it but i'm not saying it's not going to happen. look, they have kept this process very close to the vest so we don't know, and some senators don't know what the provisions are so it's hard to tell what's real and what's sort of salesmanship in terms of the maintenance of faith among members that they could have something that they could support. you've got people like shelly,
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my old college classmate who represents the state of virginia, that was a medicaid expansion state. is she going to be okay with a longer time line for facing out that expansion part of that will depend on the details. same with rod portman or tom cotman who's got a lot of people on medicaid in his state as well on the other side you get people like ran paul, ted cruise and mike lee who might resist the bill on the ground that it's too much like obamacare, doesn't do enough to reverse course until we see something laid on the table, until we get a cvo score, until we have a chance for everyone to react to that document, i think it's difficult to say anything for sure >> i just want to raise a point, yeah john oes right nobody can predict all this, i've been in touch from the very beginning with people from this so-called working group, which was
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originally ted cruz and lamar alex sander, what i was told recently that they actually are finishing a deal on medicaid john's right to the ex tenth -- >> going to extend medicaid to the states that haven't gotten in this point. >> i think everybody now is either at agreement or close to agreement that what ever phase out occurs it's going to be over a longer period than originally adjudicated for example, in the house bill i don't think the conservatives are going to walk away, because let's say, mike lee and senator cruz have both been a part of this group that's trying to put everybody together ran paul's an outliar here, absolutely, i don't know what he's going to do >> one question though, is this a situation where if that is the case and we see something where medicaid expands and that's wound down over a longer period of time, you have more states
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opting into that in the meantime, is that something that will fly in the house once you go back to conference? >> that's a good question and an important question i think it will, i just think it will it's not great policy, there's a lot of things in that that are not great policy, a lot of things i would have preferred to come out differently the house freedom can you kiss, the free market guys, this ain't perfect. again i'll invoke reagan this time i'll say reagan use to say if i get 70% of what i want and we disagree 30% of the time we're not enemies. that's what i think this is going to do and as i said before i want them to graft the business tax cut on to this reconciliation bill. i think it's very much alive no one agree with me but i agree with me. >> john, let's talk about what we're looking at and brie with here now we've been giving the ten-minute warning although it's sometimes accurate or not.
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do you think we'll see fireworks today or sort of a dodge and weave from jeff sessions >> i'd expect jeff sessions to dodge and weave. i'd expect democrats to press very hard on the nature of his pass conversations if he -- and i'd expect republicans to give some deference to its former colleagues he's going to be pressed on the meetings with the russians, his role in the comey firing, his interactions with comey and whether he's truly recused himself from this case i would not expect jeff sessions to open up any daylight between himself and donald trump but that's how they play the game. >> one thing about a common knowledge with respect to jeff sessions meeting within various diplomats -- not only russia but there's other.
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he was the senior ranking member on the senate arm service committee. and for him it was customs mare to me, with tens and tens of official from foreign countries -- >> that makes a lot of sense what's more interesting is what comey said, there were more things he couldn't talk about for that refusal >> mr. comey said a lot of thing, and i didn't want to go there the investigation. but look, sessions to me, knowing him very well is a very hoer honorable man. look, he basically bent over backwards, he basically said, okay, okay, i'll recuse himself from this russian investigation, i'll do that even though it's silly. and trump didn't want him to recuse himself i just think honestly there's no there there. >> and as john pointed out he'll
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get very little deference from his colleagues that know him well >> i think so. look, regarding trump, comey said, everyone said russian inclusion investigation is not about trump. and as far as obstructing justice, comey said he didn't make a case for that, that was not part of his deal i'm not sure i understand what this is all about. it's the senate prerogative to go into that, i don't deny that, whether we need a special council, i have no idea. i think jeff sessions as an attorney general he's playing ball this colleague is straight up and honest here >> i wonder harwood, if nothing comes out in mueller's investigation what point do we collectively move on >> i think we've got a long way to go to find out what comes out of mueller's investigation so i don't think we're near the point of moving on she's just getting started, he's hiring staff the senate intelligence committee is also picking up
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steam and we saw richard butte , burr, the chairman of that committee after richard james testified he -- if you've got the republican chairman of the intelligence committee saying he believes what comey said it's a very damning portrait of donald trump. that suggest we're just getting going with this process. one other thing i think we should be on the watch for, jeff sessions talking about today, is the discussion about whether the president is considering firing robert mueller rod rosen stein, the deputy attorney general addressed that in his testimony before the appropriation's committee today and he said that he would refuse an order to fire robert mueller even from the president unless good cause existed, since the law is that you need good cause. but i'd expect jeff sessions to be asked about that as well. >> you know, i -- i don't know
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anything about this, no one knows what's in president trump's mind at any point and time one thing i'm a little leery of. i'm a big support of mueller, i met him several times, i don't know him mentally. some trump supporters are raising the issue he's hired four lawyers and they all cribbed to the clinton campaign and the clinton foundation my answer is fine, the next four should be committed to the gop or none of this matter at all. >> abegin gring that's changed his mind over the last week. >> i don't think this disqualifies -- here we come >> and we have u.s. attorney general jeff sessions sitting down in front of a flurry of photos, set to testify on russia
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and potentially interference into the u.s. election >> there is the one place you still hear all the camera shutters, even if you're listening on the radio you catch this too a flurry of camera shutters take place as he sits down. >> i mean, here's another case with attorney general sessions did not have to do this. as a member of the executive branch et cetera et cetera but he did, and he wanted it to be public again, i think he's bending over backwards to be fair and scare >> good thing, at least this will play out in public eye. >> i believe that was senator mark warner that came up and shook his hand there he is, senator mark warner on the left, blue shirt and tie, these are many of his former colleagues, probably many of his friends in a way that are going to be grilling, questioning,
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what ever word you want to use jeff sessions. as the senator was with comey the other day too. >> listen, these senators, they have to do their job, a lot of them up for free election. they got to figure out what's going on back home, their ear is to the ground and the senate is a cleejall body most of the time so yeah, it'll be what it will be, they'll ask the questions and sessions is going to answer them i have great confidence in jeff sessions, knowing him very well but i don't have all the information. >> okay. and the gavel has been hit they are calling it to order let us go now live to washington, d.c >> attorney general sessions
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appreciate your willingness to come before the competent today. i thank you for your years and dedicated service of this body and your recent leadership at the director of justice. as i mentioned when comey appeared before us last week, this committee's role is to be the eyes and ears for the other 85 members of the united states senate and for the american people ensuring the billions community is operating lawfully and has the necessary tools to keep america safe the community is a large and diverse place. we recognize the gravity of our investigation into russian's interference in the 2016 u.s. elections but i remind our stic constituencies that while we investigate russia we skrutnizi skrutnizing cia's budge,nsa-70 program, our nation's satellite program and the entire ic effort
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to recruit and retain the best talent we can find in the world. more often than not the committee conducts its work behind closed doors, a necessary step to ensure that our sources and method are --. the same that the sources are method are at the heart of the intelligence committee and the ability to keep us safe and to keep our allies safe from those who seek to harm us. i've said repeatedly that i do not believe any committee -- that the committee does should be done in public, but i also recognize the gravity of the committee's current investigation and the need for the american people to be presented the facts so that they might make their own judgments it is for that reason that this committee has now held itself tenth open hearing of 2017, more than double that of the
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committee in recent years, and the 5th on the topic of russian interference attorney general sessions this venue is your opportunity to separate fact from fiction and to set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press for example, there are several issues i'm hopeful we will address today. one, did you have any meetings with the russian official or their proxies on the campaign during your time as attorney general. two, what was your vomit with candidate trump's policy team and what are their possible interactions with rush three, why did you decide to recuse yourself from the russian investigation. and fourth, what role if any did you play of the then fbi director comey i look forward to a candidate and honest discussion as we continue to seek the truth the committee's staff is
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interviewing the relevant parties, having spoken to more than 35 individuals to date, to include just yesterday, an interview of former homeland security, secretary judge johnson. we also continued to review some of the the most sensitive intelligence in our country's possession as i've said previously, we'll establish the fact, separate from rampant separation and lay them out for the more than people to make their own judgment only then as a inflation le with be able to put this especially received to rest and look to the future i'm hoping members will focus their questions today on the russia investigation and not squander the opportunity by taking political and personal shots. the vice chairman and i continue to lead this investigation together on what is a highly charged pistol iss charged political issue. we may disagree at times but we remained a unified team with a
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dedicated and focused professional staff working tire leslie on behalf of the american people to find the truth the committee has made progress as the political winds blow forcely around us. and i think all would agree -- what committee might be best suited to lead on this issue the intelligence committee has lived up to its obligation to move forward with purpose and above politics mr. attorney general it's good to have you back, i would now turn to the vice chairman for any remarks he may have. >> thank you mr. chairman and i want to also thank the way we're proceeding on this investigation. mr. attorney general it's good to see you again, and we appreciate your appearance on the heels of mr. comey's revealing testimony last week. i do want to though take a moment at the outset and first express some concern with the process by which we are seeing
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you, the attorney general today. it's my understanding that you were originally scheduled to testify in front of the house and senate aappropriations committee today. i know those appearances have been cancelled to come here instead. while we appreciate his testimony before our committee, i believe, and i speak -- i believe i speak for many of my colleagues that i believe he should also answer question from members of those committee and the judicial committee as well mr. attorney general it's my hope you will reschedule those appearances as soon as possible. in addition i want to say at the outset while we consider your appearance today, it's just the beginning of our internacional de caminoes y maquinaria interaction with you and the department mr. attorney general we also expected to talk to you during our investigation, we believed it would be later in the process. we're glad to accommodate your request to speak to us today we also expect to have your
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commitment to cooperate with all future requests and make yourself available as necessary for this committee as the chairman has indicated, the very important investigation. now let's move to the subject of today's discussion let's start with the campaign. you were an early supporter of mr. trump. in march you were named as chairman of the trump's campaign national advisory committee. you were a strategic adviser who help shaped much of the campaign's national security strategy no doubt, you will have key in sights about some of the key trump associates that we're seeking to hear from in the weeks ahead. questions have also been raised about some of your own interactions with russian officials during the campaign. during your confirmation hearing in january you said quote, you did not have communications with russians senator lay he later asked you in writing whether you'd been in
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contact with anyone in connection to the russian government about the 2016 election you answered i believe a definitive no. despite that, the fact is we discovered later that you did have interactions with russian government officials march, youo meetings with the russian ambassador yet, there's also been some public reports of a possible third meeting at the mayflower hotel on april 27th. i hope today you help clear up those discrepancies. we expect, and hope this is very important, you're willing to provide the committee with any documents that we'd need to shed light on this issue, such as e-mails or calendars then, there's a topic of the firing of former fbi director comey. last thursday, we received testimony from mr. comey under oath, he outlined his very troubling interactions with the president as well as the circumstances of his firing.
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a few disturbing points stood out. first, mr. comey, who has decades of experience at the department of justice and at the fbi, serving under presidents of both parties, was so unnerved by the actions of the president that he felt, quote, compelled to fully document every interaction they had mr. comey sat where you are sitting today testifying he was concerned that the president of the united states might lie about the nature of their needs. that's a shocking statement from the nation's top law enforcement official we also heard director comey took it as a direction from the president that he was to drop the fbi's investigation into former national security adviser general mike flynn finally, we heard from mr. comey that he believes he was fired over the handling of the russian investigation. the president, himself,
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confirmed this in statements to the media. this is deeply troubling for all of us who believe on both sides of the aisle in preserving the independence of the fbi. we have a lot of work in order to follow-up on these alarming disclosures. mr. attorney general, your testimony today is an opportunity to begin the process of asking those questions. for instance, again, no others will ask about this, you rescued yourself from the russian investigation, yet you participated in the firing of mr. comey over the handling of that same investigation. we want to ask you about how you view your recusal and whether you believe you complied fully in addition, we heard from mr. comey last week what the president asked you to leave the oval office so that he could speak one-on-one with mr. comey. again, a very concerning action. we need to hear from you about how you viewed the presidential request and whether you thought
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it appropriate we also want to know if you are aware of any attempts by the president to end list leaders in the intelligence community to undermine this very same russian investigation. most importantly, our committee will want to hear what you are doing concerning the russians or any other foreign adversaries can want attack our democratic process like this ever again i'm concerned that the president still does not recognize the severity of the threat he, to date, i believe, has not acknowledged the unanimous conclusions of the u.s. intelligence community that russia massively intervened in our elections. the threat we face is real it's not limited to us the recent events in france are a stark reminder that all western democracies must take steps to protect themselves. i believe the united states can and must be a leader this this effort, but it will require our administration to get serious
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about this matter. finally, in the past several weeks, there's been a concerning pattern of officials refusing to answer public unclassified questions about allegations about the president and this investigati investigation. we had a hearing with a subject last week, and i want to commend the chairman who at the end of the hearing made very clear that our witnesses, it was not acceptable for our witnesses to come before congress without answers. the american people deserve to know what's going on here. thank you, mr. chairman, i look forward to the testimony >> attorney general sessions, if you stand, i'll administer the oath to you. do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> please, be seated thank you, attorney general sessions, the floor is yours
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>> thank you for allowing me to appear publicly before you today. i believe the committee's critically important efforts to investigate the russian interference with the democratic processes. such interferences can never be tolerated, and i encourage every effort to get to the bottom of any such allegations as you know, the deputy attorney general apointed a special counsel to investigate the matters related to the russian interference in the 2016 election i'm here today to address several issues that have been specifically raised before this committee. and i appreciate the opportunity to reply to questions as the lord allows me to do i, though, in practice will not violate duties to conflict the
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confidential duties i have with the president. let me address issues directly i did not have any private meetings nor recall conversations with russian officials at the mayflower hotel, did not attend meets spra separate prior to the speech i attended with the president today, i attended a reception with my staff that included at least two dozen people and president trump, though, i do recall several conversations that i had during that speech reception i do not have any recollection of meeting or talking to the russian ambassador or any other russian officials. if any brief interaction occurred in passing with the russian ambassador during that reception, i did not remember it after the speech, i was interviewed by the news media. there was an area for that in a different room, and then i left the hotel. whether i ever attended a reception where the russian
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ambassador was also present is entirely beside the point of this investigation i'll state clearly, colleagues, i have never met with or had any conversations with any russians or any foreign officials concerns any type of interference with any type of campaign or elections in the united states. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the trump campaign. i was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you, and the suggestion that i participated in any collusion that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to undermine
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the integrity of our democratic process is an apaling and detestable lie there is the assertion i did not answer questions honestly in the confirmation hearing colleagues, that is false. i can't say colleagues now i'm no longer part of this body. that is false. this was a rambling question after six hours of system that suggested that the united states intelligence community, the u.s. intelligence community had advised president-elect trump, quote, that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government, close quote. i was taken aback by that
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explosive allegation, which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day. in which i had not heard i wanted to repute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such an activity, i replied, quote, i replied to senator franken this way, quote, senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities i've been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign, and i did not have communications with the russians, and i'm unable to comment on it, close quote that was the context in which i was asked the question, and in that context, my answer was a fair and correct response to charges as i understood it i was responding to this allegation that we met -- surrogates had been meeting with russians on a regular basis.
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simply did not occur to go further than the context of the question and list conversations that i may have had with russians in routine situations as i has had many routine meetings with other foreign officials. so, please, hear me now, and it was only in march after my confirmation hearing that a reporter asked my spokesperson whether i ever met with any russian officials. this was the first time that question had squarely been posed to me. on the same day, we provided that reporter with the information related to the meeting we held in the senate office with ambassador as well as the brief encounter in july after a speech that i had given during the convention in cleveland, ohio. i provided the reporter with a list of 25 foreign ambassador
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meetings that i had had in 2016. in addition, i provided supplemental testimony to the senate judiciary committee to explain this event so i readily acknowledge these two meetings and certainly not one thing happened that was improper in any one of those meetings let me also explain clearly that circumstances of my recusal from the investigation into the russian interference with the 2016 election. please, colleagues, hear me on this i was sworn in as attorney general on thursday, february 9th. the very next day as i had promised the judiciary committee i would do, at least in an early date, i met with career department officials including senior ethics official to discuss some things publicly reported in the press that might have some bearing on whether or not i should rescue myself in
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this case. from that point, february 10th until i announced formal recusal on march 2, i was never briefed on investigation details or briefed on any access to the investigati investigation, but only received limited information that the department officials determined was necessary to me to form and make a recusal decision. as such, i have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today, beyond what has been publicly reported i don't even read that carefully. i have taken no action whatsoever with regards to such investigation. on the date of my formal recu l recusal, but chief of staff sent an e-mail to the heads of relative departments including by name to director comey of the fbi to instruct them to inform
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their staff of this recusal and to advise them not to brief me or involve me in any way in any such matters, and, in fact, they have not importantly, i rescue myself not because of any assertive wrong doing or any belief that i may have been involved in any wrong doing in the campaign, but because a department of justice regulation, 28cfr 45.2, i felt required that regulation states in effect department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they served as a campaign adviser so the scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the department of justice including the fbi which
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has an $8 billion budget and 35,000 employees i presented to the president my concerns and those of deputy attorney general 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 on that issue, released publicly by the white house. those represent a clear statement of my views. i adopted deputy attorney general rosenstein's points he made in his men rmorandum and m my recommendation. it is absurd, frankly, to suggest a recusal from a single specific investigation renders the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various department of justice law enforcement components they conduct thousands of
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investigations finally, during his testimony, mr. comey discussed a conversation that he and i had about the meeting mr. comey had with the president i'm happy to share with the committee my recollection of that conversation that i had with mr. comey following a routine morning threat briefing, mr. comey spoke to me and my chiefs of staff while he did not provide me with any of the substance of his conversation with the president, apparently the day before, mr. comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the white house and with the president. i responded -- he didn't recall this, but i responded to his comment by agreeing that the fbi and the department of justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate time tags with the
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white house. mr. comey had served in the department for better than two decades, and i was confident that he understood and would abide by the well-established rules limiting communications with the white house, especially about ongoing investigations that's what is so important to control. my comments encouraged him to do just that, and, indeed, now as i understand he, in fact, did just that our department of justice rules on proper communications between the department and the white house as a place for years and mr. comey well knew them i thought and assumed correctly that he complied with them so i'll finish with this, i rescue myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but i did not rescue myself from defending my honor against false information.
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throughout the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming attorney general, i have dedicated myself to the highest standard i've earned a reputation for that at home and in this body, i believe, over decades of performance. the people of this country expect an honest and transparent government, and that's what we are giving them. this president wants to focus on the people of this country to ensure they are treated fairly and kept safe. the trump agenda has been pro improving the lives of the american people. there's different agendas of achieving this, but it's his agenda and one i sharement importantly, as attorney general, i have a responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation to protect this country from its enemies, and to ensure the fair administration of justice, and i intend to work every day with our fine team and
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the superb professionals in the department of justice to advance the important work we have to do these false attacks, the innuendos, the leaks, assure will not sbintimidate me. they have only strengthened my resolve to solve crime, support our law enforcement officers who work on our streets every day. just last week, there was a report of overdose deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded last year was 52,000 the "new york times" estimated next year will be 62,000 overdose death the murder rate is up over 10% the largest increase since 1968. yet we are telling the gangs,
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the cartels, the frauds, and the terrorists, we are are coming after you. every one of our citizens, no matter who they are, where they live, has the right to be safe in their homes and communities, and i will not be detoured or allow this great department to be deterred from this great vital mission. thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member warner, a a great honor to appear before you today, and i will do my best to answer your questions. >> general sessions, thank you, thank you for that testimony i'd like to note for members the chairman and vice chairman will be recognized for ten minutes, members for five minutes, and i remind our members that we are in open session, no references to classified or committee sensitive materials should be used relative to your questions. with that, i recognize myself at
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this time for ten minutes. general sessions, you talked about the mayflower hotel where the president gave his first foreign policy speech, and it's been covered in the press that the president was there, you were there, others were there. from your testimony, you said you don't remember whether the ambassador there was, the russian ambassador, is that correct? >> i did not remember that, but i understand he was there, and so i don't doubt that he was i believe that representations are correct. in fact, i recently saw a video of him coming into the room. >> be you never remember having a conversation or a meeting with him? >> i do not. >> and there was in that event ever a private room setting that
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you were involved in >> no. other than the reception area that was shut off from the, i guess, the main crowd, a couple dozen, two to three dozen people >> i take for granted a trip like this the president shook hands? >> yes he came in and shook hands in the group. >> all right you mentioned there was some staff with you at that event >> my legislative director at the time - >> your senate - >> senate legislative director was who a retired u.s. army colonel, served on the arms services staff for warner before she joined my staff, was with me in the reception area, and throughout the rest of the event. >> were you there as a united states senate or as a surrogate of the campaign for this event >> i came there as an interested
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person, a very anxious to see how president trump would do in his first foreign policy address. i believe he only gave one other major speech before at the jewish apac event it was an interesting time for me to observe his delivery and the message he would make. that was my main purpose of being there. >> now, you reported two other meetings with the ambassador, one in july on the sidelines of the republican convention, i believe, and one in september in your senate office had you had any other interactions with government officials over the year in a campaign capacity, in the campaign capacity. >> no, mr. chairman. i've racked my brain to make sure i could answer any of those questions correctly, and i did
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not. i did not offer for you that when asked about what i had had meetings with russia about a reporter in march, we immediately recalled the conversation, the encounter i had in the convention and the meeting in my office, and made that public. i never intended not to include that i would have gladly reported the meeting, the encounter that may have occurred, some say occur, in the mayflower if i had remembered it or if it actually occurred, which i don't remember that it did. >> general sessions, on march 2nd, 2017, you formally rescued yourself from involvement in the russian investigation being conducted by the fbi and the department of justice. what are the specific reasons that you chose to rekscue yourself >> well, the specific reason,
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mr. chairman, is a cfr, code federal regulation, put out by the department of justice, part of the department of justice rules, and it says this. i'll read from it, c fr 45.2 unless authorized, no employees shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person involved in the conduct of an investigation. goes on to say, quote, for political -- in a political campaign, and it said if you have a close identification with an elected official or candidate arising from service as a principle adviser, you should not participate in an
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investigation of that campaign >> so would you -- >> so many have suggested that my recusal is because i felt i was subject of the investigation myself that i may have done something wrong, but this is the reason i rescued myself i felt i was required to under the rules of the department of justice, and as the leader of the department of justice, i should comply with the rules, obviously. >> so did your legal counsel basically know from day one you would have to rescue yourself from the investigation because of the current statute >> well, i do have a timeline of what occurred. i was sworn in on the 9th, i believe, of february i then on the 10th had my first meeting to generally discuss this issue where the cfr was not discussed. we had several other meetings and it became clear to me over time that i qualified as a
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significant principle adviser type person to the campaign, and it was the appropriate and right thing for me >> so this is -- this could explain director comey's comments that he knew that there was a likelihood you would re z rescue yourself because he was familiar with the same statute >> i think probably so i'm sure that the attorneys in the department of justice probably communicated with him because, mr. chairman, let me say this to you clearly. in effect, as a matter of fact, i rescued myself that day. i never received any information about the campaign i thought there was a problem with me being able to serve as attorney general over this issue, and i felt i would possibly have to rescue myself, and i took the position correctly, i believe, not to
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involve myself in the campaign in any way, and i did not. >> you made a reference to your chief of staff sending out an e-mail immediately notifying internally of your decision to resc rescue would you ask your staff to make that e-mail available? >> we would be pleased to do so, and i think i have it with me now. >> thank you, regime sessigeners have you had interactions with robert mueller since his apointment >> i have not. since the e-mail was acceptability out of comey not knowing when i rescued myself or receive notice, one of the e males went to him by name, so a lot happens in our offices i'm not accusing him of wrong doing, but, in fact, it was sent to him and to his name >> okay.
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general sessions testifying about the presence of the meeting, you addressed the meeting where all were asked to leave exempt for director comey and had a private meeting with the president, and you said that he did inform you of how up comfo uncomfortable that was, and your recommendation was that the fbi and doj need to follow the rules limiting further correspondence. did director comey ever express additional discomfort with conversations that the president might have had with him? because he had two additional meetings and i think a total of six phone calls. >> that is correct there is nothing wrong with the president having a communication with the fbi director. what's wrong for an fbi employee to talk to any cabinet perps or
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white house officials about on going investigations that are not properly cleared from the top levels of the department of justice, and so it was a regulation i think that is healthy, that i thought we needed and strongly believe we needed to restore discipline within our department to adhere to just those kinds of rules, plus leaking rules and some of the other things that are lax and need to be restored. >> you couldn't have had a conversation with the president about the conversation because you were never briefed >> that's correct. i do -- i would note that with regard to the private meeting that director comey had by his own admission, there's as many as six such meetings, several with president trump, two with president obama, so it's not improper per se, but it would not be justified for a
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department official to share information about an ongoing investigati investigation. >> you were the share of the foreign policy team for the trump campaign to the best of your knowledge, did that team ever meet? >> we met a couple of times maybe. some of the people did we never functioned, frankly, mr. chairman, as a coherent team we had very -- >> were there any members of that team you never met? >> yes >> okay. vice chairman. >> thank you, general sessions we appreciate your appearance here but see this as the first step, and we'd like to get your commitment that you will agree to make yourself available as the committee needs in the weeks and months ahead
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>> nasenator warner, i will comi to appear before this committee and other committees as appropriate. i don't think it's good policy to continually bring cabinet members or the attorney general in before multiple committees going over the same things over and over >> i know other appropriations committees may want -- >> i'm here -- >> let me ask about this committee. >> just giving you my answer >> can we get your commitment because there's questions about the meetings that took place or not that we could get access to documents and memorandum, a day book, or something to -- >> mr. chairman, we'll be glad to provide appropriate responses to your questions and review them carefully and try to be responsive >> yesterday, a friend of the president was reported to suggesting that president trump was considering removing director m urgsueller as specia counsel. do you have confidence in his ability to conduct the
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investigation fairly and impartially? >> well, first, i don't know about these reports and have no basis -- >> i'm asking do you - >> about the validity. i have known mr. chairman mueller over the years, serving 12 years as fbi director i knew him before that, and i have confidence in this. >> you have confidence - >> i'm not going to discuss hypotheticals or what might be a factual situation in the future that i'm not aware of today because i know nothing about the investigation and fully rescued myself >> i have a series of questions, sir. do you believe the president has confidence in mr. mueller? >> i have no idea. i have not talked to him about it >> do you commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might result in director mueller's firing or dismiss sal? >> well, i think i probably could say that with confidence because i'm rescued from the investigation. in fact, the way it works, senator warner, is that the
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acting attorney general -- >> i'm aware - just wanted you on the record -- >> that -- >> with the recusal, you would not take any actions to try to have special investigation mueller removed? >> i wouldn't think that's appropriate for me to do, sir. >> to your knowledge, any department of justice officials been involved with conversations about any possibility of presidential pardons about any of the individuals involved with the russian investigation? >> mr. chairman, i'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials the white house. that would be a violation of the communications on rules that i have no -- >> is that -- just so i can i understand this basis of that unwillingness to answer based on executive privilege >> long standing po ining police
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department of justice not to comment on conversations that the attorney regime has had with the president of the united states for confidential reasons that really are founded in the branch of powers and the constitution of the united states >> but that -- so -- just so i'm understanding it, does that mean you're claiming executive privilege here today, sir? >> i'm not claiming executive privilege because that's the president's power, i have no power to executive privilege >> what about conversations with other officials about potential pardons? >> well -- >> not the president, sir. >> mr. chairman, without in any way suggesting that i have had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that, there are privileges within the department of justice that we share, all of us do. we have a right to have a full, robust department in the department of justice.
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we urge people to speak up, argue cases on both sides, and those arguments are not revealed >> i would hope you would agree because you rescued yourself from the investigation that if the president or others suggest pardoning someone in the midst of the investigation that would be, i would think, problematic i want to see the comment you made in your testimony was that you'd reached this conclusion about the performance of then director comey's ability to lead the fbi, that you agreed with rosenstein's memo. the fact you worked with director comey for some time, did you ever have a conversation as a superior of comey with failure to perform or some of the accusations that he was not running the fbi in a good way
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and somehow the fbi is in turmoil. did you have any conversations with comey about the discussions? >> i did not so you were his superior and there were harsh things said about director comey you never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the president? >> i did not do so a memorandum was prepared by the deputy attorney general who evaluated his performance, noted serious problems with it >> and you greed >> i agreed with those and, in fact, senator warner, we had talked about it even before i was confirmed and before he was confirmed as something we both agreed to that a fresh start at the fbi was probably the best - >> just, again, seems a little -- i could understand if you talked about that before you
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came on, chance for a fresh start, there was no fresh start, in the midst of the investigation, and with timing, it seems peculiar what -- at least to me, out of the blue that the president fired the fbi director, and if there's all problems with disarray and lack of sweet accord at the fbi, all things the acting director denied is the case, i would have thought that somebody would have had that kind of conversation with director comey. at least been owed that. to the april 27th meeting, the chairman brought it up by the time april 27th rolled around, you were named as the chair of the security adviser, so that -- >> that was the mayflower hotel. >> yes, sir. so my understanding was that the president's son-in-law jared kushner was there as well?
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>> as i recall, yes. >> did not have conversations with the ambassador? >> did not >> you had no conversations with the ambassador at a the meeting? >> i don't recall it, senator warner certainly, i can assure you nothing improper if i had had a conversation with him, and it's conceivable if that occurred, i just don't remember. >> nothing in your notes or memory so that when you had a chance and you did appropriate to correct the record about the other two sessions in response to senator franken, this did not pop in memory that maybe in the over abundance of caution you had to report this session as well >> well, i guess, i could say i possibly had a meeting, but i still do not recall it, and i did not in any way fail to report something in my testimony or in my subsequent letter intentionally false. >> i understand.
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i understand, sir, i'm just trying to understand when you corrected the record, and, clearly, by the time you had a chance to correct the report, i would have thought you would have known ambassador kislyak was at the session, received press notoriety, echoing what the chairman said for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the russian government during the campaign season? >> not to my recollection. i would just say with regard to the two encounters, one at the mayflower hotel you referred to, i came there not knowing he was going to be there. i don't have recollection of knowing he would be there. i didn't have any communications with him before or after that event, and likewise at the event at the convention, i went off
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the convention grounds to a college campus - >> at the mayflower -- >> i have to finish up on that one. i didn't know he was would be in the audience and had - >> at the may flower - >> okay. >> there was this, i guess, reception first and people went into the speech -- >> that's my recollection. >> and you were part of the vip reception? >> yes, sir. >> general sessions, again, one of the troubling things that i need to sort through is mr. comey's testimony last week was that he felt uncomfortable when the president asked everyone else to leave the room, left impression you lingered, perhaps, a sense you felt uncomfortable about it as well you can obviously answer and correct if that's not the right impression after the meeti ining took plac which, clearly, director comey
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felt had some uncomfortableness, you never asked director comey what took place in the meeting >> well, saying it this way, we were there i was standing there, and without relieving any conversation that took place, what i do recall is i departed, everyone else did depart, and director comey was in front of the president's desk, and they were talking that's what i remember i believe it was the next day that he said something expressing concern about being left alone with the president, but that in itself is not problematic. he did not tell me at that time any details about anything that was said that was improper i affirmed his concern that we should be following proper guidelines in the department of justice and basically backed him up in his concerns, and that we
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should not carry on any conversations with the president or anyone else about an investigation in a way that was not proper i felt he so long in the department, former deputy attorney general, as i recall, knew the policies a good deal better than i do >> thank you, sir, and thank you, mr. chairman, but it app r appearappea appeared mr. comey felt the conversation improper? >> he was concerned about it his recollection of what he said to me about his concern, i don't -- is consistent with my recollection >> senator >> attorney general sessions, good to hear you talk about how important russian interexperience and active measures are i don't think any american would disagree we have to figure out what happened, get it out in front of the american people, and do what
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we can do prevent it from happening again. that's what we are charged to do as you know february 14th, the "new york times" published an article alleging there was constant communications between the trump campaign and russians in collusion regarding the recollections. you recall that article when it came out >> not exactly >> generally >> generally >> and mr. comey toll us here last week that he had a very specific recollection. in fact, he chased it down through the intelligence community and was not able to find evidence of that effect, but he saw a post from democrats and republicans up here to tell them this was false, that there was no such facts anywhere that corroborated with what the "new york times" reported nonetheless, after that, this committee took that on, and we spent substantially more time on
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that, going through thousands of pages of information, interview witnesses and the rest we know really no different than where we were when this started, but there's been no reports, that i know of, of any factual information. >> is that a rose from the so-called dossier? >> well, anywhere. >> i believe that's the report that senator franken hit me with when i was testifying. it's been, i think, substantially discredited, but you would know more than i what was said that would suggest i participated in continuing communications with russian as a surrogate is absolutely false. >> mr. sessions, there's talk about conversations and you had conversations with the russians. senators up here who are on either foreign relations, intelligence, or arm services,
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conversations with offices of other governments or ambassadors what have you, are regular occurrences here >> i think it is, yes. >> indeed, run into one at the grocery store, you have a conversation, is that fair >> could very well happen. nothing improper >> on the other hand, collusion with the russians or any other government for that matter when it comes to our elections certainly would be improper and illegal, would that be a fair statement? >> absolutely. >> are you willing to sit here and tell the american people unfitered by what the media's going to put out that you participated in no conversations of any kind where there was collusion between the trump campaign >> i can say that absolutely, and i have no hesitation to do so >> you participated as you described in the trump campaign,
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and as such, traveled with the campaign, i gather >> i did >> spoke for the campaign? >> well number of occasions. >> based upon your experience and participation of the campaign, did you hear a whisper or suggestion or anyone making reference within that campaign that somehow the russians were involved >> i did not >> what would you have done if you heard that >> would have been shocked and would have known it was improper >> and headed to the exit, i suppose? >> well, maybe so this was a serious matter talking about hacking into a private person or dnc computer and obtaining information and spreading that out that's just not right. i believe it's likely that laws were violated if that actually occurred, so it's an improper thing. >> mr. sessions, has any person
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from the white house of the administration incoming the president of the united states either directed you or asked you to do any unlawful or illegal acts since being attorney general of the united states >> no, senator rich, did not >> thank you >> senator feinstein >> thank you very much, mr. chairman welcome, attorney general. >> thank you >> on may 19th, mr. rosenstein in a statement to the house of representatives essentially told them that he learned on may 8th that president trump intended to remove director comey. when you wrote your letter on may 9, did you know that the president had already decided to fire director comey? >> senator feinstein, i believe it's been made public that the
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president asked us our opinion it was given he asked us to put that in writing. i don't know how much more was said about it than that, but i believe he has talked about it, and i believe those words speak for themselves >> well, on may 11th on nbc "nightly news" two days later, the president stated he was going to fire comey regardless of the recommendation. i'm puzzled about the recommendation because the decision had been made what was the need for you to write a recommendation >> well, we were asked our opinion, and when we expressed it, which was consistent with the memorandum in the letter we wrote, i felt comfortable and
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the guess the deputy attorney general did to in providing that information in writing >> so do you concur with the president he was going to fire comey regardless of recommendations because the problem was the russian investigation? >> senator feinstein, letting his words speak for themselves i'm not sure what was in the mind explicitly when we talked with him >> did you ever discuss director comey fbi handling of investigations with the president or anyone else >> senator feinstein, that would call for a communication between the attorney general and the president, and i'm not able to comment on that. >> you are not able to answer the question here whether you ever discussed that with him >> that's correct.
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>> and how do you view that since you discussed this termination, why wouldn't you discuss the reason >> well, i -- that was what put in writing and sent to the preside president. he made those public >> you had no verbal conversation with him about the firing of mr. comey? >> well, i'm not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of private conversations that i may have had with the president on this subject or others i know that how this will be discussed, but that's the rules that have been long adhered to by the department of justice as you know, senator feinstein. >> you're a long time colleague, but we heard mr. krocoates and admiral rogers say essentially the same thing when it was easy
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just to say the answer was no, no >> well, would have been easier to say yes if it was yes, but both would have been improper. >> okay. so conversations with mr. comey, looking at the letter dated may 9st, and you see the director of the fbi must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles, sets the right example for our law enforcement officials, therefore, i must recommend that you remove director comey and identify an experience of a qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the fbi do you really believe that this had to do with director comey's performance with the men and
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women of the fbi >> there was a clear view of mind and of deputy attorney general rosenstein as he set out in some length in his memorandum that i adopted and set forth to the president that we had problems, and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the fbi was the appropriate thing to do, and when i said that to the president, it's something i adhere to, department rosenstein's letter dealt with a number of things. when mr. comey declined the clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation of the authority of the federal prosecutors in the department of justice. it was a stunning development. the fbi is the investigative
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team they don't decide prosecution policy, and so that was a stunning thing he also commented at some length on the deckicalclinton prosecut, which you shouldn't do policies have been historic if you decline, you decline, and you don't talk about it. there were other things that had happened that indicated to me a lack of discipline, and it caused controversy on both sides of the aisle i come to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate and did not mind putting that in writing. >> my time is up >> thank you >> thank you very much >> senator rubio >> thank you, thank you for being here i want to close the loop on the details. director comey was here providing great detail about that day so what i heard so far is there was a meeting in the oval office on the 14th, do you recall being there along with him at some appointment, the meeting concluded, the president, got up
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to leave, the president asked comey to stay behind, correct? >> well, that's a communication in the white house that i would not comment on >> all right >> but i do indicate - >> do you remember seeing him stay behind? >> yes >> okay. and his testimony was that you lingered his view of it was you lingered because you knew you needed to stay that was his characterization. do you remember lingering or feeling like you needed to stay? >> i do recall being one of the last ones to leave >> did you decide to be one of the last ones to leave >> i don't know how that occurred we had finished a counter terrorism briefing there, a number of people were there and filtering out. and i eventually left, and i do recall i think i was the last or one of the last two or three to leave. >> would it be fair to say you felt like you perhaps you needed to stay because it involved the fbi director >> well, i don't know that -- how i characterize that, senator
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rubio. i left it didn't seem to me to be a major problem. i knew that director comey long time experience in the department of justice could hander himself well. >> you saw him after that. he characterized as he went up to you scene said never leave me with the president alone again, it's not appropriate that's his characterization, and you shrugged as if, what do i do about it >> i described it more completely, correctly. he raised that issue with me, i believe, the next day. i think that was correct he expressed concern to me about that private conversation so i agree with him essentially there are rules on private conversations with the president, but there's not a prohibition on a private discussion with the president as i believe he's acknowledged six
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or more himself with president obama and president trump so i didn't feel like it's a first but gave no detail what it was about. ididn't say i wouldn't be able to responds if he called me. he certainly knew that with regard to the deputy attorney general, he could have complained to the deputy or me at any time if he felt pressured, but i had no doubt he would not yield to any pressure. >> now, do you know if the president records conversations in the oval office or anywhere in the white house >> i do not. >> let me ask you this if, in fact, any president records conversations in the official duties of the white house, is there an obligation to preserve the records >> i don't know, senator rubio, probably so.
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>> going to the campaign for a moment, the russian intelligence agency often pose not necessarily as an official, but a journal as the like, and in any point in the campaign, did you have interaction with anyone in hindsight you look back, they were trying to influence me, gain insight, that in hindsight you wonder >> i don't believe in my conversations with the three times -- >> not -- just in general. >> oh, well, i met with a lot of people, a lot of foreign officials who i wanted to argue their case for their country and to appointment out things that they thought were important for their countries, but that's normal thing, i guess, we talk about. >> right but as far as someone not an
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official from another country, just a businessman or anyone walking down the street, striking you as someone to figure out what you were up to, what the campaign was up to? >> i'd have to rack my brain, but i don't recall it now. >> you were on the foreign policy republican platform, it was changed to not provide defensive weapons to ukraine were you involved in that decision do you know how the change was made or involved in the making the change >> i was not active in the platform committee, did not participate in that and don't think i had direct involvement >> do you know who did you have no recollection of a debate about the issue internally about the campaign? >> i never watched the debate, if it occur on the platform committee, i think it did, so i don't recall that, senator rubio and would have to think about that >> senator wyden >> thank you very much, mr.
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chairman thank you for holding the hearing in the open in full view of the american people where it belongs. i believe the american people have had it with stone walling americans don't want to hear answers are off limits or can't be provided in public or that it would be, quote, inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. we are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stone walling of any kind is unacceptable, and general sessions has acknowledged there is no legal basis for this stone walling. i asked former director comey about the fbi's interactions with you, general sessions, prior to your stepping aside from the russian's investigat n investigation. mr. comey said your continued engagement with the russian investigation was, quote,
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problematic, and he, mr. comey, could not discuss it in public mr. comey said fbi personnel had been calling for you to step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you did so now, in your prepared statement, you stated you received only, quote, limited information necessary to inform your resue sal decision, but given director comey's statement, we need to know what that was were you aware in government that contact with the russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the russians investigation? >> senator wyden, i am not stone walled i'm following the historic policies of the department of justice.
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you don't walk into any meetings and reveal conversations with the president of the united states who is entitled to receive confidential communications in your best judgment about a host of issues. and to be accuse of stone walling for not answering that secondly, mr. comey, perhaps he did not know, i rescued myself the first day i got into the office because i never accessed files, i never learned the names of investigators, i never met with them. i never asked for any documentation. the documentation, what little received, was mostly already in the media, and was present the by the senior ethics public responsibility attorney in the department, and i made an honest and proper decision to rescue myself as i cold senator feinstein and the members of the
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committee i would do when they confirmed me >> general sessions, respectfully is not answering -- >> well, what is the question? >> the question is, mr. comey said there were matters with respect to the rescusal that wer problematic and could not talk about them what are they? >> why don't you tell me there are none, senator wyden. there are none i can tell you that for absolute certainty. >> we can -- >> you tell -- this is a secret innuendo leaked out there about me, and i don't appreciate it. i tried to give my best and truthful answers to any committee i appeared before, and it's really -- people are suggesting through innuendo that i have been not honest about matters, and i've tried to be honest >> time is short you made your point that you think mr. comey is engaging in
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innuendo we'll dig on this. >> senator wyden, he did not say that - >> he said it was problem maatic i asked what's problematic about it >> some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in close session. >> one more question i asked former fbi director whether your role violated your recusal given president trump said he fired comey because of the russian investigation. director comey said this was a reasonable request i want to ask you just point-blank why did you sign the letter recommending the firing of director comey when it violated your recusal. >> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal. that would be the answer to that the letter that i signed rem represented my views formulated for some time.
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>> mr. chairman, just if i can finish, that answer, in my view, does not pass the smell test the president tweeted repeatedly about anger about invest divisions, and the day before the letter, collusion was a hoax, and asked when will this taxpayer funded charade end. that answer does not pass the smell test >> senator wyden, i need to be allow to briefly respond at least. the letter, the memorandum that senator -- that deputy rosenstein wrote and my letter to trump represented my views of the situation. >> thank you issue mr. chairman. >> senator collins >> thank you, mr. chairman attorney general sessions, i want to clarify who did what with regard to the firing of mr.
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comey. first of all, let me ask you, when did you have your first conversation with rosenstein about mr. comey? >> we talked about it before either one of us were confirmed. it was a topic of, you know, conversation about among people who served in the department a long time. they knew that what had happened that fall was pretty dramatically unusual many people felt it was very wrong, and so it was in that context that we discussed it, and we both found that we shared a common view that a fresh start would be appropriate >> and this was based on mr. comey's handling of the investigation involving hillary clinton and what she said that usurped authority of prosecutors
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at the department of justice >> yes that was part of it. commenting on the investigation in ways that go beyond proper authorities. we have to restore classic discipline within the department my team, we discussed this there's been too much leaking and too much talking public by about investigations in the long run, remain mum about on going investigations is the better policy. >> now, subsequently, the president asked for views in writing. you testified today, and i believe you're right to rescue yourself from the ongoing russian investigation, but then on may 9th, you wrote to the president recommending that mr. comey be dismissed obviously, this went back many
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months to the early conversations. you had had with mr. rosenstein, but my question is, why do you believe that your recommendation to fire director comey was not in consistent with the march 2 recusal? >> thank you the recusal involved one case involved in the department of justice. and in the fbi they conduct thousands of investigations i'm the attorney general of the united states. it's my responsibility to our judiciary committee and other committees to ensure that that department is run properly i have to make difficult decisions, and i do not believe that it is a sound position to say that if you rescue for a single case involving any one of the great agencies like u.s.
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martials or atf part of the department of justice, you cannot make a decision about the leadership in that agency. >> now, if you had known that the president subsequently was going to go on tv and in an interview with lester holt of nbc would say that this "russian thing" was the reason for his decision to dismiss the fbi director, would you have felt uncomfortable about the timing of the decision? >> well, i would just say this, senator collins, i don't think it's appropriate to deal with those kinds of hypotheticals i have to deal in actual issues, and i would respectfully not comment on this. >> well, let me ask you this in retrospect, do you believe that it would have been better for you to have stayed out of
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the decision to fire director comey? >> i think it's my responsibili responsibility, i was appointed to be attorney general and supervising all the federal agencies is any responsibility trying to get thee very best people in the agencies at the top of them is my responsibility, and i think i had a duty to do so. >> now, director comey testified that he was not comfortable telling you about his one-on-one conversation with the president on february 14th because he believed that you would shortly rescue yourself from the russian inve ga investigati investigation, which you did, yet director comey testified that he told no one else at the department outside of the senior leadership team at the fbi do you believe that the director had an obligation to bring the information about the president
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saying that he hoped he could let michael flynn go to someone else at the department of justice? there's an awful lot of lawyers in the department of justice, some 10,000 by last count. >> i think the appropriate thing would have been for director comey to talk with the acting deputy attorney general, who is his direct supervisor. that was dana, who had 33 years in the department of justice and was even then still serving for six years and continues to serve as attorney general by the appointment of president obama great integrity, everyone knows it, a man of decency and integrity. if he had concerns, raise it to the deputy attorney general, the appropriate person in any case, really, but if he had concern that i might be rescuing myself, that would be a double reason
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for him to share it with deputy attorney general >> thank you >> senator >>. >> attorney general sessions, has the president expressed frustration with you regarding your decision to rescue yourself >> nasenator, i'm not able to share with this committee private -- >> because you are invoking executive privilege. >> i'm not able to that's the president's prerogative. >> my understanding is that you took an oath, raised your right hand here today and said you'd solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. now you're not answering questions. you're impeding this investigation. so my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question. that's the best outcome. you say this is classified can't answer it here answer in closed session that's bucket number two
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bucket number three is to say i'm invoking executive privilege. there's no appropriateness bucket it's not a legal standard. can you tell me what are the long standing doj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? >> senator, i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to -- >> you're -- >> secondly, i am telling the truth in answering your question in saying it's a long standing policy of the department of justice -- >> this -- >> even to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues >> can you share those policies with us? are they written down at the department of justice? >> well, i believe they are. certainly -- >> appropriateness legal standard is not answering congressional inquiries. >> my judgment that it would be
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inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer, one, and there's other prif levileges tht could be invoked one of the investigations of the special counsel -- >> we're not asking questions about that investigation, so i wanted to ask questions about that investigation, i'd ask those of rosenstein. i'm asking about your personal knowledge from this committee which has a personal obligation to get to the bottom of this there are two investigations here there's the special counsel investigation. there's also a congressional investigation. you are are obstructing
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congressal investigation by not answering the questions, and your silence like the silence of director coates, admiral rogers speaks volumes >> i would say that i have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department, and they believe this is consistent with my duty >> senator rich asked you a question about appropriateness if you had known that there had been anything untoward with regard to russia and the campaign, would you have headed to the exit? your response was maybe. why wasn't that a simple yes >> well, there was an improper, illegal relationship in effort to impede or influence this campaign, i absolutely would have departed. >> i think that's a good answer. i'm not sure why it was not the answer in the first place. i find it strange that neither
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you or deputy attorney rosenstein brought up performance issues with director comey, and, in fact, directly refuting assertion there was performance issues this is troubling because it appears that the president decided to fire director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation and had asked you to come up with an excuse when your assessment of director comey did not hold up to public scrutiny, the president finally admitted he had fired director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation, ie the lester holt interview. you said you did not break recusal in participating in the firing, but it appears firing was directly related to russia, not departmental mismanagement how do you square those two things >> well, there's a lot in that question let me take, first, within a
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week or so, i believe may 3rd, director comey testified that he believes the handling of the clinton declination was proper aappropriate and would do it again. that was a great concern of both of us because that represented something that i think most professionals in the department of justice would totally agree that the fbi investigative agency does not decide whether to president or decline criminal investigation. a breathtaking view of the responsibility of the attorney general, so that is how we felt it was sort of additional concern that we had heading the fbi, someone who boldly asserted the right to make the decision
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that was one of the things we discussed. that was in the memorandum, i believe, and it was also a factor for us. >> before i recognize senator blunt, i would like the record to show that last night admiral rogers spent almost two hours in closed session with the almost the full committee fulfilling his commitment to us in the hearing that in closed session he would answer the questions, and i think it was clearly answered and all members were given an opportunity to be there. i want that clear in the record with what was stated senator blunt. >> thank you, chairman attorney general, good to see you here, you, mary, probably other places you'd both rather be today, but you always looked at public service as something you did together, and it's good to see you here together and know your family continues to be
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proud and supportive of what you do thank you. >> thank you, i've been blessed indeed >> i agree with that i agree with that. let me get a couple things clear in my mind here of notes i've taken while people asked questions. you were talking on the april 27th, 2016 event, the mayflower hotel speech that the president -- that the presidential candidate gave on foreign policy you didn't have a room at that event where you had private meetings, did you? >> no, i did not >> as i understand it, you went to a reception that was attended by how many people >> i think two to three dozen. >> two to three dozen people, went in, heard the speech, and may have seen people on your way out? >> correct >> so when you said you possibly had a meeting with mr. kislyak, do you mean you possibly met him? >> i didn't have any formal
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meeting with him confident of that, but i may have had an end counter in the reception. that's the only thing i cannot say with certainty i did not that's all i can say >> that's what i thought you were saying, but sometimes when i hear meeting, that's more than meeting somebody >> right, right. >> you might have met him at the reception. could you have met other ambassadors at the reception as well >> i could i remember one in particular that we had a conversation with. his country had an investment in alabama. we talked at length about that i remember that, but otherwise no recollection with discussions with the russian ambassador. >> all right you were there, you may have seen him, but you had no room where you were having meetings with individuals to have discussions at the mayflower hotel that ay? >> no, that correct. >> well, on whenever you talked to mr. comey after he had had
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his meeting with the president, do you think that was parole the next day you didn't stay afterwards and see him after he left the oval office that night? >> no. i understand his testimony may have suggested that it happened right afterwards, but it was either the next morning -- which i think it was -- or the morning after that we had a three times a week national security briefing with the fbi that i undertake, and so it was after that that we had that conversation. >> now, what i'm not quite clear on is did you respond when he expressed his concern or not >> yes, i did respond. i think he's incorrect he indicated, i believe, that he would not totally sure of the exact wording of the meeting, but i do recall my chief of
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staff was with me, and we recall that i did affirm the long standing written policies of the department of justice concerning communications with the white house. we have to follow those rules and in the long run, you're much better off if you do they do not prohibit communications, one on one, by the fbi director with the president, but if that conversation moves into certain areas, it's the duty, rules apply to the department of justice so it's the duty of the fbi to say, mr. president, i can't talk about that. that's the way that should work, and, apparently, it did because he said he did not improperly discuss matters with the president. >> when mr. comey talked to you about the meeting, did he mention mr. flynn? >> no. he mentioned no fact of any kind he did not mention to me that he
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had been asked to do something he thought improper. he just said he was uncomfortable, i believe >> after that discussion with mr. comey -- >> actually, i don't think he said uncomfortable, but said maybe what he testified to is perhaps the correct wording. i'm not sure exactly what he said, but i don't dispute it >> well, exactly what i think -- what i remember him saying was that you didn't react at all and shrugged, but you referred him to the normal way these meetings are supposed to be conducted >> i took it as a concern that he might be asked something improper and confirmed to him his willingness to say no or don't go in an improper direction. >> just say, finally, i'm assuming you wouldn't talk about this because it relates to the
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may 8th meeting, but my sense is that no decision is final until it's carried out i guess there's people at this meeting who would fire or let anybody go because a person did that the fat the president said that on may 8th doesn't mean the information begin from you on may 9th was not necessary or impactful, and you're not going to say how many times the president said we ought to get rid of that personings but i'm sure that's happened, and, chairman, i'll - >> senator caine >> thank you for joining us today. >> thank you >> respect your willingness to be here. >> thank you >> you said you cannot invoke executive priprivilege what's the basis of the refusal to answer the questions? >> senator caine, the president
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has a constitutional - >> i understand that, but the president has not asserted it. >> well -- >> you said you don't have the power to assert these power of executive privilege, so what's the legal basis for your recusal to answer the questions. >> i'm protecting the right of the president to exert it or assert if he chooses, and may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance >> well, i don't understand how you can have it both ways. the president can't not assert it, and you testified that only the president can assert it, and, yet, i just don't understand legal basis for the refusal to answer. >> way we try to do, i think most cabinet officials, others that do questions recently, officials before the committee, protect the president's right to do so. if it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there's a dispute about it, at some point, the president will either assert the privilege or not or some
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other privilege can be asserted, but at this point, i believe it's premature for me to - >> asserting the privilege of the -- >> it's premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive priprivilege that's not necessary at this point. >> you testified, quote, we were asked for our opinion. who asked for the opinion? >> you mean -- >> testified we were asked for our opinion. >> my understanding is i believe i'm correct in saying that the president had said so. >> he did not ask you directly >> i thought you asked about the privilege. >> no, no, sorry - >> youwant to go back to - >> you said, quote, we were asked for our opinion, you and mr. rosenstein >> i believe that was appropriate for me to say that because i think the president -- >> no, i'm just asking you why your opinion
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who asked you. >> yeah, right the president asked for our opinion. >> all right you just testified as to the content of the communication of the president. >> correct, but i believe he revealed that. i'm correct in saying that that's why i indicated that when i answered that question if he has not, i'm in error. i would have con stricted his constitutional right of privilege. you're correct >> you're being selective. >> i'm not so intentionally. i believe he made that - >> in the discussions of the president with the firing comey, did the discussions of the russians come up >> i cannot answer that. it's a communication by the president or if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not weighed. but not asserted executive privilege. >> he has not. >> do you believe the russians
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interfered with the 2016 elections? >> appears so. the intelligence community is united in that, but i have to tell you, senator caine, i know nothing but what i read in the papers i never received any detail, briefings on how hacking occurroccur ed - >> between the election, there was a memorandum from the intelligence community on object 9th detailing what the russians were doing after the election before the inauguration. you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on the country? never asked for a briefing or attended a a briefing or read the intelligence reports >> might have been very critical of me if i, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to something relevant to the campaign i'm not -- >> not talking about the campaign, but about what the russians did you received no briefing on the russian active measures in
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connection with the 2016 election >> no, i don't believe i ever did. >> let's go to your letter of may 9th saying based upon my valuation and for the reasons expressed by the deputy, was that a written evaluation? >> my valuation was a valuation going on for some months >> written valuation >> i did not make one. i think you could classify deputy attorney general rosenstein's memorandum as an evaluation on one that >> based on the hillary clinton e-mails -- >> a number of other matters, as i recall, but he did explicitly lay out the errors that he thought had been made in that process by the director of the
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fbi. i thought they were accurate and for more significant than i think a lot of people have understood >> thank you, mr. chairman >> senator lankford. >> thank you, mr. chairman good to see you again. >> thank you >> you speak as a man eager to set the record straight. you spoken very blunt from the very beginning of the opening statement all the way through this time. i'm amazed at the conversations as if an attorney general never had private conversations with the president, and we don't need to discuss those seems to be a short memory about some of the statements eric holder would and would not make to any committee in the house or senate, and would or would not turn over documents even requested. that had to go all the way through the court system until the courts said, no, the president can't hold back documents, and the attorney general can't do that, so somehow some accusation that you're not saying every
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conversation about everything, there's a a long history of attorney generals standing beside the president saying there's some conversations that are are confidential, and we determine from there it seems as well that every unnamed source story somehow gets to hearing. i was in the hearing this morning with rod rosenstein dealing with the appropriations request that originally, obviously, you were scheduled to be at and rod rosenstein took your place to cover. he was clear, tempered with questions about russia in that conversation as well he was very clear that he has never had conversations with you about that that you never requested conversations about that he was also peppered with questions of the latest rumor of the day, that somehow the president is thinking about firing robert mueller and getting rid of him and was very clear that rosenstein, himself, said i'm the only one that could
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do that, and i'm not contemplating that nor would i do that, and no one has no idea where the latest unnamed sourced story of the day is coming from, yet grabbing all the attention i want to bring up things to you specifically one is define the word recuse. back to the e-mail you sent to comey and others that day on march 2. you said after careful consideration with career department officials, over the course of the past several weeks, the attorney general decided to rescue himself from existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaign for president of the united states. attorney general's recusal is respect to investigations, if any, but in response to media inquiries related to such investigations is that something you have maintained from march 2en on? >> absolutely. maintained it from the first day
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i became attorney general. we discussed those matters, and i felt if i ever made a decision to not recuse myself, i should not out of abundance of caution involve myself in studying the investigation or evaluating it so i did not >> all right >> i also would note that the memorandum from my chief of staff direct to the agencies and one other people directly it was sent to was james d. comey, the direct of the fbi, you should instruct members of your staff to not brief the attorney general or any other officials in the office of the attorney general about or otherwise involve the attorney general or other officials in the office of the attorney general in any such matters described above. >> and you have -- >> proper and firm crystal clear
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position the recusal meant recusal. >> relating to the april 27th meeting, nonmeeting in the same room at the same time, the national interest was asked specifically about this as well who was the host of that event they stated this in writing. as the host, center for national interest decided whom to invite and issued inviatio einvites. the president did not, and most of the guests were washington based foreign policy experts and journalists, and senator for national interests invited russian ambassador and several other ambassadors to the speech. we regularly invite ambassadors own foreign representatives to the events to facilitate dialogue, and then they said, we seated all four in the front row in the speech in deference to the diplomatic status, trump campaign had nothing to do with the seattling arrangement, it was equal treatment to the foreign investors, each invited to a short reception prior to
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trump's speech there was two dozen guests in a receiving line, line moved quickly, and any conversations with mr. trump were brief and could not be private a recollection is that the interaction between mr. trump and the ambassador was light exchange of pleasantries, not aware of conversations between the ambassador and jeff sessions at the reception however, in a small group setting like this one, we consider it unlikely that anyone could have engaged in a meaningful private conversation without drawing attention from others present do you have any reason to disagree with that >> no, i think that's a very fair description of the reception situation. i'm appreciate them having made that statement >> great, i yield back >> mr. chairman, thank you >> thank you, general, for being here good to see you again. >> thank you >> following up on what senator caine asked concern ing concernn
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the russian government or russian military to be our friend, and wanting the same things we wanted out of life with that said, the serious nnes of this russian hacking 12 very serious to me and concerning you're saying you had not been briefed on that. october, i think, it was october 9th, the one that was known at the time, i think mr. clapper and also mr. jay johnson, homeland security, made public what was going on. then on december 29th, president obama at the time expelled 35 russian diplomats, and he brought on sanctions sir, did you have any discussions at all, any discussions or sat in on any types of meetings or recommendations made to remove
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sanctions? >> i don't recall any such meetings >> going to time not from the president inaugurated on january 20, prior to that in the campaign up until through the transition, was there meetings he showed concern or consideration or just inkwist e inquisitive of what the russians were doing >> i don't recall any such conversations. i'm not sure i understand the question, maybe i better listen again. >> you were part of the national security team. >> yeah. >> if he would have heard something about russia and their capabilities and concerns about what they could do to our election process, was there ever any conversations concerns that whatsoever >> i don't recall it, senator. >> i know it's been asked of you, executive privilegeprivile protecting the president, i understand that, but also when we had mr. comey here, you know, he couldn't answer a lot of things in open session and agreed to go in close the session. would you be able to go in
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closed session, would it change answers to us or ability to speak more frankly on things we'd want to know? >> senator mansion, i'm not sure of executive privilege is not weighed by going in camera or closed session maybe one of the concerns is that special counsel, often very problematic to have a person not cooperating with that counsel in the conduct of the investigation which may or may not be a factor of going into closed session >> would be very helpful to the committee, a lot of questions they want to ask apple you'd like to answer if possible, and maybe we can check into that further. if i could, sir, did you have any other meetings with russian government officials that have not been previously disclosed? >> i racked my brain, and i do
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not believe so >> any other - >> i - i can assure you that none of those meetings discussed manipulating a campaign in the united states in any way, shape, or form or any hacking or any such ideas >> quickly through this, any other meetings between russian government officials in any other trump campaign associates that have not been previously disclosed that you know of in. >> i don't recall any. >> to the best of your knowledge, any of the following individuals meet with russian individuals at any point in the campaign yes or no as i go down the list. paul >> repeat that now start over >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of the following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign. you can just yes or no on this paul >> i don't have any information that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for a few months >> steve bannon. >> i have no information that he
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did. >> general michael flynn >> i don't recall it >> reince preibus? >> i don't recall. >> steve miller. >> i don't recall. >> cory. >> i do not recall any of the individuals having any meeting with the russian officials >> paige >> i don't know. >> finally, i ask this question because we try to get -- you have innate knowledge -- >> there may have been some public accounts of mr. paige talking with russians. i'm not sure i don't recall >> as a former senator, you bring unique perspective to the investigation because you've been on both sides >> i have, indeed. all in all, it's better on that side >> if you were on this side -- >> nobody gets to ask you about your private conversations with your staff >> here you go, get us in the vice if you were on this side, what
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question would you be asking >> i would be asking whether or not -- i would be asking questions related to whether or not there was an impact on this election >> what part of the story -- >> foreign power, particularly the russians, the intelligence community as suggested and stated they believe they did, but i do think that members of the government have offices to run. the questions should be focused on that. >> part of the story we're missing, so sorry, mr. chairman, a part of the story we're missing? >> i don't know because i'm not involved in the campaign and had no information concerning it, and no idea what stage it is you and the committee know more than i >> thank you, general sessions >> general sessions, we are very much focused on russia's involvement, and our hope is that it's complete the process, we can lay the facts out for the
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american people to make their own determinations as well we're grateful for what you're done senator? >> i'm on this side, so i say a simple question that should be asked. did donald trump or any of his associates in the campaign collude with russia in hacking e-mails and release them to the public that's where we started six months ago we heard from six of eight democrats on the committee and not a single one asked that question they've gone down other ragged trails, but not that question. maybe that is because jim comey said last week to donald trump three times assured him he was not urn investigation. maybe it's because multiple democrats on this committee have stated they have seen no evidence thus far after six months of our investigation and 11 months of the fbi investigation of any such collusion. i suggest what do we think
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happened at the mayflower? mr. sessions, are you familiar with what cray craft >> a little bit. >> covert communications and brush passes, right? >> that's part of it >> do you like science fiction jason matthews >> allen firth - >> jason born and james bond movies >> no. [ laughter ] >> have you ever in any of these fantast tatastic situations heaa plot line so ridiculous that a sits united states senator and ambassador of a foreign government colluded in open settings with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest collusion in history >> thank you for saying that it's through the looking glass i mean, what is this
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i explained how in good faith i said i had not met with russians because they were suggesting i, as a surrogate, had been meeting continuously with the russians i said i did not meet with them. now, next thing you know, i'm accused of some reception plotting some sort of influence campaign for the american election it's just beyond my capability to understand and i really appreciate, mr. chairman, the opportunity to at least to be able to say publicly i didn't participate in that and know nothing about it >> i gather that's one reason you wanted to testify today in public last week, mr. comey and characteristic dramatic and theater fashion alluded ominously to what you could innuendo, that was classified intelligence that suggested you colluded with russia or acted improperly you addressed those allegations here today do you understand why he made
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that allusion? >> actually, i do not. nobo nobody's provided me information about that >> thank you i have a lot of questions. mr. blunt asked you if you spoke in response to mr. comey's conversation with you prior to meeting with the president on february 14th. you said you didn't. mr. comey's testimony said you did not. do you know why mr. comey would have said you did not respond to him on that conversation of february 14th? >> i do not. it was a little conversation, not very long, but there was a conversation, and i did respond to him, perhaps not to everything he asked, but i did respond to him i think in an appropriate way. >> do you know why mr. comey mistrusted president trump from the first meeting, stated last
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week he did, but did not state anything from the meeting to cause him to have mistrust >> i'm not able to speculate on that >> turn to the simple crimes that we know have happened, at least with certain information here's a short list of what i have the contents of the alleged transscript of alleged conversations between mr. flynn and mr. kislyak. the content of trump's phone calls of australian leaders, the russian foreign minister and ambassador, the leak of the manchester bombing identity and crime scene photos, and last week within20 minutes of a meeting in classified setting with comey leaking what innuendo was. are leaks serious to the security, and are they going to prosecute him to the full extent
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of the law >> thank you, senator cotton we had one successful case recently in georgia. that person has been denied bail, i believe, and is being held in custody, but some of the leaks, as you well know, are extraordinarily dangerous and damaging to the united states' security we have got to restore a regular order presencinciple. we cannot have persons in our intelligence agencies, our investigative agencies or staff leaking information. i'm afraid this will result and already resulted in investigations, and i'm fearing that some people may find that they wish they hadn't leaked >> thank you, time expired as the record stated earlier, the republican platform was weakened on the point of arms to reframe. incorrect, the platform was stengthened, and it's democratic president who refused
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bipartisan request of this congress to apply those arms to be frank >> senator harris. >> attorney general sessions, you have several times this afternoon pressed us with responses by saying to the best of your recollection just on the first page of your three pages of written testimony, you wrote nor do i recall, do not have recollection, do not remember it my question is for any of your testimony today, did you refresh your memory with any written documents, be that your calendar, written correspondence, e-mails, notes of any sort? >> i attempted to refresh my recollection, but ten months of this is, you know, in a wholesale campaign of extraordinary nature, that you're moving so fast that you don't keep notes you meet people. i didn't take notes of my conversations with the russian ambassador - >> sir, i'd like to just talk to -- >> no, just saying i did not
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keep notes on most of these things >> provide the committee with the notes you did maintain >> as appropriate, i will supply the committee with documents >> can you please tell me what you mean when you say "appropriate"? >> i asked to consult with lawyers in the department who know the proper procedure to afford disclosing documents that are held within the department of justice, but i'm not able to make the opinion today >> sir, i'm sure you prepared for the hearing today and most of the questions presented to you were predictable my question to you is, did you then review with the lawyers of your department if you as a top lawyer are unaware what the law is regarding what you can share with us and what you can want share with us. what is privileged, what is not pr privileged >> discussed basic parameters of testimony, frankly have not discussed document disclosure rules. >> would you make a commitment
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to the committee that you'll share any written correspondence be they your calendars, records, notes, e-mails, or anything in any point of time in writing back to this committee where legally you actually have an obligation to do so? >> i will commit to reviewing the rules of the department and as and when that issue is raised to respond appropriately >> did you have any communications with russian officials for any reason during the campaign that has not been disclosed in public or to the committee? >> i don't recall it i have to tell you i cannot testify to what was said as we were standing at the republican convention before the podium where i spoke. i'm just - >> my question - >> i don't have a detailed memory of this >> at least to your knowledge.
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>> best of my knowledge. >> any communication with the russian businessmen or russian nationals? >> i don't believe i had in conversations with the russian businessmen or russian nationals, although a lot of people were at the convention. it's conceivable that somebody -- >> sir - >> you let me qualify -- if i don't qualify it, i'll be accused of lying, so i have to be correct as best i can, and i'm not able to be rushed this fast it makes me nervous. >> are you aware of any communications with other trump campaign officials and associates they had with russian associates or nationals? >> i don't recall that >> and are you aware - >> at this moment. >> are you aware of any communications with any trump officials or have any communications with any officials about russia or russian interest in the united states before january 20th >> no. i may have had some conversations, and i think i did
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with the general strategic concept of the possibility of whether or not russia and the united states could get on a more har momonious relationshipd move from the hostility. the soviet union in fact did collapse due to tragic strategic events we're not able to get along as we are today. >> how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump >> would you repeat that >> before he was sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> i did not - >> communicate - >> i did not communicate in memorandum or make formal presentations. >> in writing? >> i don't believe so. >> and you refer to a long standing doj policy. can you tell us what policy it is you are talking about >> well, i think most cabinet
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people as witnesses you had before you earlier, those individuals decline to comment because we're all about conversations with the president -- >> sir, i'm just asking you -- >> about the long standing policy that goes beyond just the attorney general >> is that policy in writing somewhere? >> i think so. >> did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing that we'd ask questions about this >> well, we talked about it. the policy is -- >> ask that it be shown to you >> the policy is based on the principle that the president - >> sir, i'm not asking about the principle. i'm -- >> i'm unable to answer -- >> you'd rely on the policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusing to answer - >> chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the questions. >> senators will allow the chair to control the hearing senator harris, let him answer >> thank you
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please >> we stalked about it, and we talked about the real principles at stake it's one that i have some appreciation for, having spent 15 years in the department of justice, 12 as united states attorney, and that principle is that the constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges, and that members, one of them is, confidentiality as to communication, and it is improper for agents of any department of the executive branch to waive that privilege without clear approval of the president. >> mr. chairman, i asked - >> that's -- >> just asking yes or no did you ask -- >> so the answer, is, yes, i consulted. >> senator, your time expired. >> apareparently not >> attorney general sessions, former director comey lettered to fbi employees when he was
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terminated, started this way, saying, i have long believed a president can fire an fbi director for any reason or no reason at all. do you gae wiagree with that? >> yes i think that was good for him to say because i believe we're going to have a new and excellent fbi director person who is smart disciplined with integrity and proven judgment that would be good for the bureau, and i think that statement probably was a valuable thing for the director comey to say, and i appreciate that he did. >> just to reiterate, the timeline of your recusal and the rosenstein memo and your letter to the president recommending the termination of director comey. you recused from the russian investigation on march the 2nd, correct? >> formal recusal took place on that day >> the letter that you wrote
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according to rosenstein memo to the president is basis for director comey's termination was dated may 9th, a couple months after your recusal, correct? >> i believe that's correct. >> so isn't it true that the russian investigation did not factor into the recommendation to fire director comey >> that is correct >> the men rmorandum written byh deputy attorney general, they did not mention russia at all, is that your recollection? >> that is correct >> so let's review what the basis was of deputy attorney general rosenstein's recommendation he wrote in the memo on may 9th, i cannot defend the corrector's
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handling of the conclusion of the e-mails, and i do not understand his refusal to accept the near universal judgment that he was mistaken, of course, talking about director comey he went on to say director, director comey at the time,was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on july 5th, 2016 you recall that was the date of the press conference he held he went on to say that the fbi director is never empowered to plant federal prosecutors and assume command of the justice department finally, he said, compounding the error, the director ignored another long standi ining princ that we do not hold press conferences to talk about criminal investigations. in fact, there is written policy prosecute department of justice,
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is there not, entitled election year sensitivities are you familiar with the prohibition of the justice department making announcements or taking other actions that might interfere with the normal elections? >> i am generally familiar with that on some to hold the memorandum after my time in the department it's always been rules about it, though >> let me read just an exert from a memo from the attorney general march 9th, 2012, enti e entitled election year sensitivities. it says law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of the affecting in the election or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political. such a purpose is inconsistent
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with the department's mission and with the principles of federal prosecution. do you agree with that >> essentially, yes. >> so, what essentially the deputy attorney general said is that former director comey violated department of justice directors when he held a press conference on july 5th, 2016 announcing that secretary clinton was extremely careless with classified e-mail and went on to release other derogatory information including his conclusion that she was extremely careless, yet went on to say no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. that's not the role of the fbi director, is it? that is a job for the prosecutors at the department of justice. that's what was meant by deputy general rosenstein saying director comey usurped the role
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of the department of justice prosecutors, is that correct >> that is correct, and former attorney general bill bar wrote an op-ed recently that he assumed attorney general lynch urged mr. comey to make this announcement so she wouldn't have to do it, but, in fact, it appears he did it without her approval totally, and that is a pretty stunning thing. it is a stunning thing it violates fundamental powers, and then when he reaffirmed the rightness he believed of his decision on may 3rd, i think it was, that was additional confirmation that the director's thinking was not clear >> senator lee >> thank you very much, chairman first point attorney general,
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raising the issue of long standing rules if there are written rules to this effect, provide them to the committee, please. >> i will. >> thank you very much now, senator cornyn made the point that the whole recommendae president to dismiss director comey was his unprofessional conduct back to the clinton administration is that correct? >> i supported everything that the deputy attorney general put in his memoranda as good and important factors to use in determining whether or not he had conducted himself in a way that justified continuing in office i think it pretty well speaks for itself and i believe most of it did deal with that. the discussion about his performance was a bipartisan discussion it began during the election
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time democrats were very unhappy about the way he conducted himself and in retrospect and looking at it, i think it was egregious nan i understood ted. >> general - >> with regard to -- >> general, if i may, i don't want to cut you off. >> i'll answer excuse me, sir >> on july 7th when mr. comey made his first announcement about the case, you were on fox news and you said, first of all, districtor comey is a skilled, former prosecutor. then contrast\clued by saying essenti essentially that it's not his problem, it's hillary clinton's problem. then in november, on november 6th after mr. comey again made news in late october by reopening if you will the investigation, you said again, on fox news, you know fbi director comey did the right thing when he found new
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evidence he had no choice but to report it to the american commerce. the investigation was opened he had to correct that and say this investigation is ongoing now. i'm sure it's different or else he wouldn't have announced it. so in july and november director comey was doing exactly the right thing. you had no criticism of him. you felt that, in fact, he was a skilled, professional prosecutor you felt that his last statement in october was fully justified so how can you go from those statements to agreeing with mr. rosenstein and then asking the president for recommending he get barred >> i think in retrospect, as all of us began to look at that clearly and talk about it as prospectus of the department of justice, once the director in our first got involved and
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embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation, which would have been better never to have been discussed publicly and said he -- it was over then when he found new evidence that came up i think he probably was required to tell congress that it wasn't over. >> that new evidence has been developed. it probably would have been better, it would be consistent with the rules of the department of justice to never to have talked about the investigation to begin with. once you get down that road, that's the kind of thing that you get into >> that went against classical prosecuting policy that i learned and was taught when i was a united states attorney and assistant united states attorney >> if i may ask another question your whole premise in recommending to the president was the actions in october
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involving secretary of state clinton, the whole controversy did you feel misled when the president announced his real reason for dismissing mr. comey was the russian investigation? >> i don't have -- i'm not able to characterize that -- i wouldn't try to comment on that. >> so you had no inkling there was anything to do with russia until the president of the united states basically declared not only on tv but in the oval office to the russian foreign minister saying the spraesh o pressure is off, i got rid of that nut job >> that came to you as a complete surprise? >> all i can say, senator reid, our recommendation was put in writing. i believe it's correct i believe the president valued it, but how he made a decision was hess. >> and you had no inkling that he was considering the russian
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investigation? >> well, i'm not going to try to guess what i thought. >> that's true there is a -- there is a scenario in which this whole recapitulation of clinton was a story, basically, a cover story the president is required to put out that he quickly abandoned and his real reason was the russian investigation, which it had been the case, i would suspect, i think human principle you would recuse yourself of any involvement. thank you. >> senator mccain. >> over the last few weeks, the administration has characterized your previously undisclosed meetings with russian ambassador kislyak at his meetings he took in your official capacity as u.s. senator and a member of the senate armed services committee.
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as chairman of that committee, let me ask you a few questions about that at these meetings, did you raise concerns about russian invasion of ukraine or annexation of crimea >> i did, senator mccain and i would like to follow up a bit on that that was one of the meetings -- that's one of the issues that i recall explicitly, the day before my meeting with the russian ambassador, i had met with a ukrainian ambassador and i we heard his concerns about russia and so i raised those with mr. kislyak and he gave, as you can imagine, not one inch, everything they did the russians had done according to him was correct. and i remember pushing back on it and it was a bit testy on that subject. >> knowing you on the committee, i can't imagine that did you raise concerns about russia's support for president bashiar al asad and his use of
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chemical weapons against his own citizens >> i don't recall if that was a concern or not. >> did you raise interference with our elect tractor-trailer process or processes of our allies >> i don't recall that being discussed. >> at those meetings, have you spoke with ambassador kislyak as a member of the armed services committee, you presumably talked to him about russia-related security issues that you have demonstrated is important to you as a member of the committee >> did i discuss security issues -- >> i don't recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues >> repeat that, senator mccain, i'm sorry. >> the whole russia-related security issue as you demonstrated is important you as a member of the committee. did you raise those with him >> you mean -- such issues as or -- or. >> or russia-related security
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issues in your capacity as the chairman of strategic forces subcommittee, what russia-related security issues did you hold hearings on or otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in? >> we may have discussed that. i just don't have a real recall of the meeting i may -- i was not making a report about it to anyone. i just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed >> and his response was? >> i don't recall. >> during that 2016 campaign season, did you have contacts with any representative including any lobbyist or agent of any russian capacity in your armed services committee >> i don't believe so. >> politico recently reported in the middle of the 2016 elections the fbi found that russian
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diplomats who traveled with the state department were supposed to track and missing some turned up wandering around the desert or around kansas, reportedly intelligence sources reported after a jeer of inattention his movements indicate that one moscow's espionage grounds game is growing stronger and more brazen and if quietly the kremlin has been trying to map the intelligence communications infrastructure what do you know about this development and the justice department and other relevant u.s. government agencies is responding to it >> we into ed to do more, senator mccain i am worried about it. we also see that from other nations with these kind of technological spills like china and some o. other nations that are penetrating our business interests, our national security interests, as a member of the armed services committee i did
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support and advocate and you supported legislation, it's going an now that requires the defense department to identify weaknesses in our system and how we can fix them. but i would say to you, senator mccain, that as in my short tenure here in the department of justice, i have been more concerned about computer hacking and those issues than i was at the -- in the senate it's an important issue, you are correct. >> the russian post reported yesterday russia's developed a cyber weapon that can disrupt the united states power grids and telecommunications infrastructure this weapon is similar to what russia or russian hackers used to disrupt ukraine's electrical grid in 20s 15 can you discuss a little bit in open session how serious that is >> i don't believe i can discuss the technological issues just to say that it is very disturbing
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that the russians continue to push hostile actions in their foreign policy and there is a not good for the united states or the world or russia, in my opinion. >> do you believe we have a strategy in order to counter these ever increasing threats to our national security and our way of life? >> not sufficiently. we do not have a sufficient strategy dealing with technological and i.t. penetrations of our system i truly believe it's more important than i ever did before and i appreciate your concern and leadership on that issue and, in fact, all of congress is going to have to do better >> senator, your time is expired t. chair would recognize the vice chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman and general sessions, thank you. and i particularly appreciate
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your last comments with senator mccain about the seriousness of this threat and it's why so many of us on this committee are concerned when the whole question of russia intervention, the president continues to refer to it as a witch hunt and fake news and it doesn't seem to be a recognition of the seriousness of this threat i share, i think most members do, the consensus the russians massively interfered they want to continue to interfere, not to favor one party or another but to favor their own interest it is of enormous concern we have to hear from the administration how they will take that on i also -- comments have been made here about where we head in terms of some of the trump associates, who may have had contacts with russians again, we have not gotten to all of that yet, because of the unprecedented firing of the fbi director that was leading this very same russia investigation
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it superceded some of our investigations i hope those members equally pursue the very troubling amount of smoke at least that's out there between individuals that were affiliated with the trump campaign, possible ties with russians i'm not reaching any conclusions. finally, i understand your point. but you have to -- there were serious comments made by mr. comey last week. i think members from this side of the aisle have indicated, understanding executive privilege, understand classified setting. i do think we need, as senator reid indicated and senator harris and others, if there are these longstanding written procedures about this ability to have some other category to protect the conversations with the president, we'd like to get a look at them because we need to find out in light of some of the contradictions between today
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and last week where this all heads. at the end of the day, this is not only like i said the last time, it's not about relitigating 2016. it is about finding out what happened, about some of the serious allegations of potential ties, but on a going forward basis, making sure the russians who are not finished in terms of their activities didn't end on the awesome day of 2016, you know that is ongoing you know we have to be prepared going forward. thank you. >> mr. chairman, one brief comment, if you may. i do want to say that there are -- the chains at the top of the fbi should have no impact whatsoever on an investigation those teams have been working and they'll continue to work and they have not been altered in anyway >> but there were a number of very strange comments that mr. comey testified last week that you could i believe shed some light on we'll continue.
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>> thank you. >> general sessions, thank you again for your willingness to be here i'm not sure that you knew it, but your replacement sat through most of this hearing, luther strange, he's made us redpret we don't have intermural basketball teams. >> big luther is a good round ball player. tulane >> you have been asked a wide range of questions and i think you've answered things related to claims about the meeting at the mayflower. you've answered questions that surround the reasons of your recusal and the fact that you had never been briefed since day one on the investigation, that you made clear that you can't think of any other conversations that you've had with russian officials. you've covered in detail the conversation that you had, though brief, with director comey, that he referenced to
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after his private meeting with the president. just to make the i name a few things i think you've helped us to clear up there were several questions that you chose not to answer, because of confidentiality with the president. i would only ask you now to go back and work with the white house to see if there are any areas of questions that they feel comfortable with you answering and if they do that you provide those answers if writing to the committee i would also be remiss and remind you that those documents that you can provide for the committee, they would be helpful to us for the purposes of sorting time lines out, anything that substantiates your testimony today individuals who might have been at events that you are familiar with, especially those that worked for you would be extremely helpful and more importantly, i want to thank you for your agreement to
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have continuing dialogue with us as we might need to ask some additional questions as we go a little further down the investigation, that certainly does not have to be a public hearing, but it may be an exchange in the dialogue that we have you have helped us tremendously and we are grateful to you and to mary for the unbelievable sacrifice that you made and this institution but also now in this administration this hearing is now adjourned. >> thank you with that, attorney general jeff sessions concludes a two-and-a-half hour discussion before the senate intelligence committee today. asked a number of questions by senators, probably most interesting at the beginning when he gave his opening remarks and towards the end with muted exchangess with california caramel la harris and others he said


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