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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  January 10, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm PST

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vowing to recuse himself from any further investigations related to hillary clinton. >> some have expressed concern about whether you can approach the clinton matter impartially in both fact and appearance. how do you plan to address those concerns? >> i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve secretary clinton that were raised during the campaign. or it could be otherwise connected to it. >> sessions also confronted accusations he's a racist, something that derailed his confirmation hearings for a judgeship before the same committee in 1986. >> it was very painful. i didn't know how to respond and didn't respond very well. i hope my tenure in this body has shown you that the caricature that was created of me was not accurate -- >> the hearing periodically interrupted by protesters who oppose his confirmation.
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and things got tense when democratic senator al frank en accused sessions of distorting his record. >> so, tell me, did you file 20 or 30 dee segregation cases or is it some other number? >> the records don't show that there were 20 or 30 actually filed cases, so -- >> what do you think would have caused you to say that you filed 20 or 30 de segregation s? >> we had cases going throughout my district and some of them were started before i came and continued after i left. >> sessions also weighed in on president-elect's highly controversial early campaign promise to ban all muslims from entering the united states. >> would you support a law that says you can't come to america because you're a muslim? >> no. >> sessions' colleagues also pressed him on the issue of water boarding. >> does water boarding constitute torture? >> well, that was a dispulte about that when we had the
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torture definition in our law. the department of justice memorandum concluded it did not necessarily prohibit that, but congress has taken an action now it makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use water boarding. >> and senator sessions was also asked about the russian hack and whether he accepts the intelligence community's findings that russians hacked the -- during the election and the intent was to hurt hillary clinton and help donald trump. he says he couldn't really answer. he hasn't really studied it. when further pressed by senator graham, he says that he has no reason not to accept the fbi and intelligence community's findings. >> in general, pamela, i think it's fair to say that the senators, as they tend to be, were rather deferential. there were moments auz you point out some real challenging of senator sessions. you saw the one, you noted the one in your piece with senator al fra nke n who is only one of
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a couple non-lawyers on the committee who talked about he inflated his role in school dee segregation prosecutions. also there was this issue of what to do about the so-called dreamers, these individuals who were brought to this country illegally when they were children through no fault of their own, given some sort of temporary legal standing by president obama, and senator dick durbin really made it clear he so strongly disagreed with senator sessions on this issue. it sounded to me as though that was not a vote he was going to get. >> i agree. and not only on that issue, but also when it comes to clemency. we know that the two worked on a bill together to reduce sentences for inmates who were convicted for crack cocaine. they reduced the sentences. and, of course, the issue of clemency came up later on and that's been a big initiative under president obama granting petitions, clemency petitions for some of these inmates. and it came up during the hearing today with senator durbin and senator sessions
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basically said, i understand your point. it's an honorable debate, but that's not something he is looking to adopt. that also. you saw with senator leahy, the issue come up with the hate crimes legislation and why he didn't vote to expand it to protect gays and lesbians. that was a contentious part of the hearing if you want to call it that. senator sessions defended himself saying he was focused on another provision under the legislation about tribal courts. he didn't really address the fact that he didn't get on board to expand those protections to gays and lesbians. there were some contentious parts. this is an unusual situation where you have a sitting senator going in front of a committee that he was once on. not long ago. but he was clearly prepared and was expecting some tough questions. >> yeah, absolutely. senator sessions is taking a break right now. the senate judiciary committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next u.s. attorney general. let's go live now to the senate home land security committee hearing where they are
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questioning trump's pick, retired marine general john kelly to head the department of home land security. let's listen in. >> have not receded in any way. the challenges to our way of life have not diminished. as i solemnly swore before my god when i entered the marine corps, if confirmed, i will faithfully support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic, every second of every day. i believe in america and the principles upon which our country and way of life are guaranteed. i believe and respect tolerance and diversity of opinion. i have a profound respect for the law and will always strive to uphold it. i have never had a problem speaking truth to hour and i firmly believe that those in power deserve full candor and my honest assessment and recommendations. i also value people that work for me speaking truth to power. i love my country and i will do everything within my power to preserve our liberty, enforce our laws and protect our
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citizens. i recognize the many challenges facing the department and should i be confirmed i look forward to partnering with you to protect the home land. sir, i look forward to discussing the future of the department and answering the committee's questions. thanks very much. >> thank you, general kelly. again, i want it remind the members i'm going to limit questions to seven minutes. i'm going to be very disciplined and maintain the seven minutes. there are questions that i will ask and then i will reserve the rest of my time and defer to senator mccain or chair mccain who i know haslem ted tim-- has limited time. let me start with three general questions. general kelly, is there anything in your background that might present a conflict of interest for the duties for which you have been nominated? >> i do not, sir. >> do you know of anything that would prevent you from discharging the responsibilities to the office you have been nominated? >> there is nothing, senator. >> do you agree without
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reservation to comply with any request or summons to appear and testify before new duly constituted committee of congress -- >> the comments and opening remarks by the nominee to be secretary of the department of home land security, retired marine general john kelly, he has finished his opening remarks. there is some questioning going on. let's talk more about this day and all the news coming from capitol hill, including that intelligence committee hearing. let's bring in the chairman of the senate committee on foreign relations, republican senator bob corker of tennessee. senator, thanks so much for joining us. we appreciate it. >> jake, good to be with you. thank you. >> so, as you know, in that senate intelligence committee hearing today on russian intelligence activities, fbi director comey confirms their assessment that russia did hack republican targets during the campaign, although they didn't successfully get into anything new of the republican national committee. but they did get into some republican targets, but didn't release any of the hacked information.
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what do you make of that? does this not bolster the argument that russia was trying to sway the election and hurt democrats and hillary clinton while not releasing anything that could potentially be damaging against the republicans and donald trump? >> yeah, i think they probably -- they didn't get into the rnc which was the treasure trove they got out of the dnc when they got in. look, regardless of that, i think that based on the intelligence reporting i've read, there seems to be certainly a desire by russia to undermine secretary clinton. obviously they felt that she had intervened in their election in 2011 and tried to make it so that putin was not elected in an appropriate way, and there was an attitude there. >> russia and the russian leaders may look at the results of the u.s. election and think they succeeded, they achieved what they wanted to achieve. what do you think going forward the u.s. should do to deter them
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from interfering like this in the future, beyond obviously improving our cyber security? >> well, obviously that's it. we've got to protect ourselves. but, look, you have no -- jake, we've talked about scenarios as far as where this can go. and again, it's all about hardening. you can think about a case, for instance, where jake tapper, reporter, happens to be giving an individual a hard time and, so, they get into your computer which is easily done and put materials in there that discredit you and cause you all of a sudden not to be someone that people want to listen to any more, or your reputation is -- there's all kind of directions that this could go. and, jake, you know that sophisticated governments use hacking to get information. that happens all around the
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world, and happens every day, probably 24/7 where people are trying to gain intelligence. what has been different about this is the offensive use of that in the way that you're describing. but this could take on generations of expansion and really affect all kinds of things. so, yes, i mean, we as a nation, every nation, every individual, every company has to protect itself against this occurring. >> obviously there are a lot of members of your committee and senators talking about potentially imposing greater sanctions on russia because of the hacking. is that something that you're willing to be a part of? you've been hawkish on russia in favor of putting sanctions on them in the past because of their incursions into neighboring countries. what do you think? >> well, again, i haven't seen any of the bills. some of them may come through the foreign relations committee. others will likely go through the banking committee where i
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also serve which is typically where sanctions legislation reside. but, you know, you've got to make sure what you're sanctioning against. i mean, take two countries, let's take us out of the picture, that may be doing certain thing. one country doesn't want to sanction another country for doing something that it itself is doing, right? so, again, i want to look at legislation and to see what it is, what it is we're sanctioning and why. straight hacking, again, sophisticated countries around the world use that. i mean, you remember the angela merkel incident relative to her cell phone. you can imagine the efficacy, if you will, of getting into people's computer systems to gain intelligence and information. i mean, that's what is done. what is different in many countries around the world, what is different about this is what
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they did with it, and that's what we ought to focus on and figure out the best way to counter it. >> tomorrow you're going to be chairing as chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, you're going to be chairing the confirmation hearing for president-elect trump's pick for secretary of state, rex tillerson. you've spoken with m mr. tillerson. are he and the president-elect, are they in agreement in their approach to russia? >> so, i don't know that anybody right now could state for president-elect trump on his views. i think every day that goes by, all of us have been through a transition. new things are evolved. but what is important for us is to focus on tillerson's views. i mean, he's going to be somebody up under the hood. at the end of the day, jake, he's going to have to implement the president's policies. but we want to know how is he going to try to influence the president. what is his view. at the end of the day when they walk away from the table, he's going to do what president-elect
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trump wishes for him to do. but because there have been some concerns, because there has been some unorthodox statements that have been made, because, you know, the world has been what it is. i mean, the united states leadership and the world has been much lesser than it's been in the past. there's been a lot of consternation about a lot of things. the current administration, where does the future administration go, how do they feel about alliances around the world. what people are going to be looking for is how is he going to influence the president, even though at the end of the day he may not win the case. >> senator, are you at all concerned that mr. tillerson as a former executive of a major oil company has not been one to view the world in terms of the issues that you care about a great deal when it comes to sovereignty, democracy, human rights? i don't mean that as a criticism of him. it just hasn't been his job.
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and obviously that doesn't seem to play a major role in the world view of president-elect trump. he seems to be looking more at anti-terrorism and he seems to have a fondness for strong men, if you'll permit me that generalization. does that concern you at all? >> so, look, i've followed behind numbers of meetings he's had with people on both sides of the aisle. it's part of my job to understand where things sit. i do think there have been some senators that have been concerned that the corporate approach doesn't take into account some of the things you mentioned. as i talked with him in the office, look, you know, rex tillerson has unbelievable relationships with people around the world that most people coming into the secretary of state job don't have. he understands how they think. and what i've said to him is, look, there are things that you know that i don't. on the other hand, there are some things that myself and others on the committee know and have thought about that you haven't. and, so, you know, to me what needs to happen is a
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relationship created where those things that you've mentioned that are important become a part of what they're thinking about at the state department. that's obviously our job, but the hearing, no doubt, will press on that, no question. i've talked to several senators today that plan to make that a big part of what they talk about tomorrow. >> all right, senator, we'll be watching tomorrow. thank you so much for joining us as always. we always appreciate it. let's go back now to the confirmation hearing for senator jeff sessions. >> career attorneys to follow the policy dictates of other administrations and not holding the career people responsible for that. i'm wondering how you would react to this. do you have a problem with career attorneys if their private religious beliefs are secular ones? and do you -- will you support the career attorneys against the pressure from the from these right wing organizations seeking to wash them out like filth, to paraphrase the heritage foundation?
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>> the department of justice is composed primarily of career professionals. as you know, senator wine house, you served there ably as the united states attorney. and i give them the highest respect. most of those attorneys reach high standards and they are willing to follow lawful orders and directions from their superiors even if they might have a different philosophy. i do think it's often they are put into non-career spots and can go back to career spots, but i don't know how exactly that works. but, so, you would normally expect -- and i'm sure the obama administration made changes in the leadership of the department. they put career people in positions that they thought would be most advantageous for them to advance the causes they believed in. and that's sort of within the rules of the game. but the target people and to
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anyway demean them, if they were fine public servants and they were following the law and carrying out a legitimate policy of their supervisors would be wrong. and i think you should respect them. i would do that. >> does a secular attorney have anything to fear from an attorney general sessions and department of justice? >> well, no. and i use that word in the 90,000-foot level. a little concern i have is that we as a nation, i believe, are reaching a level in which truth is not sufficiently respected, that the very ideal, the idea of truth is not believed to be real, and that all of life is just a matter of your perspective and my perspective, which i think is contrary to the american heritage. let's just say kind of a criticism -- we are not a theocracy. nobody should be required to believe anything.
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i share thomas jefferson's words on the memorial over here. i swear eternal hostility over any domination of the mind of man. and i think we should respect people's views and not demand any kind of religious test for holding office. >> and a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct? >> well, i'm not sure. in what method? is it less objectively committed to -- >> an attorney would bring to bear -- >> let me just say, we're going to treat anybody with different views fairly and objectively. and the ideal of truth and trying to achieve the right solution to me is an important goal of the american juris prudential system, actually the legislative system. what is the right thing, what is true and let's act on it and do
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the right thing. >> on the subject of what is truth, you may -- >> the age-old question. >> you may be in a position as attorney general to either enforce laws or bring actions that relate to the problem of carbon emissions and the changes that are taking place both physically and chemically in our atmosphere and oceans as a result of the flood of carbon emissions that we've had. it is the political position of the republican party and the senate, as i have seen it, that this is not a problem, that we don't need to do anything about it, that the facts aren't real, and that we should all do nothing whatsoever. that's the senate. you as attorney general of the united states may be asked to make decisions for our nation that require a factual predicate that you determine as the basis for making your decision.
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in making a decision about the facts of climate change, to whom will you turn? will you, for instance, trust the military, all of whose branches agree that climate change is a serious problem of real import for them? will you trust our national laboratories, all of whom say the same? will you trust our national science agencies -- by the way, nasa is driving a rover around on the surface of mars right now. so, they're scientists, i think, are pretty good. i don't think there is a single scientific society, i don't think there is a single credited university, i don't think there is a single nation that denies this basic set of facts. and, so, if that situation is presented to you and you have to make a decision based on the facts, what can give us any
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assurance that you will make those facts based on real facts and real science? >> that's a good and fair question, and honesty and integrity in that process is required. and if the facts justify a position on one side or the other on a case, i would try to utilize those facts in an honest and appropriate way. i've not -- i don't deny that we have global warming. in fact, the theory of it always struck me as plausible, and it's the question of how much is happening and what the reaction would be to it. so, that's what i would hope we could see occur. >> indeed, i'll bet you dollars against those lovely krispy kreme doughnuts we have out back that if you went down to the university of alabama and if you talked to the people who fish out of mobile, they had already seen the changes in the ocean. they'd be able to measure the ph changes and they'd know the acid is happening, and there is no
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actual dispute about that except in the politics of washington, d.c. >> i recognize the great interest in time and you've committed to the issue and i value your opinion. >> i do come from an ocean state, and we do measure the rise in the sea level and we measure the warming of naraganset bay and we measure the ph. it's serious for us, senator. thank you. my time has expired. >> thank you. >> now it looks like it will be senator from texas, and senator from texas, i'm going to step out for a minute. and when your eight minutes are up, would you call on senator kobachar? >> sure. thank you, mr. chairman. senator sessions, i want to congratulate you on making it through a lengthy hearing and then performing admirably. and i think your performance today has reassured this committee and even more importantly has given comfort to the american people that you will be an attorney general who will faithfully apply the law
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without partiality, without partisan lens, but with fidelity to the constitution and the laws of the united states. i also want to do something i don't do very often, which is i want to commend the democrats on this committee for, i think, showing admirable restraint. at the beginning of this hearing i had concerns that it would turn ugly with accusations that don't belong in this hearing. and i think my friends on the democratic side of the aisle have largely restrained from that, and i commend them for that. i would note that in the recesses of the internet and in some of the groups that are speaking on this nomination and, indeed, in the view of some of the protesters who have made their voices heard today, there have been racial charges raised and, indeed, some of the protesters have chanted kkk.
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and you and i have both talked about this a number of times. that is one of the easiest charges for someone to make when they don't have an argument on the merits when they don't have the facts behind them. and it is a particularly hurtful argument that can be directed at someone particularly when it's countered by the facts. and what i want to focus on principally in this round is spending a little bit of time highlighting an aspect of your record, which is your involvement in the prosecution of henry hayes, a member of the ku klux klan which i expect few watching this hearing have ever heard of. it is striking and highly revealing. so, i'd like to walk through some of the facts. i know you're very familiar with them but i suspect some of the folks at home watching this hearing may not be. in 1981 in mobile, alabama, the
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ku klux klam ordered the murder of a random african-american man, michael done kanl. kk members henry hayes and james tiger knowles abducted afternoon cann american michael duncan. they beat him, they strangled him, they cut his throat and they hung him from a tree, absolutely shameful and disgraceful. you were u.s. attorney at the time. your office along with the fbi, along with the local district attorney investigated the murder. department of justice attorneys barry kowalski and burt blan worked on the case. when asked about your work on this case, mr. glenn testified that, quote, during the entire course of the investigations, he, meaning sessions, has provided unqualified support and cooperation to us and independently as an individual
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who absolutely wanted to see that crime solved and prosecuted. is that accurate, senator sessions? >> i think it is, yes. that's exactly what i intended to do. it actually occurred before i became united states attorney. wrong group of people had been indicted in state court that complicated matters. case was not making the kind of progress it needed to make. and, so, we had a discussion. and we invited civil rights division attorneys, burt glenn and barry kowalski, both of which were exceptionally fine, and along with assistant thomas figures in my office, broke that case and i thought they deserve a great deal of credit. but i was with them. i was in the grand jury with them. i called the grand jury at their convenience whenever they wanted to come to the state, actually use an impanelled a special grand jury so they could be called when they desired it.
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it had already been called for another special purpose, but we add that had to their purpose so they had the flexibility. and it was i thought a brilliantly conducted investigation. i guess barry kowalski was the lead attorney in it. >> now, bobby eddy who is the chief investigator for the mobile county district attorney's office, he testified, quote, without his, meaning sessions' cooperation, the state could not have proceeded against henry hayes on the capital murder charge. chris galanos who is the mobile county district attorney in 1981 stated, quote, we needed some horsepower which the feds through jeff sessions provided. specifically, we needed the investigative power of the fbi and the power of the federal grand jury. i reached out to him, sessions, and he responded, quote, tell me what you need and you'll have it. and, indeed, your office
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prosecuted hayes' accomplice in federal court where he pleaded guilty. and mr. eddy testified that tiger knowles, the accomplice, pled guilty on a civil rights violation and received a life sentence, the highest sentence he could receive under federal law in federal prison. and he continued to say, henry hayes was tried in state court by mr. galanos' office and found guilty and sentenced to die in the electric chair. and this made hayes the first white man executed in alabama for murdering a black person since 1913. when you were the attorney general of alabama, you later argued to uphold hayes' death penalty and in 1997, five months after you joined this body as a senator, hayes died in alabama's electric chair. and i would note not only that, not only did you assist in the prosecution of the face of evil,
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the ku klux klan murderer who saw ultimate justice, but as it so happened, you also prosecuted hayes' father, kkk grand titan, benny jack hayes who order his son to kill an african-american and you prosecuted him for attempting to defraud his home insurer in order to collect money to pay for his son's legal defense. is that correct? >> that is correct. >> and beyond that, your office cooperated with morris des and the southern poverty law center to bring a suit against the kkk and he explained, quote, after the criminal case was over, the poverty law center took the evidence we developed and gave to them and they sued civilly and got a $7 million verdict on behalf of ms. donald. and the $7 million civil judgment against the kkk in
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alabama bankrupted the klan, leading to its demise in the state. is that correct? >> that's essentially correct, yes. in fact, they sold the klan headquarters to help satisfy the judgment. >> well, i would say, senator sessions, it's easy for people reading things on the internet to believe whatever is raised and passions get hot. and i know the protesters who stand up and chant kkk, they in all likelihood believe what they're saying because they're reading and being encouraged on the internet. but i have not seen any appointee to the cabinet, democrat or republican, who has a record like you do of prosecuting cla prosecuting klans men, putting them on death row, bankrupting them and putting them out of business, and doing so as you had, i tell you, i admire your doing so. and i'll issue a challenge to our friends in the news media. i noticed every time a protester jumped up, all the photographers took pictures of the protesters. i suspect we're going to see
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them in all the papers. i would encourage the news media, cover this story. tell the story on the 6 o'clock news about jeff sessions helping prosecute a klans man who murdered an african-american man and helped bankrupt him, helping bankrupt the klan in alabama. i thank you for your record, i thank you for your service. >> thank you, senator cruz. i would say it has been very disappointing and painful to have it suggested i think the klan was okay when we did everything possible to destroy and defeat and prosecute klan members who were involved in this crime. and it was a good joint effort. i was supportive of it every step of the way and some great lawyers worked very hard on it. >> thank you, sir. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. senator sessions, just this
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week, back page.com announced it was taking down the adult services section of its website. senator koran and i led the bill on the judiciary committee. you contributed to it which we appreciated. and we also had work by senator portman and senator mccast kell and others on this issue. we had 48 arrests around the towns in minnesota alone where back page was part of the operation. so, this was a good result. they took the fifth today in front of home land security while you were testifying. but i wanted to know what your plans would be, the justice department finally came out with the national strategy and sex trafficking which is part of our bill. and, so, will be in your hands if you are confirmed as attorney general to implement. could you just give me your thoughts on this issue? >> well, i'm glad that the entire nation seems to be giving priority to this. a lot of great people have given real focus to the problem of sex
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trafficking and the degradation and destruction that results from it. so, i think it would be a firm and important part of the department of justice's priorities. and i would look forward to following up on the legislative successes and other things that are happening to see if we can't make a real impact against this abominable practice. >> >> i will say attorney general l lynch and prosecutors have worked on this and would be good to talk to them as well. senator lee and i have been in charge of the committee. we rotate who is in charge as ranking member. i care a lot about this. we're in the mid of a merger wave between 2010 and 2015, the number of mergers reported to the government increased over 50% from 716 to 1,801, and over
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the last 18 months we've seen substantial mergers in pharmaceutical, agriculture, cable, insurance, beer. recently across the political spectrum, there's been a lot of concern about concentration because you need to have an even playing field if competition is going to flourish and that means that's better for consumers if you have strong competition. will you commit to making vigorous antitrust enforcement a priority, kind of a sideline to that, there's some concern based on some of the statements from the president-elect that maybe certain companies or industries could be targeted depending on if they're in favor or not. these are not statements that you have made. could you comment about independence of the attorney general when it comes to considering these cases? >> the antitrust policies of the united states have to be
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consistent and as clear as possible. as you know, that's not always as easy as some people might think. i could say with confidence that you and senator lee, as leaders i believe on the antitrust subcommittee, i know you are, have been more attune to the details and the special issues that are involved in that section of the department of justice. so, we would work resolutely on it. i have no hesitation to enforce antitrust law. i have no hesitation to say certain mergers should not occur and there will not be political influence in that process. >> thank you. i'm going to put a series of other questions on the record. one is on synthetic drugs. we're working hard, senator grassley and i have long worked on this issue with senator feinstein and senator graham.
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and we have a new bill that we're working on to make it easier to go after synthetic drugs and maybe on the record we could get your comments on that. drug courts, again, one of my top priorities, i think that they worked very well in jurisdictions that are devoted to seeing themselves not just as businesses that want to see repeat customers, but getting people off of the treadmill of crime and drugs. and then a very minnesota focused issue, minnesota was -- just got a designation called tied up for high intensity drug trafficking, a lot based on hearn and opiate addictions we've seen. somehow it was set up so the money came through wisconsin. do you know anything about the vikings-packers rivalry? it makes our sheriffs concerned. i thought i would maybe on the record, again, i'm not going to get into detail, discuss this with you on the record and ask you some questions about making sure we get our due for the
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funding for minnesota. but the last thing i want to talk about was just the refugee issue. we have the biggest somali population in the country. our u.s. attorney and the justice department have done an excellent job in taking on some isis cases as well as al shabab cases, dozens of cases that have been successfully prosecuted. and i know that work will continue. but what i am -- want that work to continue. we also have the vast majority of them are law abiding, an important part of our community. and as a you know, there has been a lot of anti-muslim rhetoric out there. i heard the story in minneapolis of a family that went out to eat. they lived in our town forever. they had two little kids and they go out to eat. this guy walks by and looks at them, and says, you four go home. you go home to where you came from. and the little girl looks up at her mom and she says, mom, i don't want to go home.
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you said we could eat out tonight. and you think of the words of that innocent child, she only knows one home and that's my state. she only knows one home. and that's america. so, a big part of the job of the attorney general to me is not just enforcing those laws as we have in our state against terrorist activities, but it is also protecting the innocent among us. i wonder if you could close your questions for me by commenting about your view of how you would uphold all of our nation's laws, the basic value of religious freedom, but also the protection of people from larger crimes than the remark i just talked about, but actually bullying and those kind of things because i just think it has no place in our country. >> thank you. that is an important principle that you tha you've touched on, which is the principle that in america, you're free to exercise
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your religious beliefs as you deem fit as long as it doesn't violate established law that would be important. so, we have that provided for in the constitution. we can establish a religion and we can't prohibit free exercise. and i believe by and large overwhelmingly, americans value that principle and support it. and we should always hold it high and we should not back away from it. and that includes muslim friends and neighbors as well as any other religion. and you are right, overwhelmingly, there is not violence and radicalism among our muslim friends and neighbors and we should not ever think that and treat people in a discriminatory basis. when people apply to come to the country, it is appropriate, i believe, to vet them from countries that may have had a history of violence to be careful about who we admit
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because basically the admission process is a process to -- that should serve the national interest. that's sort of my view about it. i believe it's an acceptable and good view and would try to carry that out. but the decision about admitting and not admitting is really not the attorney general's view -- decision at all. it is the state department's and it is the policy, the president and the state department. and, so, we would just simply make sure if it's done, it's done in a proper fashion and not unlawfully. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i also have some statistics on immigration and response to some of the first exchanges that senator sessions and i had about what minnesota -- the business economic value of immigrants in our community. i'll just put that on the record later, so, thank you. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. senator sessions, thanks to
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senator grassley and senator mcconnell, i now find myself as a member not only of this committee, but also the intelligence committee for which i'm grateful. one reason why i thought it was so important for another member of the senate judiciary committee to get on the intelligence committee is because while the intelligence committee conducts a lot of the oversight, it's the judiciary committee that confers the authorities on our intelligence officials and law enforcement officials to do what they do. my hope is that during this process where we're coming off a very contentious election, that our colleagues across the aisle will join us in making sure that the new president has his national security cabinet members at least confirmed on an expedited basis. of course, i would include the office of attorney general as one of those. as you know, the attorney general and the department's national security division work with members of the intelligence
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community and help over see the collection of foreign intelligence information. i know earlier senator leahy and perhaps senator lee asked you a little bit about about the usa freedom act and the national security agency. but i want to highlight something you're well aware of, and that's the sunsetting of section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act. according to the privacy and civil liberties oversight board which congress appropriately appointed to oversee the activities of the intelligence community, section 702, which will expire at the end of this year, has been responsible for disrupting more than 100 known terrorist plots, including the new york subway bomb plot in 2009 and other plots outside the united states. as i said, if we don't act by the end of the year, that authority will expire. i think we are fortunate on the
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judiciary committee to also have in addition to our other colleagues senator feinstein, who has until recently served as the ranking member on the senate intelligence committee, and now of course she's ranking here. and i hope she, along with chairman grassley, will make sure that all of the committee members are thoroughly briefed and comfortable with the re-authorization of section 702 and to make it one of our highest priorities this year. in addition to section 702, as you know, there are other legal and policy challenges that you're going to face as the next attorney general. our national security investigators and law enforcement officers are facing incredible challenges, many of them technical challenges like growing encryption of communications, whether it's hardware or software.
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we saw that being relevant to what happened in san bernardino where the fbi had to pay third parties a substantial amount of money to get at the communications contained in the telephones of the actors in the san bernardino attacks or in garland, and my home state of texas where the last time the fbi director came before this committee said there were still a multitude of communications on the devices of the two shooters in garland that they still had not been able to get access to. so, the fbi director said this is a part of the trade craft now of terrorists and he referred to it as going dark. and thankfully, chairman grassley held a hearing on that just this last year. we know there are other statutes, including the electronic communications privacy act, things like the electronic communications -- the so-called ector fix which would allow the use of national security letters to get ip
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addresses, not content, without a warrant. but ip addresses or meta data which is important to these national security investigations. i think i know the answer to this, but as attorney general, i just would like your verbal commitment here to continue to do what you have always done, and that's put the safety and security of the american people first and you'll continue to work with us in a cooperative fashion to make sure that all the needs of all the stakeholders are being met, including the brave men and women who defend us each and every day in the intelligence and law enforcement community. will you do that? >> i will, senator konan. thank you for your hard work and leadership on these important issues. >> let me ask you about the freedom of information act. i don't know whether senator grassley had a chance to ask you about this or not. as you may know, senator
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grassley and i -- excuse me, leahy and i are kind of the odd couple on freedom of information act reforms. as a conservative, i've always felt that the best antidote to abuse or waste is sunlight where possible. and you don't have to pass another law or another regulation where people change their behavior because they know people are watching. and senator leahy and i have worked closely together to see a number of reforms passed and signed into law, many of which i know you have supported and consulted with us on. it's not a blank slate. it's sometimes you have to be careful about disclosing information that ought not to be public information or as law enforcement sensitive or classified or the like. but i just would hope that you would continue to work with us and i'm confident you will. but i'd like to get your verbal commitment to continue to work with us to make sure that the
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public's right to know is protected. i'm not suggesting that the public has a right to know everything because, frankly, as i said, classified law enforcement sensitive information needs to be protected for important policy reasons. but will you continue to work with us to make sure that we protect the public's right to know to the extent feasible? >> i will, senator konan. and i value your judgment and insight on this important issue. and i appreciate your work. >> thank you. thanks, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. before i move on in my questions, i'd like to respond very briefly to what senator cruz said earlier. it is important, in my view, that the members of this committee get clarity with regard to the nominees' record. that's our job. and it's important. now, let's be clear.
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senator sessions said in his questionnaire that he, quote, personally handled four civil rights cases. some of the lawyers who worked on those cases disputed that characterization and senator sessions himself, after his questionnaire was in, felt a need to file a supplement in which he clarified that he merely provided, quote, assistance and guidance to civil rights division attorneys on these four cases. now, if that's a distinction without a difference, i'm not sure why senator sessions felt the need to clarify. but i want to move on. senator sessions, in late november, president-elect trump tweeted, quote, in addition to winning the electoral college in a land slide, i won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.
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now, let's be clear, president-elect trump lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes. so, what he's saying here is that more than 2.8 fraudulent votes were cast. do you agree with president trump that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the presidential election? >> senator fra nke n, i don't know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he made that comment or what facts he may have had to justify his statement. i would just say that every election needs to be managed closely and we need to ensure that there is integrity in it. and i do believe we regularly have fraudulent activities occur during elections cycles. >> well, department of justice is tasked with protecting voting rights and prosecuting fraud. so, if millions upon millions of
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fraudulent votes were cast, i would imagine that the next attorney general would be quite concerned about that. did the president-elect tell you anything about what caused him to come to this conclusion? >> i have not talked to him about that in any depth or particularly since the election. >> uh-huh. so, he didn't share any evidence of voter fraud with you? because i would imagine as the man that he wants to make responsible for combatting fraud at the ballot box, that he would want to make sure that you had all the evidence necessary to take action and to protect the vote so he didn't do that evidently. before i move on, i should note for the record that state election and law enforcement officials surveyed in mid december found virtually no credible reports of fraud among the nearly 138 million votes that were cast, and no states
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reported indications of any widespread fraud. what is truly troubling about this, i believe, are these bogus claims of voter fraud. they're routinely used to justify voter suppression. and thanks to the supreme court's disastrously -- decided shelby county decision which gutted the voting rights act, it is easier than ever before for states to take -- make it harder for people to vote. now, senator sessions, you have a complicated history with the voting rights act. ten years ago when voting rights was a bipartisan issue, you voted to reauthorize the voting rights act. everyone did, passed 98-0. but you have also called the voting rights act, quote, an intrusive piece of legislation. you have complained that the acts clearance requirement unfarley targeted certain states. you said there is, quote, little
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present-day evidence that state and local officials restrict access to the franchise. you said that the voting rights act has, quote, eliminated that discrimination. well, senator, after the shelby county decision which you celebrated, states began testing the limits of what they could do. and in many cases, citing the risk of so-called voter fraud as a justification for their actions. now, that's what happened in north carolina, for example, just a few months after shelby county, a state enacted one of the strictest voter id laws and enacted restrictions without any evidence, the state described these changes necessary to prevent fraud. well, the courts disagreed. north carolina's restrictions were challenged and in july the fourth circuit found the primary purpose of the restrictions wasn't to fight fraud, but to make it harder for black people
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to vote. here is what the court said. and i quote. the new provisions target african americans with almost surgical precision. they constitute inept remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, propose cures for problems that did not exist. senator, do you still believe that there is little present day evidence of states restricting access to the franchise? and if you do, what do you think the fourth circuit got wrong when it found that north carolina targeted black voters with almost surgical precision? do you accept that north carolina was targeting african-american voters, but not believe that it was engaging in discriminatory conduct? >> well, you cannot create laws
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designed to inhibit the right of any class of citizens to vote. and, so, if the fourth circuit found that and there is a factual basis to support it, then any law that's passed would be subject to being either eliminated or altered. so, i support your concern that laws of this kind cannot be used for that purpose. i do believe not long ago the supreme court did uphold voter id laws, but there are ways to do it and ways probably you cannot do it. so, i am not familiar with the details of the north carolina law. but you are correct, any finding that's sustainable that there is a racial animus in the passing of a law that would restrict voting, that law is -- could be
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unsustainable. >> now, north carolina is one of the states that would have been covered by preclearance, was it not? >> north carolina states would be. >> it would have been. >> i would just suggest that section 2 allows all the remedies, and that's what i suppose they filed the action under in this case. it just not a preclearance question, and that preclearance policy is intrusive. and as the supreme court has said -- and i didn't mean that in any pejorative way. i was asked, do you believe it's intrusive, is that correct? i said it is intrusive. but the voting -- it said this is 1986. but the voting rights act was absolutely essential to avert the problem -- >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. >> we're going to break away from the confirmation hearings for some breaking news on the charleston church massacre
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trial. the jury has returned to the courtroom and delivered a sentence for the murderer dylann roof, they have sentenced him to death. roof represented himself during the penalty phase after being convicted of murdering nine innocent people at the emmanuel african methodist episcopal church after bible study in june 2015. during closing arguments roof an avowed white supremacist tells the jury he, quote, had to do it. dylann roof has been sentenced to death. now let's go back to the confirmation hearings. >> carolina where african americans' votes were suppressed. that's why you need preclearance. and as soon as shelby came down, you saw texas, you saw north carolina go oh, good. now we can suppress votes.
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that is the reason you have preclearance, and that is the reason that you can't rely on the district court or the circuit courts to rule. >> mr. chairman, i voted a few years ago for the voting rights act extension for 25 years. it included preclearance in it. we all knew at that time that the supreme court would probably take up a case before long that would have wrestled with the question of whether there is a sufficient basis for the extraordinary remedy of requiring only a few states in the country to have every, even ministerial act like moving a voting precinct to seek the permission of the department of justice first. the supreme court found that that no longer could be
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justified. the supreme court decided that we should not have -- did not have to have preclearance. but section 2 of the voting rights act allows these kind of challenges that senator franken is talking about. that's what was brought in north carolina. that is what is being litigated today. the court did, in fact, find the voter id law was improper as i understand it. so, i believe we proceeded in a lawful fashion, and i did feel in one sense that it was a good feeling that the supreme court had concluded, had been substantial improvement in our area of the country, the south of the country in voting rights, sufficient that section 5 could no longer be justified. but i voted for it. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for your indulgence. as justice ginsburg said, an umbrella means you don't get wet
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when it's raining and you don't take the umbrella away. >> in the record, a letter that i just today received in support of senator sessions' nomination from the national shooting sports foundation. senator? without objection. >> thank you, mr. chairman. senator sessions, i'd like to talk a little bit about the sara root case. i know you and i have discussed it briefly last summer. sara root was a woman who was killed a year ago this month in omaha. she had just graduated from college and she was killed by a drunken street racer. omaha authorities believe this guy had been engaged in similar activity many times in the past. he was an illegal immigrant. he ran into her car, killed her right after her graduation. he was detained by omaha police. they ultimately notified the department of home land security, this guy is a flight risk. he was able to post a fairly insignificant bond and he
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disappeared. the department of home land security did nothing to detain the guy despite the fact that the douglas county sheriff and the omaha police department asked that he be detained. the obama administration determined that it wasn't an enforcement priority. i don't want to hold you to specifics on this case here, but i want to get your pledge in this context. i want to hear you talk generally about the coordination between state and local law enforcement on illegal immigration activities and in particular in cases where serious crimes have been committed. but i wonder if you would pledge now that if i send you a letter the day after you are confirmed, would you give expeditious aa tension to responding to some of these details about how enforcement priorities are set inside the federal government? >> thank you, senator sass. i certainly will, and it does represent important failures that we've seen too often in our system today. >> do you have any top line thoughts on the way, local and state officials interact with