Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions Testifies at Confirmation Hearing CSPAN January 10, 2017 9:28am-1:17pm EST
before we start this hearing, i want to give a point of personal privilege to senator leahy to speak for a few seconds as he asked to do and i think it's appropriate you do what you said you were going to do. >> i appreciate the courtesy. the senate judiciary committee convenes for the first time, 150th congress. historic moment in the history. last week, senator dianne feinstein was named the committee's ranking member, the tirs time in american history a woman served in this capacity. only five of those democrats have been women. three of those five are proudly
serving on this important committee today. senator feinstein. senator warren. i welcome senator feinstein, you grapple with some of the pressing issues facing our country. we americans can be proud this year and i applaud you for this. >> thank you, thank you. >> good morning. i welcome everyone to this very important hearing to consider the nomination of our colleague senator sessions for the attorney general of the united states. i want to send out a couple of ground rules. i want to handle this hearing the same way i handled the
hearing for attorney general lynch's nomination and also the same way leahy handled previous hearings. i want everyone to be able to watch the hearing without obstruction. if anyone speaks out of turn, it's simply not fair. simply not considerate to others so officers will immediately remove those individuals. before my opening statement, let me explain how we will proceed. and senator shelby and collins will introduce the nominee. following senator session's opening remarks, we'll begin our first round of questions. each senator will have an initial ten minute round.
i want everyone to know i'm prepared to stay here as long as members have questions that they'd like to ask. again, that's the way i handled attorney general lynch's nomination. i think that's the most fair way to proceed for both members as well as our distinguished nominee. i welcome our new members to this committee. i look forward to working with all of the new members as well as ones that are repeating serving on this committee. i'd also like to recognize and welcome a number of important audience members, former attorney general mease and also former colleague senator kyle, former member of this committee and i see the attorney general for ohio's as well, a former colleague of ours. finally, before my opening
remarks, i congratulate senator feinstein on your appointment to the and the decision to take over the rankin membership. we've always had a good working relationship through several things we've done legislatively and leaders of the drug caucus and i appreciate very much the opportunity to work with you. thank you. with that, i'll now start my opening comments. our hearing today hardly introduces senator sessions to the committee. no, we're here today to review the character and the qualifications of a colleague who has served alongside us in the senate for 20 years. that includes his time as a ranking member of this committee. we know him well. we know the policy positions
he's taken as a legislator. i've been on both sides of debates with this distinguished senator sessions. having served with him for so long, we pretty well know whether he supports your policy positions or opposes them. he tells us so with his usual thoughtfulness, humility, and more importantly, respect. as a former chairman of this committee has put it, senator sessions is quote, unquote, wonderful to work with. we know him to be as another senior democrat on this committee described him, quote unquote, a man of his word. as a third senior colleague put it, a democrat as well, he is always a gentleman. he's straightforward and fair. most of all, the members of this
committee know him to be a leader who has served the people of alabama and all americans with integrity, with dedication, and with courage. that describes how i know the nominee for the 20 years that i've served with him. as former chairman leahy observed, the last time a new president took office, it's, quote, important that the justice department have a senior leadership in place without delay. we need the justice department to be at its best, end quote. perhaps my good friend senator schumer said it best when he observed that we should, quote, move to a vote hopefully sooner rather than later, end of quote, and when we do, quote, we won't be voting for or against the
president's policies. we'll be voting or in summary, senator schumer will be voting for a colleague with a first rate legal mind whose record proves his commitment to just law enforcement and eminently qualified to lead the department of justice. i've been encouraged by the initial support many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have expressed for senator sessions' nomination. so i look forward to hearing from senator sessions and moving to the appointment without delay. senator sessions' record is a life of public service. and so we know his story. he was raised in a small small of alabama where his father owned and ran a small country store and then he studied at huntington college and university of alabama before practicing law in russellville
and mobile. senator sessions has always been an active member of his community. he taught school before attending law school and taught sunday school at ashland place methodist church. he served our nation in the army reserve, obtaining rank of captain. after his time in private practice, senator sessions served as an assistant u.s. attorney in the southern district of alabama and then headed that office as the senate confirmed him for u.s. attorney. a post he held for a dozen years. so all told, this senator, colleague of ours, has served 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the department that he will soon head. it was during that time he oversaw the investigation of francis hays for the abduction of a black teenager, michael donald. he made sure that case was brought to state court where the
defendant was eligible for and received the punishment that he justly deserved, the death penalty. his office successfully prosecuted that murder in federal court. based on his prosecutorial record, the people of alabama elected him their attorney general and then their senator. he has served with us since 1997 and as our former chairman, this committee relied on him for his prosecutorial experience during the course of his senate service. throughout his public service. he's done his duty, enforced the law fairly. and let the chips fall where they may. reflecting on this record of service, it's no surprise then that senator sessions was also an eagle scout and other members
of this committee know as i do that the scout's model be prepared, on his desk in the senate office and entire life of dedicated public service prepared him for this day. if he's confirmed and i expect that he will be, senator sessions will shed his role as a legislator who writes law and he'll take on the task of enforcing the law in congress as written. and he's made the transformation before when the people of alabama made his selection based on his record of service as u.s. attorney and alabama attorney general. as one member of this committee observed about a lawyer's transition into the role of a judge, there are turning points in a person's life when they put away things of the past and move into new responsibilities end of quote.
serving as our nation's attorney general will mark another such turning point in senator sessions' distinguished career. and every member of this committee knows from experience in his new role, senator sessions will be a leader for law and order administered without regard to person. leadership to that end is exactly what the department now needs. it should go without saying that the department is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing our laws. all of our laws in a dispassionate and even handed way. we write the laws. the executive enforces them faithfully. this is simple, but very foundational principle. unfortunately, for the last several years, simply declined to enforce some.
the department's failure to enforce the law run the gamut from criminal law to duly enacted immigration laws. it's true that each branch of government has an independent duty to assess the constitutionality of the laws it writes, it administers and a adjudicates but equally true that the executive has a constitutional responsibility to, as we all know, take care that the laws be faithfully executed. i know our colleague, this senator sessions respects the legislative process and the prerogative of explained during the confirmation hearing we held for the attorney general that's a law enforcer. there's a big difference between a politician and a senator where we vote on policy and executing that policy, end of quote.
i look forward to hearing from senator sessions on how he will transition from voting on policy matters to enforcing the laws he has labored so long to improve and to sustain. just as he respects congress's duty enacted laws, senator sessions knows and expects the importance of an independent attorney general at the department's helm. when he has questioned other candidates for the office of attorney general, he has made claim the priorities of an attorney general's independence. the confirmation hearing for attorney general eric holder, a nominee that happens senator sessions and i both supported despite policy disagreements with eric holder. senator sessions asked at that
time, quote, you are not threatening and not guaranteeing you are going to prosecute people until you fairly evaluate all the facts and the evidence and the law they thought they were dealing with at the time. end of quote. during this committee's hearing on the confirmation of another attorney general, senator sessions reflected on the obligations of the people as he knew them from service in alabama. quote, you speak for the legal interest of the state, end of quote, as a result, he said, quoting again, there are times when the attorney general represents the state. he has an obligation and a duty regardless of what the parties to a litigation may say including when one of those parties is the government. to ensure that it is fair for all the people of the state. this firm grasp of the separation of powers equips this senator, sessions, to provide
the department with independent leadership of the highest priority. he knows the department's obligations swell, not only because he knows the department but because he's seen those obligations observed in the breach from his seat beside us in the legislator, the just enforcement isn't just a policy disappointment on a particular issue but an affront to the very separation of powers that defines our role and the voice of the people that warrants our votes. to senator sessions, thoughts on that question as well and i hope to hear those points. we don't always agree on the policy issues we consider and when you have served as long as i have, you're bound to find a
few disagreements with the most like minded colleagues but senator sessions, two decades of service beside me testified without question to this. he is a man of honor, and integrity, dedicated to the fautful afaut f faithful and fair enforcement of the law who knows the justice and its constitutional role. i look forward to hearing from him about this vision and plans for the department and now it is senator feinstein's turn for her words. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman and i'd like to thank senator leahy also for his words. if i may, i would like to begin by just quickly introducing some californians in the audience, congresswoman maxine waters from los angeles, congresswoman barbara lee from the bay area
and denise rojas, a dreamer, enormously successful. i had the privilege of writing an article about her and also, the reverend dr. who i've known years and the reverend dr. frederick haines. they're part of the ministerial delegation here today. the senator before us this morning is someone that many of us on this committee has worked with for some 20 years. and that makes this very difficult for me. i committed to senator sessions in our private meeting and i'll say it again here, the process is going to be fair and thorough. but today we're not being asked to evaluate him as a senator. we're being asked to evaluate him for the attorney general of the united states, the chief law enforcement for the largest and best democracy in the world.
as attorney general his job will not be to advocate for his beliefs, rather the job of the attorney general is to enforce federal law. even if he voted against the law, even if he spoke against it before it passed, even if he disagrees with the precedent saying that the law is constitutional, most importantly his job will be to enforce federal law equally, equally for all americans. and this job requires service to the people and the law. not to the president. the president-elect said to his opponent during a debate, and i quote, if i win, i i'm going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look at your situation, end quote. mr. chairman, that's not what an attorney general does. an attorney general does not
investigate or prosecute at the direction of the president. nor do attorneys general wear two hats, one as a president's lawyer, and one as the people's lawyer. that model has failed. rather, the attorney general must put aside loyalty to the president, he must ensure that the law and the constitution come first and foremost, period. president lincoln's attorney general, edward bates, i think said it best when he said this, and i quote, the office i hold is not properly political, but strictly legal. and it is my duty above all other ministers of state to uphold the law and to resist all encroachments from whatever porter, end quote. that is the job of the attorney general. if confirmed, senator sessions
will be the top official charged with faithfully and impartially enforcing all federal law, and protecting our fundamental right to vote from all incursions, whether they be foreign or domestic. his duty will be to enforce and protect our civil rights, and constitutional freedoms, including a woman's right to choose. he will run the department that ensures those who commit hate crimes are held accountable. and he will be charged with protecting consumers and taxpayers from fraud, and making sure that corrupt public officials are held accountable. he will prosecute polluters, based on federal law. and it is the attorney general who must ensure that this government follows the law, does not ever torture again.
this is an awesome responsibility, and an enormous job. what we must do now in these hearings is determine what type of attorney general senator sessions will be if confirmed. and let me express a deep concern. there is so much fear in this country. i see it, i hear it, particularly in the african-american community, from preachers, from politicians, from everyday americans. as mrs. evelyn turner of the marion three said in her passionate letter to this committee, and i quote, i am very troubled by his stance against civil rights in the more recent past. as a u.s. senator, he supported no laws or causes which suggest that he has changed, end quote. throughout his senate career, senator sessions has advocated
an extremely conservative agenda. for example, he voted no and spoke for nearly 30 minutes in this committee against the leahy amendment two years ago, that expressed the sense of the senate that the united states would not bar people from entering this country based on their religion. he voted against each of three bipartisan comprehensive immigration bills, in 2006, 2007 and 2013. twice he voted against the dream act, the bill for undocumented youth, known as dreamers, who were brought here as children, through no choice of their own, calling it a, quote, reckless proposal for mass amnesty, end quote. he voted against efforts to prohibit the use of waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, calling them lawful,
and praising attorney general mukasey in 2008 for refusing to rule out the use of waterboarding in the future. these interrogation techniques are and were at the time illegal. and thanks to a provision senator mccain placed in the defense authorization bill that past year, they are now prohibited from use. in addition, senator sessions voted against the matthew shepard and james bird hate crimes act, which among other things expanded the hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. arguing against the hate crimes law in 2009, he said this, today i'm not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. i just don't see it, end quote.
well, this senator regretfully sees it. hate crimes are happening. the department of justice must see it, must investigate it, and prosecute it appropriately. those are votes that are deeply concerning. they are recent, they are important, and they clearly show this senator's point of view. now, for all these reasons this hearing must determine clearly whether this senator will enforce laws he voted against. we the american people want to know how he intends to use this awesome power of the attorney general if he is confirmed. will he use it fairly? will he use it in a way that respects law and the constitution? will he use it in a way that eases tensions among our communities, and our law enforcement officers. will he be independent of the
white house? will he tell the president no when necessary and faithfully enforce ethics laws and constitutional restrictions. so we will ask questions and we will press for answers. ultimately, we must determine whether senator sessions can be the attorney general for all of our people. mr. chairman, i'd like to conclude with one final point. we cannot ignore that there are deep concerns and anxieties throughout america. there is a deep fear about what a trump administration will bring in many places. and this is the context in which we must consider senator sessions' record and nomination to become the chief law enforcement of america. communities across this country are concerned about whether they will be able to rely on the
department of justice to protect their rights and freedoms. these freedoms are so cherished. they are what make us unique among nations. there have been sit-ins, protests and writings and the committee received letters of opposition from 400 different civil rights organizations. 1400 law professors, a thousand law students, a broad task force of organizations that oppose domestic violence, 70 reproductive health organizations, and many, many others. all these letters express deep anxiety about the direction of this country and whether this nominee will enforce the law fairly, evenly, without personal bias. so i hope today's questions are probing, and the answers are
fulsome. ladies and gentlemen, this is the only way we have to know whether this man can dispatch himself from the president and from his record, and vote in full according to the laws of the united states of america. thank you very much. >> thank you, senator feinstein. before i turn to senator shelby and collins for their opening statement, i note that the committee received a letter from former secretary of state condoleezza rice indicating that she had hoped to join our colleagues and introducing senator sessions, she strongly supports his nomination, it is a powerful letter, and i hope my colleagues will take time to read it and i would like to have it entered in the record at this point. now, to senator shelby and senator collins in that order. proceed. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this
historic hearing today. although my friend and colleague jeff sessions is well known to the members of this committee, it is my distinct privilege to introduce him as president-elect donald trump's nominee to serve as our next united states attorney general. before joining the senate, jeff sessions began his distinguished career as a practicing attorney, and then served as the united states attorney for alabama southern district before ultimately becoming the attorney general of the state of alabama. during the past 20 years here in the u.s. senate, that i have served with jeff sessions, i've had the opportunity to know him well, not just as a skilled attorney, with an accomplished record as a prosecutor and as a legislat legislator, but a man of extraordinary character. i have the highest regard not only for his intellect, but for his integrity.
unfortunately, since the announcement of his nomination, jeff's political opponents have attacked his character with baseless and tired allegations. but in reality, jeff sessions's extensive record of treating all americans equally under the law is clear and well documented. throughout his decades of public service, including his impressive tenure on this committee, jeff's commitment to upholding the rule of law i believe is unparalleled. the integrity, humility and gravity with which jeff sessions will approach the office of attorney general of the united states is unquestionable. i have no doubt, mr. chairman, that he will apply the law with the impartiality required of the job. i'm also confident this committee will report favorably and sxe direxpeditiously jeff s
nomination to be the next attorney general of the united states. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, senator feinstein, members of this distinguished committee, i am pleased to join senators shelby and presenting my friend and colleague senator jeff sessions and to offer my support for his nomination to be our next attorney general. jeff sessions and i were first sworn in to the united states senate on the very same day. in the 20 years since we have worked closely on some issues and on opposite sides on others.
in fact, it would be fair to say that we have had our share of vigorous debates and policy disagreements. through these experiences, i have come to know senator sessions professionally as a trusted colleague and personally as a good friend. i can vouch confidently for the fact that jeff sessions is a person of integrity, a principled leader, and a dedicated public servant. as the senator, jeff sessions has worked across the aisle to lead important legislative reforms. he's worked with senator dick durbin to pass the fair sentencingasentence ing act, a law that addressed the unfair racial disparity in crack cocaine sentencing. he worked with senator ted kennedy to pass the prison rape
elimination act, and with senator chris coons on the reauthorization of the victims of child abuse act, an area where senator sessions and i have worked together is in opposing unfair trade agreements and practices that hurt american workers. what i want this committee and the american people to know is that jeff sessions is the same genuine, fair-minded person in the unguarded private moments as he is in the halls of the senate. we first came to know each other during dinners with other members of our senate class, where we discuss everything from our politics to our families. i have never witnessed anything to suggest that senator sessions is anyone other than a dedicated public servant, and a decent
man. in 1980, long before he ran for the senate or even dreamed of being attorney general, jeff sessions sponsored the first african-american member of the mobile lions club. as u.s. attorney, he provided leadership in the successful convictions of two klan members who had murdered an african-american teenager. as ranking member of the senate judiciary committee in 2009, he appointed the first african-american to serve as chief counsel to the republican members. my friends, these are not the actions of an individual who is motivated by racial animus. in spite of the strong record, senator sessions' nomination has generated controversy.
he has had to withstand some very painful attacks on his character, both years ago and again today, with little or no acknowledgement of his accomplishments and actions or the responses he has made to the accusations levied against him. as this committee debates this nomination, i would draw your attention to an important epilogue to jeff sessions' nomination 31 years ago to be a federal judge. the late senator arlen specter of pennsylvania was a member of the judiciary committee when the sessions nomination was considered in 1986. senator specter, then a republican, voted against jeff sessions. years later, in 2009, senator
specter had switched parties. he was asked by a reporter if he regretted any of the more than 10,000 votes he had cast. out of all of those votes, then democratic senator specter cited just one, it was his vote against confirming jeff sessions as a federal judge. when asked why senat, senator s replied, quote, i since found that senator sessions is egalitarian, end quote. in other words, once senator specter served with jeff sessions and had the opportunity to get to know him, he changed his mind. i hope that you will keep arlen specter's reflections in mind as
this committee evaluates senator sessions' public service, his character, and his fidelity to the rule of law. the members of this committee have an advantage that senator specter did not. the vast majority of you have already served with senator sessions and you know him well. if this committee places its trust in him, i have every confidence that jeff sessions will execute the office of attorney general honestly, faithfully, and fully in the pursuit of justice. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, ranking member feinstein, and members of this committee. >> thank both of our colleagues for your powerful statements. i appreciate it very much. and you're free to go and we'll
question. do you swear that the testimony you are about to give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you. and please be seated. senator sessions, it is our normal process if you desire to introduce people that are with you, including your family. i'm sure you're very proud of, you're free to do that and then go immediately to your opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. [ inaudible ] >> first, my wife mary, my best friend -- [ inaudible ] we are so proud of our three
children before us today. thank you. they're now stationed in the pacific coast. they have two children, jane richey and jimbo and they wish me well this morning. my daughter ruth walk, maybe, ruth, if you could stand up, and her husband john walk. john is an attorney with the department of homeland security and they have four children as you see before you today. grace, gracie, hannah, joanna, and phoebe. phoebe and joanna are twins. and we're so proud of them. my son sam is a graduate of auburn and alabama law school. sorry, sam, about the game last night. sam is an attorney in birmingham and he's married to angela
stratus, they have four children, alexis, sofia, lewis and nicholas. ten grandchildren, the oldest is nine, and you can imagine the week we had at the beach this summer in alabama. finally, i want to express how humbled i am to have received such overwhelming support and encouragement from our nation's law enforcement community. many are here today. mr. chairman, with your permission i would like to ask those present please to stand and be recognized, the law enforcement members that are here today. would you please stand? every major law enforcement organization in america has endorsed my candidacy. i feel the weight of the confidence they placed in me and, gentlemen and ladies, i'll do my best to be worthy of that. and if i may, mr. chairman, yesterday with law enforcement officer appreciation day, sadly we lost two of our brave
officers, orlando police department, master sergeant debra clayton, one of the first officers to respond to the orlando nightclub shooting in june, was shot and killed while confronting a subject wanted for murder. sergeant clayton, a 17-year veteran of the force, was married with two children. while assisting in a search for that assailant, orange county deputy first class sheriff norman lewis was killed in a traffic accident on his motorcycle. he was an 11-year veteran of the sheriff's office. these honorable and dedicated -- have dedicated their lives to keeping their community safe and we should remember their service and keep them and their families in our prayers. chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, distinguished members of the committee, i'm honored to appear before you
today. i thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions as you discharge your duty in the appointment process as prescribed by the constitution. i also want it thank my dear friends -- [ inaudible ] >> -- illegitimate, just like -- [ inaudible ] >> stand up. >> january 14th, in the street. [ inaudible ] >> mr. chairman, if i might, dear friends, i want to thank
richard shelby, my colleague and senator susan collins for their kind and generous introductions. it was very moving and touching for me. it is hard to believe really that the three of us have served together in this body for almost 20 years. when i arrived in the senate in 1997, i probably wouldn't have anticipated becoming so close with the colleague from maine, two people from the northern most part of our country and the southern most part of our country. [ inaudible ] >> it took us a while to perhaps understand our accents, but once we did, we became fast friends. of course, richard shelby and i
never had an accent problem. he was a steadfast -- has been a steadfast friend and i think we have been a pretty good team representing the interest of alabama and the united states. i want to thank president-elect donald trump for the confidence and trust he has shown in me by nominating me to serve as the attorney general of the united states. i feel the weight of an honor greater than i aspired to. if i'm confirmed, i will commit to you and to the american people to be worthy of the office and the special trust that comes with it. so i come before you today as a colleague, whose worked with you for years and some of you 20 years. you know who i am. you know what i believe in. you know that i'm a man of my word, and can be trusted to do what i say i will do. you know that i revere the constitution that i'm committed to the rule of law, and you know that i believe in fairness and
impartiality and equal justice under law. over the years you've heard me say many times that i love the department of justice. the office of attorney general of the united states is not a normal political office. and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the constitution of the united states. he or she must be committed to following the law. he or she must be willing to tell the president or other top officials if no if he or they overreach. he or she can not be a mere rubber stamp. he or she must set the example for the employees of the department to do the right thing and ensure that when they do the right thing they know the attorney general will back them up, no matter what politician might call or what powerful special interest, influential contributor or friend might try to intervene. the message must be clear,
everyone is expected to do their duty. that is the way i was expected to perform as an assistant united states attorney, working for attorney general mees, and part of my career. and that is the way i trained my assistants when i became united states attorney. and if confirmed, that is the way i will lead the department of justice. in my over 14 years in the department of justice, i tried cases personally of every kind, drug trafficking, very large international smuggling cases, many firearms cases, other violent crimes, a series of public corruption cases of quite significance, financial wrongdoing and environmental violations. our office supported historic civil rights cases and major civil cases. protecting the people of this country from crime and especially from violent crime is a high calling of the men and
women of the department of justice. today, i'm afraid, it has become more important than ever. since the early 1980s, good policing and prosecutions over a period of years have been a strong force in reducing crime. making our communities safer. drug use and murders are half what they were in 1980 when i became a united states attorney. so i'm very concerned that the recent jump in violent crime and murder rates are not anomalies but the beginning of a dangerous trend that can reverse those hard won gains that have made america a safer and more prosperous place. the latest fbi statistics show that all crime increased nearly 4% from 2014 to 2015. the largest increase since 1991, with murders increasing nearly 11%. the single largest increase since 1971. in 2016, there were 4,368
shooting victims in chicago. in baltimore homicides reached the second highest per capita rate ever. the country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic, with overdose deaths more than tripling between 2010 and 2014. tripling nearly 50,000 people a year die from drug overdose. meanwhile, illegal drugs flood across our southern border, and into every city and town in the country bringing violence, addiction and misery. we must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics. we must always remember that these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims. it is important that they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations and to ensure that their rights are protected. so these trends cannot continue. it is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and your
community. if i am confirmed, we will systematically prosecute criminals who use guns in committing crimes. as united states attorney, my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions nearly every year. we were partner with state and local law enforcement, to take down these major drug trafficking cartels and dismantle criminal gangs. we will prosecute those who violate our borders. it will be my priority to confront these crimes vigorously, effectively, and immediately. approximately 90% of all law enforcement officers are not federal, but they're state and local, they're the ones on the front lines, they are better educated, trained and equipped than ever before. they are the ones who we rely on to keep our neighborhoods and playgrounds and schools safe. in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable actions of a
few of their bad actors. they believe the political leadership in the country has abandoned them, they felt they have become targets, morale has suffered and last year while under intense public criticism, a number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased by 10% over 2015. and firearm deaths of police officers are up 68%. so this is a wake-up call, colleagues, it cannot continue. if we are to be more effective in dealing with rising crime, we will have to rely and work with more effectively local law enforcement, asking them to lead the way. to do that, they must know they're supported. and if i am so fortunate as to be confirmed as attorney general, they can be issued, they will have my support in their lawful duties. as i discussed with many of you in our meeting prior to this hearing, the federal government has an important role to play in
this area also. we must use the research and the expertise and training that has been developed by the department of justice to help these agencies in developing the most effective and lawful law enforcement methods to reduce crime. we must re-establish and strengthen the partnership between federal and local officers, to enhance a common and unified effort to reverse the rising crime trends. i did this, as united states attorney, i worked directly and continuously with local and state law enforcement officials. if confirmed, this will be one of my priority objectives. there are also many things the department can do to assist the state and local officers to strengthen relationships with their own communities, where policies like community based policing have absolutely been proven to work. i am committed to this effort.
and to ensuring that the department of justice is a unifying force for improving relations between the police and this country, and the communities they serve. this is particularly important in our minority communities. make no mistake, positive relations and great communications between the people and their police are essential for any good police department. and when police fail in their duties, they must be held accountable. i have done these things as united states attorney, i have worked to advance these kind of policies. in recent years our law enforcement officers have been called upon to protect our country from the rising threat of terrorism that has reached our shores. if i'm confirmed protecting the american people from the scourge of radical islamic terrorism will continue to be a top priority. we will work diligently to respond to threats, using all
lawful means to keep our country safe, partnerships will also be vital to achieving much more effective enforcement against cyberthreats, and the department of justice clearly has a lead role to play in that essential effort. we must honestly assess our vulnerabilities and have a clear plan for defense as well as offense when it comes to cybersecurity. the department of justice must never falter in its obligation to protect the civil rights of every american, particularly those who are most vulnerable. a special priority for me and this regard will be the aggressive enforcement of laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible voter, without hindrance or discrimination and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process which has been a great heritage of the department of justice.
further, this government must improve its ability to protect the united states treasury from fraud, waste and abuse. this is a federal responsibility. we cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption, and you can be sure if i'm confirmed i will make it a high priority of the department of justice to root out and prosecute fraud and federal programs and to recover monies lost due to fraud and false claims as well as contracting fraud and issues of that kind. the justice department must remain ever faithful that the constitution's promise that our government is one of laws, and not of men. it will be my unyielding commitment to you, if confirmed, to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially. the attorney general must hold everyone, no matter how powerful, accountable, no one is above the law, and no american will be beneath its protection.
no powerful special interest will cower this department. i want to address personally the fabulous men and women that work in the department of justice. that includes -- that includes personnel in main justice here in washington, but also the much larger number that faithfully fulfill their responsibilities every day throughout the nation. as united states attorney, i work with them constantly. i know them in and the culture of their agencies, federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law enforcement officers in the world. i know their integrity and their professionalism, and i pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. together we can and will reach the highest standards and the highest results. it would be the greatest honor for me to lead these fine public servants. to my colleagues, i appreciate
the time each of you have taken to meet me one on one. as senators we don't always have enough opportunity to sit down and discuss matters face to face. i had some great visits. i understand and respect the conviction that you bring to your duties. even though we may not always be in agreement, you have always been understanding and respectful of my positions and i of yours. in our meetings over the past weeks, you have had the opportunity to share with me and your relating to the department from unprosecuted crimes on tribal lands, a matter that is greater than i had understood, to the scourge of human trafficking and child exploitation, to concerns about cuts in grant programs, to the protection of american civil liberties, and the scourge of heroin overdose deaths to just name a few things. i learned a lot during those meetings and particularly in my
meeting with senator whitehouse who discussed cybersecurity, he has a great deal of knowledge there. and i'm glad that senator whitehouse, you and senator graham, have taken a lead on this important issue. i think we can work together and make some progress. senator graham, congratulations on your football victory last night. i want to assure all my colleagues i have given your concerns earnest reflection and will bear them in mind, i'll endeavor to keep the lines of communication open and hope we can continue our collegiality and friendships. in that regard, if i'm confirmed, i commit to all of you that the department of justice will be responsive, mr. chairman, to congress, and will work with you on your priorities, all of you, and provide you with guidance and views where appropriate. the department will respect your
constitutional duties, your oversight role, and particularly critically important separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. let me address another issue straight on, i was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of african-americans by presenting the perry county case. the voter fraud case. of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring amazingly sympathies for the kkk. these are false charges. the voter fraud case my office prosecuted was in response to pleas from african-american, incumbent elected officials who claimed the absentee ballot process involved a situation in which ballots cast for them were stolen, altered and cast for their opponents. the prosecution sought to protect the integrity of the
ballot, not the black voting. it was a voting rights case. as to the kkk, i invite ed civi rights attorneys from washington, d.c. to help us solve a very difficult investigation into the unconscionable, horrendous death of a young african-american, coming home from the 7/eleven store at night, simply because he was black. his -- michael donovan. and actively backed the attorneys throughout the case and they broke that case. that effort led to a guilty plea and a life sentence in court for one defendant, and his testimony against this other defendant. there was no federal death penalty at the time. i felt the death penalty was appropriate in this case. and i pushed to have it tried in state court, which was done. that defendant was indeed convicted and sentenced to death. ten years later, ironically, as alabama's attorney general, my staff participated in the defense of that verdict and
sentence and a few months after i became the united states senator. that murdering klansman was indeed executed. i abhor the klan and what it represents and its hateful ideology. i insist ed mark deese, his lawsuit led to the successful collapse of the klan at least in alabama, the seizure of their building, at least for that period of time. as civil rights division attorneys have testified before the committee, i supported fully their historic cases that the justice department filed to advance civil rights and that i supported. including cases to desegregate schools, abolish at large elections for cities, county commissions and school boards. these at large elections were mechanisms used to block african-american candidates from being able to be elected to boards and commissions. it was a deliberate and part of
a systemic plan to reduce the ability of african-americans to have influence in the election and governing process. i never declared the naacp was un-american or that a civil rights attorney was a disgrace to his race. there is nothing i am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the department of justice. i love and venerate that great institution. i hold dear its highest ideals. as god gives me the ability, i will work every day to be worthy of the demands of this office. you can be absolutely sure that i understand the immense responsibility i would have. i am not naive. i know the threat our rising crime and addiction rates pose to the health and safety of our country. i know the threat of terrorism.
i deeply understand the history of civil rights in our country, and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our african-american brothers and sisters. i have witnessed it. we must continue to move forward and never back. i understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our lgbt community. i will ensure the statutes protecting their civil rights and their safety are fully enforced. i understand the life-long scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse. and if i'm so fortunate to be confirmed as your attorney general, you can know i know the absolute necessity that all my actions must fall within the bounds of the constitution and the laws of the united states.
while all humans must recognize the limits of their abilities and i certainly do, i am ready for this job. we will do it right. your input will be valued. local law enforcement will be our partners. many friends and federal government that i've had in law enforcement will be respected. i've always loved the law. it is the very foundation of this country. it is the exceptional foundation of america. i have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing that. if confirmed, i will give all my efforts to this goal. i only ask that you do your duty as god gives you the ability to see that duty, as you are charged by the constitution. thank you for your courtesies. i look forward to further hearing.
thank you, mr. chairman. >> before i ask questions, i want to thank you, senator sessions, for your service in the senate, but more importantly for taking on this responsibility you have been nominated for. and to thank you for your opening statement. i'm glad that you were able to mention the names of a lot of your family that are with you and there is a lot of other people that we may not have their name and i would ask the staff to put in the record the names of all of the other people who are accompanying you today as well if they're willing to give us that name. and it is a proud day for you. your wife, son and daughters and their families, i welcome all of you very much. now, to the questioning. the attorney general, i'll take ten minutes and then senator feinstein will go back and forth as we usually do, the attorney general of the united states is, of course, the nation's chief law enforcement officer. he or she is not the president's
lawyer. nor is he the president's wing man as attorney general holder described himself. rather, he or she has an independent obligation to the constitution and to the american people. i know you care deeply about this foundational principle so i'm going to ask you a question. i've heard you ask other nominees for attorney general. occasionally, you'll be called upon to offer an opinion to the president who appointed you. you'll ahave to tell him yes or no. and sometimes presidents don't like to be told no. so i'd like to know will you be able to stand up and say no to the president of the united states if, in your judgment, the law and your duty demands it. the reason i ask that is because i know you work very hard for the president-elect.
>> mr. chairman, i understand the importance of your question. i understand the responsibility of the attorney general. and i will do so. you simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way, and have to be able to say no, but for the country, for the legal system, and for the president to avoid situations that are not acceptable. i understand that duty. i observed it through my years here. and i will fulfill that responsibility. >> so just so my colleagues don't think i'm taking advantage of time, somebody didn't start the clock. >> it is your clock. >> oh, you got -- okay. it is just -- okay. the light isn't working. i'm sorry. i can read it now. so i heard what you said, bust just emphasize, let me follow up, well, if you disagree with the president's chosen course of action, and you told him so, and
he intends to pursue that course of action anyway, what are your options at that point? >> mr. chairman, i think an attorney general should first work with the president, hopefully that attorney general would have the confidence of the president, and avoid situations that would be unacceptable. i do believe that if an attorney general is asked to do something that is plainly unlawful, he cannot participate in that, he or she, and that person would have to resign ultimately before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes would be unlawful or unconstitutional. >> you, sir -- >> there are areas that are rightly clear and right, there are areas that may be gray, and there are areas that are unacceptable. and a good attorney general needs to know where those lines are, to help the president where possible, and to resist
improper, unacceptable actions. >> okay. you served in this department for 14 or 15 years. you served as your state's attorney general. and you serve on this committee for a long time. and we have oversight over the department that you might had and you have done that all for 20 years. i had my share of disagreements with the department's leadership over last few years, some of those were purely policy disagreements. but some issues were especially troubling to me in that department -- in the department failed to perform fundamental functions to enforce the law. as attorney general, day in and day out, you'll be faced with difficult and sometimes thorny legal problems. what will your approach be to ensuring that the department enforces the law, and more broadly what is your vision for
the department? >> mr. chairman, the ultimate responsibility of the attorney general and the department of justice is to execute the laws passed by this congress, and to follow the constitution in that process and carry its principles out. you can be sure i understand that, we may have had disagreements here about whether a law should be passed, but once passed, i will do my dead level best to ensure it is properly and fairly -- excuse me, enforced. i do believe that we have a crime problem, i won't perhaps go in time now unless you want me to describe what we can do to address that. and there are other challenges this country faces. i would be pleased to recognize the influence of the legislative branch and to welcome the insights that you might have. >> since that's a very important
issue, with me and i suppose every colleague here, let me emphasize by saying is it fair to say then that regardless of what your position may have been as a legislator, your approach as attorney general will be to enforce the law, regardless of policy differences? >> absolutely, mr. chairman. that's -- i don't think i have any hesitation or any lack of an ability to separate the roles that i have had to go from the executive legislative branch to the executive branch is a transfer of not only position, but of the way you approach issues. i would be an executive function on enforcement function of the laws this great legislative body might pass. >> during the course of the presidential campaign, you made a number of statements about the investigation of former secretary of state hillary
clinton, relating to her handling of sensitive e-mails and regarding certain actions of the clinton foundation. you weren't alone in that criticism, i was certainly critical in the same way as were millions of americans on those matters. but now you've been in many natured to serve as attorney general. in light of those comments you made, 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? >> mr. chairman, it was a highly contentious campaign. i, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign with regard to secretary clinton and some of the comments i made i do believe that this could place my objectivity in question. i've given that thought. 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. nor be otherwise connected to it. >> i think that's -- let me emphasize then with a follow-up question, to be very clear, you intend to recuse yourself from both the clinton e-mail investigation, any matters involving the clinton foundation, if there are any? >> yes. >> let me follow up again, because it is important. when you say you will recuse, you mean that you'll actually recuse and the decision will therefore fall to, i assume, a deputy attorney general. i ask because after attorney general lynch met with president clinton in phoenix, she said she would, quote/unquote, defer to
the fbi, but never officially recused. >> no, she did not officially recuse, and there is a procedure for that, which i would follow. and i believe that would be the best approach for the country because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute. that's not in any way that would suggest anything other than absolute objectivity. this country does not punish its political enemies, but this country ensures that no one is above the law. >> you touched on something that is very dear to me and that's working with having executive branch people work with members of congress. and you also mentioned working with us on oversight, but since that's very important to me, let me say that the executive branch has always been one of my top priorities regardless of who
occupies the white house. i've often set i'm an equal opportunity overseer. now over the years i've asked quite a few executive nominees both republican and democrat to make commitments to respond to oversight. you said you would, but in my experience, nominees are usually pretty receptive to oversight requests during these type of hearings. but after they have been confirmed, oversight doesn't seem to be a high priority for them. as i told you when we met privately in my office, sometimes i think nominees should go ahead and be a little more straightforward during their hearings. and instead of saying yes to everything we ask about oversight, it would be more honest to say maybe. when asked if they would respond to our questions. now because you have served on this committee, and understand the importance of oversight, i'm hoping you'll be different than your predecessors in response to
oversight questions. and so i have with me that i'll give to one of your staff, a whole bunch of letters that haven't been answered yet, one you signed to me to the department of justice. and i hope you would go to great lengths to see that these get answered so the next may or june if i'm contkting you that they haven't been answered, you know, the trump administration might be blamed for it and these are all a result of not getting a answers from the last administration. i hope you'll help me get answers to these, at least the one you helped me write. >> mr. chairman, you are correct that this committee has eversight, beve oversight, but it goes beyond this committee and the congress funds the various branches of the executive branch, the various departments. you have every right before you fund our agencies, and
departments, to get responsive answers to questions that are proper. sometimes the department -- congress is asked for issues that maybe there is legitimate reason to object to, but they should object and state why. mr. chairman, i will be responsive to your requests, and understand your history, perhaps more than anyone in this congress, to advance the idea that the executive branch needs to be held accountable. and i salute you for it. >> senator feinstein contacts you, don't use this excuse as so many people use it, if you aren't chairman of a committee, you don't have to answer the question. i want her questions answered just lake you would answer mine. >> i understand that. >> senator feinstein. >> thank you. thank you. thank you. that was above and beyond the call. thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to begin with a second largest criminal industry
in this country, which is now, believe it or not, by revenues produced human sex trafficking. and trafficking victims are among the most vulnerable in our society. the u society. the average the 12 to 14. they are beaten, raped, abused, at time, handcuffed so they can't escape and often moved from place to place. forced to have sex with with multiple men each night. the justice for victims of trafficking act signed into law in 2015 credited a domestic trafficking victims fund for victim services to be b administered by the department of justice. part of that fund contains up to 30 million for health care or medical items or services to trafficking victims. these funds are subject to the hyde amendment, which says no proepuated funding can be used
to pay for abortion, however, the hyde amendment does not apply in cases of rape. senator cornyn discussed the language and said i quote everyone knows language contains an exception for rape and health of the mother, so these wouldn't have anything to do with the services available to help those victims of human trafficking. in short, senator cornyn assert that had the hyde amount md, which contains an exception for rape, would not affect the availability of services for these victims. the fund will be under the jurisdiction of the department of justice. will you ensure these funds are not denied to service providers
who assist victims in human trafficking in obtaining services they need including abortion if that is what is required for a young girl impregnated during this horrific abuse? >> i preeappreciate the fact ou country has been talking about taking action for a number of years to deal with sex trafficking more effectively. i don't know we've reached a level of actual effectiveness we need to, but congress and you and other have been v yoet spoken about this, so it's a very important issue. i was not aware of how the wanlg has been established. it's a matter i've not thought there, but ultimately, it's a mat e for this united states congress, not so much a matter for the attorney general.
we need to put our money out to assist in this activity accord tog the rules established by the congress. >> i'm delighted this senator cornyn is here. i quoted him directly from the floor, that the hyde amendment would not prevent the distribution of these funds, so i hope you would agree to that and that's most important to me because congress has spoken and the bill is law. >> i understand that and we would fol low the law. zpl okay. as you know, the constitution protects woman's right to access to health care. i'm old enough to remember what it was like before. when i was a student at stanford and there after. and the early 1960s, i actually
sentenced women in california convicted of felony abortion to state prison. for a maximum sentences of up to ten years and they still went back to it because the need was so great. so was the morbidity and so was the mortality. this right passed now by the constitution, as recognized in rowe, planned parenthood v. casey in whole women's health, in fact, the court recently struck down honors regulations imposed by texas on women's health clinics. you have referred to rowe v. wade as quote one of the worst cloeszly erroneous supreme court editions of all time. end quote. is that still your view? >> it is. i believe it's a, it violated the constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law.
it is the law of the land. it is been soand settled for a long time and i would respect it and follow it. >> on november 14th, 2016, appearing on the tv show 60 minutes, the president-elect said that the issue of same-sex marriage was quote, already settled. it's law. it was settled in the supreme court. it's done. and i'm fine with that. do you agree that the issue of same-sex marriage is settled law? >> supreme court has ruled on that. the dissent dissented vigorously. the majority of the court has established the definition of marriage for the entire united states of america. and i will follow that decision. >> here's another question. if you believe same-sex marriage is settled law, but a woman's right to choose is not, what is
the difference? >> well, i haven't said that the woman's right to choose or the rowe versus wade is not the law of the land or not clear today, so i would follow that law. >> thank you. i would like to ask one question based on the letter that we received for 1400 law professors. they're from 49 states. only alaska's left out. i inquired why and they said because alaska doesn't have a law school. so it's a pretty comprehensive list representing law professors in every state that has a law school. what they said and this is what i want you to respond so. nothing in senator sessions public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man. than the 39-year-old attorney
who was deemed to racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge. all of us believe it's unaccept b bable for someone with his record to lead the department of justice. so, i want your resons to this and answer the question. how do you intend to put behind you, what are strongly felt personal views off the political hat and be an attorney general who fair enforces the law and the constitution for all. >> well, senator feinstein, i would direct their attention first to the remarks of senator specter, who in his entire career, said he made one vote this he would regret. that was the vote against me. he indicated he thought i was an egalitarian, a person who treated people equally and respected people equally. h this caricature of me in 1986
was not connect. i have become united states attorney. i supported as the civil rights attorney said, major civil rights cases in my district that integrated schools, that prosecuted klan, that ended single member districts that denied african-americans the right to hold office. i did everything i was required to do and the complaints about the voter fraud case and the complaints about the klan case that i vigorously prosecuted and supported are false and i hope this hearing today will show that i conducted myself honor bly and properly at that time and i am the same person, perhaps wiser and maybe better, i hope so. today than i was then, but i did not harbor the kind of animosities and race based discrimination ideas that were,
that i was accused of. i did not. >> thank you mr. chairman. >> senator hatch, then leahy. zpl i'd like to mention the committee received a heter in support of senator session's nomination from ash croft, bar, gonzalez, niece as well as a number deputy attorney generals. they wrote in part as follows based on our collective experience, we know him to be a person of unwaivering dedication to the mission of the department to assure that our country is governed by a fair and even handed rule of law. i ask consent to put that letter in record. >> thank you. i first want to thank you for your fair approach to this. the first hearing of the 115th
congress. you've scheduled and you've structured this hearing in line with this committee's precedence. in fact, you're ip colluding more witnesses with this hearing more than the past average for attorney general nominees. senator sessions has provided this committee with more than 150,000 pages of material relevant to his nomination. that is 100 times what attorney general lynch provos and almost 30 times what attorney general holder provided. this material comes from someone we know. someone many of us have served with in the senate. and on this very committee. yet some on the far left will stop at nothing to defeat this nomination. they oppose this because senator session will not politicize the justice department or use its resources to further a political agenda. they make up one thing after another to create a caricature
that bears no resemblance to the no, ma' nominee, who is actually before us here today. now, i've been on this committee for a long time and i've seen these dirty tactics used before. they're not going to work this time. senator sessions it sounds strange to say this, but welcome to the senate. the senate judiciary committee. i'm sure there will be some need to address false claims and fabricated charges during this hearing. i have some issues that you will be addressing when you become attorney general. the first is one i've raised with every incoming attorney general incoming nominee for nearly 25 year. it concerns federal laws prohibiting obscenity. expressing the sense of the congress that laws should be
vigorously enforced throughout the united states. it passed the senate unanimously. pleased it, too, in fact, it is the only resolution ever passed by the senate or the house. now, senator sessions, with your permission, by the utah legislature, outlining why pornography should be use d as public health problem as well as some of the latest research into the arm of on b seb centi. is it still your view, that federal law is pro -- should be enhanced? >> mr. chairman, those laws are clear and being prosecuted today and should be continued to be effectively and vigorous prosecuted in the cases that are appropriate. >> in making this a priority for the justice department, would you consider reestablishing a specific unit dedicated to
prosecuting this category of crime? >> so, that unit has been disbanded. not sure i knew that, but it was pa part of the department of justice for a long time and i would consider that. >> okay. for several years now, senator chris coops and tom marino and susan and i have raised the importance of safeguarding data privacy on an international scale. from unauthorized government access. that is why we continue to push forward the international communications privacy act which established a legal standard for accessing extraterritorial communications. the need for a legislative exclusion was enforced in july when the u.s. court of appeals held in microsoft v. the united states that current law does not authorize u.s. law enforcement officials so access electronic communications stored outside the united states.
if con tirmed, will you and your staff work with us to strike the balance and promote trust in the united states technologies worldwide while enabling law enforcement to fulfill its important public safety mission? >> to be a high responsibility, senator. i know you've worked hard on on that for a number of years as have all these members, so working that out, understanding the new technology, but the great principles of the right to privacy, the ability of individuals to protect data that they believe is private and should be u protected, all of those are great issues, new technological world we're in and i would be pleased to work with you on that and i do not have firm and fast opinions on the subject. >> thank you so much. i'd like to turn now to rapid dna technology that will allow law enforcement officials to
speedily process dna samples in 90 minutes or less. >> fbi director comey told this committee that it would help quote change the world in a very, very chiting way, end quote. legislation authorizing law enforcement to use this technology passed the senate last year. i was disappointed that it got tied up in the house. i have two questions. first, do you agree with fbi director comey and with law enforcement lead ers across the country, that rapid dna legislation is important? and will help law enforcement to do their jobs better and faster and secondly, do you agree with me that we should work to pass this legislation sooner rather than later and should avoid tieing it to efforts on other legislative issue, path forward
is unclear. >> mr. chairman, rapid dna analysis is a hugely important issue for the, whole american criminal justice subpoena system. it presents tremendous opportunities to solve crimes in an e effective way and can be produced justice because the kind of thing you can't fake or mislead, so i am very strongly in favor of that. in my personal view after many years, is that one of the biggest bottle they cans colleagues of many laws involving prosecution of criminal activity is that bottlenecked of the scientific analysis, the forensic sciences, where we fail sometimes to get dna back. fail to get back fingerprint analysis, fail to get back drug analysis, chemical angalysis an all of this slows down and stops case is that should long since
have been brought forward and disposed of. >> okay. >> i'd rather some democratic senators accuse you of opposing the violence against women's act. that caught my attention because like i did, you actually voted to reauthorize it. in 2013, there were not one, but two bills. one had controversial provisions that had never been received in hearing, the other did not. am i right that you supported reauthorizing the violence against women act? is. >> absolutely. i supported it in 2000 when it passed. i supported it in 2005 when the bill on both of those bills i supported became law and then in this cycle, senator grassley had a bill that i thought was preferable and i supported his bill that actually had tougher penalties than other bill and it is kind of frustrating to be
accused of opposing violence against women act when i have voted if for it in the past. there were some specific add on provision in the bill that caused my concern and i think other people's concern. >> mr. chairman, i ask consent to place in the record, an op-ed published in the "usa today" by penny nance, president of concerned with women for america. the nation's largest public sol pi women's organization if you can. >> without objection, it will be included. >> the division enforces religious land use and act which prote protects the right of prison inmates to protect religious institutions. i spruced this in 2000. >> i would note for the record that next monday, january 16th,
is religious freedom day. i hope you will make the religious freedom of all american shs a priority under your leadership. the civil rights division also has a unit dedicated to combatting human trafficking. it's created in 2007 and one of my former judiciary committee counsels grace becker was its first head. perhaps you could comment on the significance such azriel jous freedom and human trafficking and why it's posht to include them within the civil rights agenda within the department. >> mr. chairman, we respect people's religion. we encourage them to express themselves and to develop their relationships with the higher power as they choose, we respect that. as mandated in the constitution, but there are situations in which i believe we can reach accommodations that would allow
the religious beliefs of persons to be honored in some fashion as opposed to just dictating everything under a single provision or policy. so i believe you're correct. we should recognize religious freedom, it would be a very high priority of mine. >> let me close by asking consent from the record, letters for fr the national center for exploited children and the boys and girls clubs of america. they ta test to senator sessions work on behalf of vulnerable children in america. i also ask consent a letter supporting this nomination from nearly two dozen men and women who have served as assistant attorney general in ten different offices and divisions. they say as both senator and u.s. attorney, quote senator sessions has demonstrated a commitment rule of law and even
handed administration of j justice. ing i could not agree more. zpl without objection. be included. >> thank you, mr. chairman and welcome senator sessions and mrs. sessions. you were just asked about violence against women and your sport. let eat deal with the fact, which what was vail voted on. with the violence against women act that you voted against. you strongly oppose the violence against women reauthorization act of 2015. you spoke against it. voted against it. that law extended protections for some of the most vulnerable groups. student, immigrant, lgbtq.
the justice department has done an excellent job of implementing it and enforcing it for the last three years. i believe that both prosecutors, i believe that all victims of domestic and sexual violence deserve protection. why did you vote against expanding protections for lgbt victim, student, immigrants and tribal victims of domestic violence and sexual assault? why did you vote no? >> mr. chairman, i did indeed support the bill in 2000 and in -- >> i'm talk about the bill that is the law today. >> i understand. >> passed in 2013. by an overwhelming margin in the senate and by an overwhelming margin in the republican controlled house, signed into law by president obama.
i'm asking about that. why did you oppose it? >> mr. chairman, a number of people, some of the provisions in that bill. not the entire bill. >> just asking about you. >> trying to answer. >> go ahead. >> so, when we voted in the committee, eight of the nine republicans voted against the bill. one of the more concerning provisions was a provision that gave tribal courts jurisdiction to try persons who were not tribal members. as contrary, i believe the only time that's ever happened, that was a big concern that i raised i believe primarily. on the legislation, so i voted with the chairman and the legislation he had that i thought did the job for protecting women, to reauthorize the violence against women act, but at the same time, did not have other things attached to it that i thought were concerning. >> well, on the tribal courts,
those have now been prosecuted carefully. none of the nonindian independents that have been prosecuted appeal to federal court. many feel has made victims safer. do you agree with that. do you agree with the way the justice the president has handled the cases? >> i believe that the law has been passed by congress. i'm interested to see how it plays out in the real world. i will do my best on how to enforce that as attorney general u. the law itself has more powerful provisions and i'm glad was passed and provides protections to women as victims against
violence. >> on the tribal lands, it's been used and prosecuted for three years, do you feel it's been handled correctly. >> mr. chairman, i have no understanding of that. but in other result, of it so far, i'm interested first time i've heard it coming on. let me say this to you directly. in meeting with senators prior to this hear, i've had quite a number, perhaps more than any other issue that nonindians that have gone on to tribal lands that have committed crimes including rape have not been effectively proos cuted. they have been prosecuted in the federal government by the united states attorneys and that has not been happening sufficiently. i am not convinced, so i do think the fbi particularly maybe the bureau of the indian affairs investigators should be beefed
up and the u.s. attorneys need to do probably a better job of prosinging cases that need to be prosecuted in federal focourt. >> those are facts that came out clearly in the hearings before you voted against that provision. that's why senator crepo and i included it in the bill. but let me would you be able to if swb does, would you be able to defend it in court? >> i would defend the statute if it's reasonably defensible. yes, it's passed by congress. it would be the duty of the attorney general. whether they voted for it or supported it, to defend it. >> mr. chairman, i think i did. >> i spent 20 years back and
forth. delighted to turn it over to -- >> in your new position. in 2009, i offered the matthew shepard and -- hate crime act as amendment to the defense bill. extended hate crimes protections to lgbt individual, women and individuals with disableties. it passed the senate overwhelmingly. you opposed it. you stateded hearing fis faced that kind of discrimination, then said i don't see it. do you still believe that women and lgbt individuals do not face
the kind of discrimination. >> mr. chairman, senator leahy, having discussed that issue, at some length, that does not sound like something i said or intended to say. >> you did say it. >> i understand, but i've seen things taken out of context and not fwif an accurate picture. my view is and was concern that it appeared that these cases were being prosecuted effectively in state courts where they would normally be expected to be prosecuted. i asked attorney general holder to list cases that he had that indicated they were not being properly prosecuted. i noted that mr. byrd was given the death penalty in texas for his offense and mr. sheppard sh there were two life sentences imposed as a result of the situation in his state.
so, if question simply was do we have a the expansion, senator hatch has a proposal that we do a study to see the extent of the problem and we should have evidence that. >> as far as the study last year, the fbi said that lgbt individuals weren't likely to be targeted for hate crimes than any other group in the country. that's pretty strong fact! and in 2010, you started expanding hate crime protections to lgbt individuals was
unwarranted. possibly unconstitutional. tubbs bill has been said to cheapen the civil right's movement. especially considered what the fbi has found. >> you can be sure i will enforce it. >> thank you. >> let me, i don't want to go as much over time as as senator hatch did. i'll ask you one question, the president-elect is -- to institute a ban on muslim immigrants to the united states. you voted against a resolution that expressed the sense of the senate that the united states
must not back individuals based on the religion. all democrat, most republican, including the chairman, were in support of my resolution. do you agree with the president-elect that the united states can or should deny entry to members of a particular religion based on their religion, we do background ch k checks for terrorism, but based on their religion. do you agree with the president-elect the united states can our should deny entry to all hebs of a particular religion? >> senator leahy, b i believe the president-elect has subsequent to that statement made clear he believes the focus should be on individual coming from countries that have history of terrorism b and he's also indicated that his policy and what he suggests is strong vetting of people of those
coun countries of the united states. >> why did you vote against the resolution? >> mr. -- i almost called you mr. chairman again. senator leahy, the, my view and concern was in the resolution, it was suggesting that you could not seriously consider a person's religious views even and often sometimes at least not in a majority, but many people do have religious views that are -- to the public safety of the united states. i did not want to have a resolution that suggested that that could not be a factor in the vetting process before someone is admitted. i have no belief and do not support the idea that muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the united states. we have great muslim citizens who have contributed in so many different ways in america. as i said in my remarks, at the occasion that we discussed it in committee, are great believers
in religious freedom and the right of people to exercise their religious beliefs. >> before i turn -- >> yes, without objection. your inserts will be b included. i have letter from ted olsen coating in part with respect to civil rights, he says quote as a lawyer who has devoted years of effort to litigating of our fellow gay, lesbian and trans gendered citizen, i recognize that people of good faith can disadwr disagree on looel issues. many in particular, i have no rez vases abld senator session's ability to handle these issues fairly and accordance with law and to protect the civil rights of these and all of our
citizens. i'd like to include that in the record without objection. senator graham. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> we're about to get an answer to the old age question, can you be confirmed over 1400 law professors. wron what the being line in vegas is, but i like your chances. >> speaking of football. >> i want to congratulate the university of alabama for one heck of a streak. one of the most dominant football teams in the history of college football. and i want to acknowledge the clemson tykes, where i live five miles from the stadium u, that that was the finest college football game i think i've ever seen. davos sweeney and the tigers represent everything good about college athletics and while we were on different teams early
this morning, i want to let the good people of alabama know that in terms of their senator jeff sessions, he is a fine man. an outstanding fellow. who i often disagree with. i've traveled the world with. i've got to know him and his family. and i will enthusiastically support you for the next attorney general of the united states. now, let's talk about issues. >> some believe the only way to get justice is for the federal government to administer it. have you heard such thought sns. >> i have. i think i know what you're talking about. >> i think i do, too. i think the whole point is for the whole government to take over the frafl government of law, there should be a good reason. >> if a state's not prosecuting crimes against people based on their sex, their race, whatever
reason, then this proper for the federal government to come in and provide justice. do you agree? >> i do. when the state's doing its job, the federal government should let the states do their job. sf>> thags correct. not a general federal crime, federal statute that federalizes all crime in america. >> people are listening. that's just the way we can. you may not agree with it, but we think that way. i think we've got a good reason to think that way. i think that's the way they set up the whole system. muslims. as you know, me and the president-elect have had our differences. would you support a law that says you can't come to america because you're a muslim? >> no. >> would you support a law that you say you're a muslim, what does that mean to you, well, i got to kill everybody different from me, it's okay to say that can't come.
>> i think that would be a prudent decision. >> i hope we can keep people out of the country who want to kill everybody because their religion. i hope we're smart enough to know that's not what most people of the muslim faith believe. >> it can be that religion of that person. >> that's right. that's the point we're trying to make here. about the wire act. what's your view of the obama's administration's interpretation of the wire act alone to allow online video poker. poker gambling. >> senator graham, i was shocked at the memorandum, i guess the enforcement mem random than the departme department of justice issued and criticized it. apparently, there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the department of justice's position, but i did oppose it when it happened and seemed to me to be an unusual -- >> would you revisit it? >> i would visit it and i would
make a decision about it based on careful study. rather and i haven't reached, gone that far to give you an opinion today. >> immigration. you've said that the executive order of president obama, you believe is is uninstitutional. the daca law. do you still have this position? >> i did. for a number of reasons. >> i'm not being -- i agree with you. now we got 800,000 people who have come out of the shadows that have been signed up. will you advise the next president, president trump, to repeal that executive order? >> that will be a decision that needs to be studied and he would need to adwree to. but it's an executive order, really a memorandum of the department of homeland security. it would be constitutional. i believe to end that order.
and i would department of justice i think could have no objection to a decision to ban in that order because it is very questionable in my opinion constitutional. >> once we repeal it and i agree, that it is an overreach, what do we do with the 800,000 kids who have come out of the shadows? >> fundamentally, we need to fix this immigration system. it's not been working right. we've entered more and more millions of people illegally into the country. each one of them produces some sort of humanitarian concern. but it is particularly true for children. so, we've been placed in a bad situation. i really would urge us all to work together. i would try to be supportive. >> to end the legality and put us in a position where we can wrestle with how to handle these difficult compassionate decisions. >> and the best way to do it is for congress and the administration to do it and to work together and pass a law.
not an executive order. >> exactly. when it comes to the law of war, do you believe that people who join al qaeda or affiliated groups are subject to wg captured or killed you shouundew of war? >> i do, senator. i don't see how we could see it otherwise and it's responsibility of the military to protect the united states from people who attack us. >> do you believe the threats of the homeland or growing or lessening? >> i believe they are growing and we're seeing that now in europe and we're also seeing it right here in america. >> do you support the continuation of gitmo as a confinement facility for foreign terrorists. >> i think it's designed for that purpose. it fits that purpose marvelously well. it's safe place to keep prisoners. we've invested a lot of money in that and i believe it could be, it should be utilized. in that fashion. and have opposed the closing of
not a law enforcement action. they're not trying to steal our cars or rob your bank account. they're trying to destroy our way of life and i hope you'll go after them without apology, apply the law and the law is the law of war, not domestic criminal law, you'll have a friend in senator graham if you intend to do that. cyber attacks. do you think the russians were behind hacking into our election? >> i have done no research into that. i know just what the media says about it. >> do you think you could get briefed soon? >> well, i need to. >> do you like the fbi? >> do i like them? >> yeah. >> some of my best friends. >> do you generally trust them? >> zpl yes. zpl are you aware they have concluded it was the russian services who hacked into the dnc and e-mails? >> i do. at least that's what's been
reported. >> from your point of view, there's no reason for us to be suspicious of them. >> of their decision? i'm sure it was honor bly reached. >> how do you feel about a foreign entity trying to interin your election. not saying they changed the outcome, but clear to me they did. how do you feel about it and what should we do? >> senator graham, i think it's insignificant event. we have penetration throughout our government by foreign entities. we know the chinese have revealed millions of background information on millions of people in the united states and these i suppose ultimately are part of international big power politics. but it when a nation uses their improperly gained or intelligence wise gained information to take policy
positions that impact another nation's democracy or their approach to any issue, then that raises real serious matters. it's really i suppose goes in many ways to the state department. defense department and how we as a nation have to react to that. which would include developing some protocals where when people breach our systems that that a price is paid even if we can't prove the exact person who did it. >> i agree. got 20 seconds left. i've known you for i guess 15 years now and we've had a lot of contests on the floor and sometimes we agree, sometimes, we don't. i'm from south carolina. so i know what it's like sometimes to be accused of being a conservative. from the south. that means something oh than you're a conservative from the south in your case.
peophave tried to label you as racist or bigot or whatever you want to say. how does that make you feel and this is your chance to say something to those people. >> well, does not feel good. [shouting] >> if nothing else, i'm clearing the room for you. and i would suggest that the freedom of speech also has some courtesy to listen, to what's your answer? >> senator graham, i appreciate the question. you have a southern name, you come from south alabama, that
sounds worse to some people. south alabama. and when i came up as a united states attorney, i had no real support group. i didn't prepare myself well in 1986 and there was an organized effort to caricature me as swup that wasn't. true. 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. it wasn't accurate then and it's not accurate now. and i just want you to know that as a southerner, who actually saw discrimination and have no doubt it existed in a systematic and powerful and negative way to the people great millions of people in the south particularly of our country, i know that was wrong. i know we need to do better. we can never go back.
i am totally committed to maintaining the freedom and equality this country has to provide to every citizen and i will assure you that that's how i will approach it. >> senator durbin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. senator sessions, let me first say it's glad that you are brought your family with you today. it's a beautiful family with your wife and your son and daughters and those four beautifully l granddaughters. you kept them as quiet as you could for as long as you could, so thank you so much for being here today. i'm sure it was great moral support and part of your effort here today. when you came by my office last week, i talked to you about a man named atten mills and with permission of the chair, he's my guest today. ask if he's please stand up. thank you for being here today. i'd like to tell you story so you can understand my question
better. when he was 22 years old, unemployed, he made a bad decision. he started selling crack-cocaine on the streets of chicago. he was arrested twice for possession of amounts of crack-cocaine. the third time that he was arrested, the king pens who had employed him, turned on him and as a consequence, he ended up being prosecuted under the three strikes and you're out law at the age of 22, pardon me, 24, he was sentenced to life without parole. he had never been in prison before. and as i mentioned, there were no allegations made against him, other than possession and sale.f that nature. he ended up u despite the sentencing judge's admonition that he believed this was fundamentally unfair and his hands were tied, he ended up
spending 22 years in federal prison until december 20 a 15 when president obama commute d his sentence. he was finally able to go home to his family. senator session, seven years ago, youened acosponsored a bill known as the fair sentencing act and that reduced the brutal sentencing disparity for crack-cocaine crimes over powder cocaine. it was originally 100-1. we agreed in the senate gym i might add, to bring that down to 18-1. inmates overwhelmingly african-american, were spared thousands of prison years because of our joint effort to end this injustice. yet, when i asked you to join me in appealing to the sentence commission, sentencing commission to follow our law, and when i asked you to join senator grassley and me in permitting the almost 5,000 still serving under this unfair 100-1 standard to petition
individually for leniency, you refused. and you said of president obama's pardoning of people like alton mills and i quote, president obama continues to abuse executive power in an unprecedented reckless manner to systemically release high level drug traffickers and firearms felons. so-called low level nonviolent offenders simply do not exist in the federal system, you said. senator sessions, atten mills and many more like him do exist, so if you refuse to even acknowledge the fundamental justice of many of our sentencing laws, why should you be entrusted with the most important office in america. i think it's rather unfair based on our relationship and how we work together in 2001, i introduced legislation very similar to the bill that you and i successfully made law.
it would have reduced it to 20-1, our bill won't wendt to 18-1. a little be better, but fundamentally, that i was criticized by the bush department of justice. my legislation was opposed by them. it was seven years later, or so, really longer before our bill ever passed, so i stepped out. against my own republican administration and said openly on the floor of the is that the that i believed these crack-cocaine laws were too harsh and particularly, it was disadvantageous to the african-american community where most of the punishments were falling and it was not fair and we ought to fix it. so i just want to say, i took a strong stand on that. and i did not agree you and i did not agree on the retro activity because a lot of these were plea bargain cases and may not have been totally drien by the mandatory minimums, but so i
thought the court has basically now agreed that it is retroactive. i don't know what group is not being covered by it, but a large group was covered by a court decision. we sofrt left it open as i remember. >> we did. let me say on the issue of fairness, i will acknowledge, you stepped out on the issue. and you and i both recognized the brutal injustice of 100-1 and agreed on 8-1. that's how laws are made and now, we have 5,000 prisoners sitting in federal prison still there under this brutal unjust 100-1 and all i've asked and all senator grassley's asked, allow them as individuals to petition to the judge to the prosecutor, to the department of justice, so their sentences could be considered. that's something you've opposed. so in fairness, tell me why you still oppose that. >> first, i will tell you, with
absolute certainty, that if there's a decision of this body, it's not the attorney general's decision about when and where a mandatory minimum is imposed and whether can be retro actively altered. so i will follow any law that you pass, number one, number two, i understood the sincere belief you had on that issue and it was a difficult call. that's why we really never worked it out. so i understand what you're saying. but i did believe you are upsetting finality in the justice system. that you are suggesting these kind of factors were not considered when the plea bargaining went down. it's an honorable debate to have.
>> you have been outspoken on another issue. i've invited here today, sergeant virginia kelvim escobar f he would be kind enough to stand up and be recognized. thank you for being here. brought to the united states as a child, in high school, he and three other dreamers started a robotics club and won a college level competition, they made a movie out of his story. he graduated out of arizona state university with an engineering degree. the obama administration allowed him to become a citizen and enlist in the army where he served in combat in afghanistan. since joining the senate in 1997, you've voted against every immigration bill that included a path to citizenship for the undocumented. you describe d the dream act, which i introduced 15 years ago, to spare children who were undocumented through no nault of their own as quote a reckless proposal for mass amnesty. you opposed the bipartisan comprehensive bill which passed
the is that the four years ago. you've on b objected saying quote, who's going to be a spy, somebody from alabama or kenya. when i asked what you would do to address the almost 800,000 dreamers like oscar, who would be subject to deportation if president obama's order was repealed, you said, quote, i believe in following the law. there's too much focus on people who are here illegally and not enough on the law. senator sessions, there's not a spot of evidence in your public career to subject that as attorney general, you would use the authority of that office to resolve the challenges of our broken system in a fair and humane manner. tell me i'm wropg. >> well, ir wrong, senator durbin. >> i'm going to follow the laws passed by congress. as a man of policy, we disagreed on some of those issues.
if you continuely go through a cycle of amnesty, that you undermine the respect for the law and encourage more illegal immigration into america. i believe the american people spoke clearly in this election. i believe they agreed with my basic i think it's a good view, a decent view, a solid legal view for the united states of america. that we create a lawful system of immigration. that allows people to apply to this country and if they're accepted, they get in, if not, they don't and i believe that's right and just and if the american people are right to ask for it. we have not delivered that for them. >> senator graham asked this question and i listened to your answer. when he asked you what would happen to those 800,000 currently protected by president obama's executive order who can cannot be depored for two years renewable and can work for two
years and you said let congress pass a comprehensive immigration reperformance bill. you opposed the only bipartisan effort we've had on the senate floor in modern memory and what's going to happen to those 800,000, if you revoke that order and they are subject to deportation tomorrow. what is going to happen to them? what is the humane, legal answer to that? >> well, the first thing i would say is that my response to senator graham that what woez responsibility this is. i had an responsibility as a member of this body i believe it was correct on dealing with issues that's not the attorney general's role. it's to enforce the law. as you know, we're not able financially or any other way to seek out and remoove everyone i
the country illegally. president trump has indicated that criminal aliens are the top group of people and so, i would think that the best thing for us to do and i would urge colleagues that we understand this, let's fix this system. and then we can work together after this lawlessness has been ended, and then we could ask the american people and enter into a dialogue about how to compassionately treat people who have been here a long time. >> that does not answer the question about 800,000. that would be left in the lurch, whose lives would be ruined while waiting on congress for a bill you opposed. >> well, i thought it did answer it pretty closely from what you asked and i understand your concerns. >> senatorsenator cornyn. >> congratulations to you and your family on this once in a lifetime honor to serve as the head of the department of justice.
you know, sitting here listening to the questions and some of the comments that have been made both by the protesters and others, it strikes me that many people have been surprised to learn more about your record. your outstanding record as a prosecutor, somebody who treated that responsibility to uphold and enforce the constitution without fear and favor. those of us who have served with you in the senate, some as many as 20 years like senator she will shlby and collins testified to your character, but i like to think those of us who served with you most closely in the senate know more about you than just your record and your character. we know your heart. we know what kind of person you are.
you're a good and decent and honorable man. you've got an outstanding record. that you should be proud of. and i know you are. when somebody says that you unfairly prosecuted some african-americans for voter fraud in alabama, it strikes me as incomplete is the most charitable thing i can say when they leave out the fact that the very complaint s in that case were african-americans, the people whose voting rights you were trying to vindicate were african-americans is that correct? >> that's correct. >> does that strike you as a fair characterization that people would leave that important factor out?
>> it's not senator cornyn and if you ask people who casually follow the news they probably saw it otherwise and these were good people who asked me to get involved this case in 2002, an african-american grand jury, for the 2002 election, two years later the same thing was happening again, we had african-american income officials pleading with us to take some action that we approach the department of justice, in washington public voting integrity session and they approved an investigation and it developed into a legitimate case involving charges of vote fraud taking absentee ballots from voters opening them up and changing their vote and casting them for
somebody they did not intend the vote to be cast for. it was a voting rights case. i just feel like we tried to conduct ourselves in the right way. i never got in the argument of race or other matters, i just tried to defend myself as best i could. i would note colleagues just in the last few days the son of albert turner has written a letter and said i was just doing my job and he understood the reason and justification of the prosecution and that i would be a good attorney general and that's frgratifying to me. >> i know the nature of these confirmation hearings is that people pick out issues they're concerned about or where there could be some good faith difference. maybe it's not a good analogy
but let me try any way, you have been married to your wife 50 years now, correct? >> not let, but 47. let me continue i've been blessed. >> are there occasions where you and your wife disagree? >> no, senator. [ laughter ] >> you're under oath. >> i'm under oath, yes. >> based upon those handful of disagreements that you have had with her overtime. >> that's a good point thank you for making it, no, i don't. >> and to your original point your wife is always right, correct? >> that is correct. >> you are under oath. so this is the nature of these confirmation hearings, people are identifying specific issues whether there are policy differences but my point is that does not characterize your entire record of 20 years in the united states senate or how you
have conducted yourself as a prosecutor representing the united states government in our artic article 3 courts, let me get to a specific issue, a couple. i was really pleased to hear you say in your opening statement that many in law enforcement feel that our political leaders have on occasion abandoned them. you said police ought to be held accountable. but do you believe it is ever under any circumstances appropriate for somebody to assault a police officer for example? >> no defense for that kind of action and i do believe that we are failing to appreciate police officers who place their lives at risk as this sergeant was
just killed yesterday trying to deal with a violent criminal and vindicate the law and she was killed. that is the kind of thing that, too often happens. we need to be sure that when we criticize law officers it is a narrowly focused on the right basis for criticism and to smear whole departments places those officers at greater risk, and we are seeing an increase in murder of police officers, up 10% last year, so i can just say i could feel -- i could feel in my bones how it was going to play out in the real world when we had what i thought often times was legitimate criticism by perhaps wrong doing by a police officer but spilling over to an entire police force and morale has been affected an affected the crime
rates in baltimore and chicago. i don't think there's any doubt about it. i regret it's happening but i think it can be restored. we need to understand the requirement that the police work with the community and be respectful of their community but we as a nation need to respect our law officers too. >> well i for one appreciate your comments because we ought to hold our police and law enforcement officers up in the high regard to which they deserve based on their service to the communities. and your comments remind me somewhat of chief david brown's comments the dallas police chief following the tragic killing of five dallas police officers recently where he said that police ought to be held accountable but under no circumstances could any assault against a police officer be justified based on what somebody else did somewhere at some time so i for one appreciate that very much. you mentioned baltimore and chicago. and we have seen an incredible
number of people frequently in minority communities who have been killed as a result of crimes related to felons perhaps who are in possession of guns they have no legal right to be in possession of. earlier you talked about prosecuting gun crimes and i'm glad to hear you say that project exile which targeted felons and other people who cannot legally own or mosposses firearms was normally effective and when i look at the last five or ten years as the justice department prosecution of those crimes down 15.5%, down 34.8 pblgt % in the last ten years. can you make sure that those not use illegal firearms and break
the backs of this crime wave affecting people in our local communities like chicago and baltimore and particularly minority communities? >> i can. my best judgment, colleagues, is properly enforce the federal gun laws can reduce crime and violence in our cities and communities. it was highlighted richmond in project exile but i've always believed that when i was the prosecuteli prosecuting attorney in the 80s and 90s, we had project trigger lock and it highlighted the progress being made by prosecuting criminals who use guns to carry out their crimes. criminals are most likely the kind of person that will shoot somebody when they go about their business and if those
people are not carrying guns because they believe they might go federal court, be sent to a federal jail for five years perhaps they'll stop carrying those guns during that drug dealing and other activities that are criminal. fewer people get killed. fewer people get killed. so i truly believe that we need to step that up. it's a compassionate thing. if one of these individuals carrying a gun shoots somebody, not only is there a victim, they end up with hammering -- in jail for intermable periods, the culture, the communities are safer with fewer guns in the hands of criminals. >> thank you. >> before we go to senator white hou whitehouse members have asked me about our break and if it's okay with senator sessions, it would work out about 1:00 if we have three on this side and three on this side for the one hour
because it's noon right now, is that okay with you, senator sessions? >> chairman, i'm at your disposal. >> so this will give my colleagues that want to go to respective political party caucuses to go and take a recess of about thirty to 40 minutes. >> thank you, senator. so now then senator whitewhiteh >> hello. >> thank you senator. >> when we met i told you i was going to ask you particular questions so i'm going to lead off with that particular question. following the gonzalez scandals at the department of justice the department adopted procedures governing communications between the white house and the department of justice consistent with constraints that were outlined years ago in corresponds between senator hatch and the reno justice
department between small number at the white house and department of justice, will you honor an maintain those procedures at the department of justice? >> i will senator white houhouws an honorable and effective attorney yourself know you know why that's important. general mckayzy. >> i'm very clear about that. >> and i would say to you, well that's the appropriate way to do it. i read that after you and i talked i read thether reno memorandum. >> when is it appropriate for a prosecutor to disclose derogatory investigative information about a subject who was not charged?
>> that's a very dangerous thing. and, it's a pretty broad question as you have asked it, but you need to be very careful about that, and there are certain rules like grand jury rules that are very significant. >> and isn't it also true it is customary practice because of the concern about the improper release of derogatory investigative information that the department customarily limits it's factual assertions even after an individual has been charged to the facts that were charged in information or the indictment? >> i believe that's correct, that's a standard operating policy in most offices but i think that's standard operating procedure in united states attorneys offices like you and i had. >> as a question of law, does waterboarding constitute
torture? >> well, there was a disdispute about that when we had the torture definition in our law, the department justice memo memorandum concluded it did not necessarily preclude that, but now makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any other form of torture by the united states and my our military and all other departments. >> consistent with the united states military? >> they have been supportive of that and in fact i take a moment to defend the military. >> you don't need to defend them for me i'm all for our military. >> but i truly believe many believe they conducted waterboarding, i used to teach the geneva conventions and the
military did not do that. >> and general pe traytrayus se letter disavowing the issue of waterboarding. >> another question as a matter of law is fraudulent speech protected by the first amendment? >> fraudulent speech if it amounts to obtain a thing of value of which it is directed, fraud and can be prosecuted and i think we see too much of that, we see the phone calls at night told early people, we see mailings go out that seem to be awfully far from a truth in seducing people to make unwise decisions. >> so fraudulent corporate speech would also not be protected by the first amendment? >> that is correct and subject
to civil and or criminal complaint. >> and speaking of civil complaints was the department of justice wrong when it brought and won the civil rico action against the tobacco industry? >> senator, they won those cases, took them to court and eventually won a monumental victory, that is correct. it's part of the law and firmly established. >> hard to say they were wrong if they won correct? >> that's correct. >> as you know the united states has retaliated for russia for interference in the 2016 elections in europe, the baltic states germany and italy have raised concerns, i've touched on this before but want to make sure it's clear, will the departments of justice and fbi be allowed to continue to investigate the russian connection even if it leads to
the trump campaign and trump interests and associates and can you assure us that in any conflict between the political interest of the president and t the interest of justice even if your duties require the investigation, prosecution of himself, his family and associates? >> senator, if there are laws violated and they can be prosecuted of course you will have to handle that in an appropriate way. i would say that the problem may turn out to be as in the chinese hacking, by hundreds of thousands of maybe millions of records, has to be handled at a political level. and i do think it's appropriate for a nation who feels that they have been hacked and that information has been improperly used to retaliate against those actions. it's just --
>> and i know we share
a common interest in advancing the cybersecurity of this neigh. -- nation. i look forward to continue that. >> during the course of this boisterous political campaign, did you ever chant "lock her up"? >> no, i didn't. i heard it, i think sometimes humorously done, but it was a manner that i have said a few things a special prosecutor, i favored that. i think that probably is one of the reasons i believe that i should not make any decision about any such case. >> and you understand that the good guy law man in the movies is the one who sits on the jailhouse porch and doesn't let the mob in? >> exactly. exactly. >> i'm from rhode island as you know, senator, we have members
who have heard you called their organizations uneamerican, we have a vibrant dominican community, david ortiz swinging his bat for the red sox and wonder why you said "almost know one from coming here not from the united states is benefitting us." i represent a lot of latinos, and muslims worried about so-called patrols of muslim neighborhoods and heard from police chiefs who worry that you as attorney general will disrupt law enforcement priorities that they have set out and disrupt the community relations that they have worked hard over years of community engagement to achieve.
time is short but i noticed that in your prepared remarks these are not unforeseeable concerns and your remarks did very little to belay those concerns, is there anything you would like to add? >> thank you. my comment about the naacp arose from discussion that i had where i expressed concern about their statements that were favoring as i saw it, efforts and -- efforts in central america so i said they could be perceived as unamerican and weaken the moral authority in moving forward for reconciliation throughout the country and i believe that clearly, and i never said and accused him of that, number two.
>> what would you tell -- of the naacp right now? >> i would say please, look at what i have said about that and how that came about and it was not in that context, it was not correct. i said in 1986 that naacp represents one of the greatest forces for reconciliation and racial advancement of any entity in the country, probably number one, that's what i said then, and i believed it and believe it now. it's an organization that has done tremendous good for us. with regard to the dominican republic, i was on a -- with senator -- public housing and things that seemed to be working and spent some time with the
consulate official there and i learned there's a good bit of fraud in it and he was somewhat discouraged in his ability he felt to do his job and we also understood and discussed that immigration flow is not based on skills, from all of our countries frankly is based on family connection and visas rather than a skill based program more like canada has today and that's all i intended to be saying there. tell anybody that heard that statement please don't see that as a diminishment or a criticism of the people of the dominican republic, it was just to discuss in my remarks the reemt ality or immigration system today. i would like to see it more skill based. >> my time has expired. thank you. >> before i go to senator lee.
there's an evaluation of the work of senator sessions during his time as u.s. attorney that i think speaks to his outstanding record. i'm made aware of this because senator feinstein made an inquiry from the department of justice and would note a few points from their evaluation back in 1992, a couple of short sentences all members of the judiciary praise the u.s. attorney for his advocacy skills, leadership and aufrs assessability, and the usao of the southern district of alabama without leading personnel and morale the district is representing the united states in a most capable and professional manner. without objection i will put
that in the record senator lee. >> mr. chairman while we're putting things into the record -- >> sure, a letter from the environmental movement and january 5th from the national task force and violence against women be added to the record? >> yes, those will be included without objection. senator lee. >> hello, senator sessions. >> hello. >> i've enjoyed working with you over the last six years and always found you to be someone who treats colleagues regardless with different viewpoints with dignity and respect. you have taught me a great deal in the six years i've been here and i've appreciated the opportunity to work with you. i think a lot of this has to do with the fact that we're both lawyers, although being a lawyer around here and having a law degree is not unusual, one of the things that sets you apart and makes you different, i think you think of yourself as a
senator who not so much was a lawyer, but a lawyer serving as a senator. and i think that's important for someone next to be named as attorney general of the united states. although you and i have not had the opportunity to discuss the rules of perpetuity. -- banter when occasion arises so maybe in a subsequent round we'll have an opportunity to do that, but this does raise a discussion that i would like to have with you about the role of the lawyer. as you know it, a lawyer understands who his or her client is. any time you are acting as a lawyer, you have got a client. this is a simple thing if you are representing an individual, because in almost every instance unless the client is incapacitated you know who the client is, the client has one
mouthpiece, one voice, and you know what the interest of that client are and you can evaluate those expressed by the interests of the compliant -- client. a little different with a corporate. the bigger the entity gets the more complex it gets. there might be some ripples between the lawyer and the client. in the case of the u.s. government and the attorney general's representation of that client, this is a particularly big and powerful client, and that client has many interests in a sense the client is of course the united states of america, but at the same time the attorney general is there put in place by the president of the united states and serves as the pleasure of the president of the iteunited states so the attorney general has several interests to balance and at once
regard him or herself regarded as a member of the president's cabinet and can be removed at my moment and at the same time the attorney general has the obligation to be independent to provide an independent source of analysis for the president and the president's team and cabinet. how do you understand these things as a former u.s. attorney as a former prosecutor and as a senator who served on the judiciary committee. how do you see the proper balance of all these interests from the standpoint of the attorney general? >> that's a very insightful or probing question and touches on a lot of issues that we as attorney general would need to deal with. there are even sometimes these government agencies are like foreign countries negotiate memorandums of understanding
that -- to a treetee. the attorney general ultimately ohi owes it to the american people. however every attorney general has been appointed by the president an confirmed by the senate or wouldn't be made attorney general so they do understand i think that if a president wants to accomplish a goal that he or she believes in deeply then you should help them do it in a lawful way but make clear and objective if it's an unlawful action. that helps the president avoid difficulty, it's the ultimate loyalty to him, and you hope
that a president -- and i hope president elect trump has confidence in me so that if i give him advice that something can be done or can't be done that he would respect that. that's an important relationship too, but ultimately, you are bound by the laws of the country. >> some of that i assume could come into case with a case that's politically sensitive because it's relates to a member of the administration or to the inner play between the executive branch and legislative branch for example. in some of those instances there can be cause for a special prosecutor. in a way this is a way of taking the attorney general out of the equation so it can be handled in a manner that reflects a degree of separation between the administration and the case.
on the other hand, there are constitutional questions sometimes raised and sometimes people argue this place is too much of a presumption that the special prosecutor will seek an indictment in order to justify the time and expense of appointing a special prosecutor. for reasons that relate to this come lexty, there are of course guidelines in place to help guide the determination by the attorney general as to when, whether how to put in place a special prosecutor, but there's a lot of discretion in the hands of the attorney general in deciding that. do you have anything that you would follow? what can you tell us about what considerations you would consider in deciding whether or not to appoint a special prosecutor? >> well, it is a not a little matter. it is a matter that has created
controversy over the years. i don't think it's appropriate for the attorney general just to willy-nilly create special prosecutors. history has not shown that has always been a smart thing to do, but there are times when objectivity is required and the absolute appearance of octob objectivity is required and sometimes a special prosecutor is appropriate. attorney general lynch for example did not appoint a special prosecutor, we had a campaign on, i didn't research the law in depth just the reaction as a senator of concern, but there should be -- great care should be taken on deciding how the make the appointment or if the appointment of a special prosecutor is required.
you're not required to be a judge, to be a prosecutor. one judge said there's nothing wrong with a prosecutor who likes his work. and doesn't think laws should be violated. is that a bias? i don't think so. i think that's a strength, so i think that's the best i can give you at this point. >> thank you. another challenging issue that relates to this duty of independence that attorneys general have relates to the law office of legal counsel. it's the job sometimes known to issue opinions within the executive branch in a wide array of subjects. some are subjects that a lot of people would find interesting. others are subjects that only a lawyer could love. and sometimes only a lawyer specializing in something
esoteric, competitive bidding requirements under the federal highway aid program, there aren't perhaps that many people who would find that interesting but a lot of others who would capture immediately the public's interest. what's significant about all of these though no matter how broad or narrow the topic. no matter how politically sexy or dull the topic might be, they in many instances almost conclusively resolve a legal question within the executive branch of government and in many instances on the basis of constitutional terms that may or may not ever be litigated such that the broaching of a constitutional topic maybe opened studied of the executive branch within how the counsel decide to do their jobs. what can you tell me what you
would do to ensure that the office of legal counsel maintains a professional and legal -- for the task? >> it does opine on important issues related of conflicts of disputes within the great executive branch of our government. what kind of competition is required before a highway grant. there may be a disagreement about that and it is asked to review it and state it that the department is not one, these are not independent agencies, so that office is so exceedingly important as you indicate, because many times those opinions hold and they set policy and they affect things, sometimes it also has the power
and i'm sure you would be sensitive to, to expand or constrict the bureaucracies in their ability to execute under statutes. in other words, this this withi their power or not their power so this is something that can impact the american people in a way. >> thank you very much mr. chairman. good to see you senator sessions, you and i have worked together on the adoption simplification act which i believe led to a lot of families keeping siblings together when adopted. senator cornyn and i passed the sex traffic k bill and you had some important provisions in that and we worked together on law enforcement issues and i appreciate your respect and support that you have from the community and i also thank you
for your work on drug courts. something we both share as former prosecutors and believe in the purpose of those courts. but i wanted to lead first with another part of the justice departments job and that's protecting civil rights and the right to vote. my state has the highest voter turnout of any state and pretty proud of that and i played a major role in making sure that the election laws were enforced and that people who were able to vote could vote and that people who shouldn't vote didn't vote. since the voting rights act became law more than 50 years ago we have made progress but very concerned about some of movements by states to restrict access to voting in recent years. we haven't been able to pass the bipartisan voting rights last
year, i think it's going to be a lot of work going forward. you and i talked about you previously called it an intrusive piece of legislation and i wondered if you could explain that as well as talk about how you will actively enforce the remaining pieces of the act that would be section 2 which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race and section 3 bailen provision subject to clearance. you don't have to go into great detail, you can do that later but explain your views of the voting act moving forward and in terms of if you were attorney general? >> the act passed in 1965 was with one of the most important acts to deal with racial difficulties that we face. and it changed the whole course of history particularly in the
south. there was a clear finding that there was discriminatory activities in the south that a number of states were systemically denying individuals the right to vote and you go back into the history, you can see it plainly, actions and rules and procedures were adopted in a number of states with a specific purpose of blocking african-americans from voting and it was just wrong and the voting rights act confronted that and it in effect targeted certain states and required even the most minor changes in voting procedure -- >> so how would you approach this going forward instance the fifth circuit written by a bush appointee, how would you handle this moving forward? >> i have not studied that.
there's going to be a debate about it. courts are ruling on it now and that is voter i.d. and whether or not that's an improper restriction on voting that adversely impacts disproportionally minority citizens so that's matter that's got to be decided. on the surface of that it doesn't appear to be, i think voter i.d. laws properly drafted are okay but as attorney general it will be my duty to study the facts in more depth to analyze the law but fundamentally that can be decided by congress and courts as interpreted by existing law, i did vote to extend the voting rights act years ago i thought it included section 5 but later section 5 was eliminated by the supreme court on the basis that progress had been made and the intrusive question, it is intrusive, the
supreme court on more than one occasion has described it legally as an intrusive act because it only focused on a certain number of states and normally when congress passes a law it applies to the whole country, so it's very unusual for laws to be passed to target only a few states but they had a factual basis able to show it was justified in this fashion, so that's the foundation for it and why i supported its renewal. >> and i think you understand as you look at this issue that there are many voters people who are trying to vote that view some of these rules put in place as intrusive for them because it makes it harder for them to vote and i think that's the balance that you're going to need and i hope just coming from a state that has such high voter turnout that has same day registration, very good turnout in iowa is right below us states put in
place some really expansive voter laws and it doesn't mean democrats always get elected. we have republican governor in minnesota and iowa and i point out the more we can do to encourage people to vote the better democracy we have. and i want to turn on a democracy issue raised by senator graham and i just returned with senator make cain and graham from the baltic, georgia and learned how the cyberattacks are not just unique to one party or election or country, do you have any reason to doubt the information that in fact russia used cyberattack to influence this last election, i'm not asking if you believe it influenced it but just if you
believe the report of our intelligence agencies? >> i have no reason to doubt that and no evidence that would indicate otherwise. >> thank you. violence against women act. senator leahy asked, i have just one question if confirmed will you continue to support the life-saving work done by the office of violence against women? >> yes. >> thank you. immigration you and i have different views on this and i often focus on the economic benefits of immigration. the fact that we have 70 of our fortune 500 companies, at one point 200 of our fortune 500 companies were formed by immigrants or kids of immigrants. nearly 20% were foreign born and just to understand in a state like mine where we have entry level workers and dairies immigrants, major doctors at the
mayo clinic, snmallilies if you see that. >> we have been the leading country in the world in accepting immigration, i don't think the american people want to end immigration. i do think if you bring in a larger flow of labor than we have jobs for it does impact adversely the wage prospects and the job prospects of american citizens. i think as a nation we should evaluate immigration on whether or not it serves and advances the national interests, not the corporate interests. it has to be the people's interests first an i do think too often congress has been come pla -- complaisant in supporting legislation that make make
businesses happy but also pull wages down, dr. bore houhouse h written about that and he is a very respectful scholar and one of the big problems we have is middle class and lower class americans, economically not having the wage increases that we would like to see them have. in fact since 2000 wages are still down from what they were in 2000. >> i want to make sure we have a mix of jobs for people here and making sure that we are a country of immigrants. [audience disturbance] >> mr. chairman, if i could have
another 30 seconds here. >> maybe 45 seconds. would you say that you're close to the canadian system i think may be some of those polices ought to be considered by the united states. >> my last question, mr. chairman is on a reporter's issue, free press is essential to our democracy, my dad was a newspaper reporter for years and i'm especially sensitive to the role of the press as a watchdog. you have raised concerns in the past about protecting journalists from revealing their sources, you did not support the free flow of information act. in 2015 the attorney general revised department justice rules for when federal prosecutors can subpoena records and consented to releasing a support on any subpoena issues or charges made
against journalists, if confirms will you commit to the standards already in place at the justice department and will you make that commitment not to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs? >> senator, i am not sure. i have not studied those regulations. i would note when i was the united states attorney, we knew, everybody knew that you could not subpoena a witness or push them to be interviewed if they're a member of the media without approval of high levels of the department of justice, that was in the 1980s, so i do believe the department of justice does have sensitivity to this issue. there have been a few examples where the press and the department of justice haven't greed on these issues but for the most part this is a broadly recognized and proper deference to the news media, but you could
have a situation in which media is not really the unbiased media we see today an could be a mechanism through which lawful intelligence information is obtained, there are other dangers that could happen with regard to the federal government that normally doesn't happen to the media covering murder cases in the state sg. >> thank you. i'll follow-up in a written question. >> thank you. >> senator sass from nebraska. >> thank you very having me. i would like to interior into the report from current 45 state generals, the letter reads in part no one is more qualified to fill this role than senator sessions. this is obviously testimony from the top law enforcement officers of 25 states asking unanimous
consent, chairman to include this into the record. >> without objection it will be included. proceed senator sass. >> senator, when you were introducing your grand kids, and i'm amazed how long they stood around. we have a crisis in this country of civic ignorance, and we have a problem of public trust in that many people presume that people are overwhelmingly influenced by the -- rather than the good. our president has motivated this polarization saying he didn't have legal authority to do things and subsequently doing those things, quite apart, this is a crisis when kids don't understand the sdweendistinctio
between the legislative and executive offices and when they they they don't take their jobs officely, honestly. it's not quite like schoolhouse rock anymore. but can you tell me what the -- >> people are taught schoolhouse rock is not a bad basic lesson on how it is supposed to work, the president executes laws as does the entire administration as passed by congress or follows the constitution and the judicial branch decide disputes. as a neutral umpire, unbiased, participant on either side of the controversy and objectively. i think any day we get away from that it is dangerous, if a
president says i do not have the authority or others say the president doesn't have certain authority and then it is done by the president it confuses people. i think colleagues, we too little appreciate something that's corrosive happening out in our country. there is a feeling that judges just vote when they get a big case before them on what their political agenda is and not what the constitution actually requires that judges can redefine the meaning of words to advance an agenda they have that may not be the agenda of the american people and that inevitably is corrosive to respect the law. >> thank you, but to get one step further because there are going to be many cases, many instances where the administration in which you are likely going to end oup serving will want to do things and want to know what their limits of the discretion is, pieces of legislation passed around here
in recent years are sometimes thousands of pages, with the secretary shall dot, dot, dot, and they have failed to finish laws. what are some of the markers that you would use to understand the limits where the executive branch cannot go? >> we really need to get re-establish that professor jonathan tur lley has written about this, an american voice and jurisprudence. of course there are two ways, one of them that it writes laws too broad. and i urge all of you to be sure when we pass a law that that law is clear and sets limits. when it doesn't set limits then you can have the secretary of this agency or that agency
claiming they have certain authorities and you end up with a very muddled litigation resulting from it. so re-establishing the proper separation of powers, and fidelity to law and to limits is an important issue and i think hopefully, i think that's what you're suggest. >> could you tell me under what circumstances if any you think the department of justice can fail to enforce a law? >> well, it can fail to enforce it by setting prosecutorial pros asse -- processes, if a new tax is passed and the department of justice says it can't be collected then the law is not followed. you also have circumstances in which can redefine the statute or alter if you're talking about
improper actions, could expand the meaning of the words of the statute far beyond what congress ever intended and that's an abuse too. >> not to interrupt you too soon the improper, but what is proper because this administration has made the case regularly they need to exercise prosecutorial discretion because of limited resources and so what are some proper instances in your view when an administration might not enforce a law? >> well, critics of the immigration enforcement, the daca laws said that the prosecutorial discretion argument went too far it basically just eliminated the laws from the books. secondly, with regard to that, the president's realm the order came from homeland security, not the department of justice, but homeland security's order not only said we're not going to
enforce the law with regard to certain large classifications of people but those people who have not been legal status under the laws of the united states were given photo i.d.s, work authorization and social security numbers and the right to participate in these government programs that would appear to be contrary to existing law so that to me would suggest an overreach. >> and in parallel before the courts what instances would it will legitimate if any for the solicitor general to not defend a law in court? >> that's a very good question and sometimes it becomes a really matter in general, the solicitor general as part of the department of justice and the executive branch states the position of the department of justice. and it has a duty, the department of justice does, to
defend the laws passed by the body, by congress. and they should be defended vigorously whether or not the solicitor general agrees with them or not unless it can't be reasonably defended, so sometimes you reach a disagreement about whether or not it's reasonably defensible or not and that's a question the department of justice should defend laws that congress passed unless they're unable do so in a reasonable way. >> what is the place of independent agencies in a unified executive branch and do you envision you will be making any recommendations to the president to reign in independent agencies in an effort to preserve the constitutional distinction between the powers of congress and the administrative responsibilities of an executive branch? >> senator, that's a good question, kind of a historic question at this point in time because it does appear to me that agencies often times see
themselves as independent thief dom thiefdomes and sometimes you hear the president complain about things under his control, i remember president clinton complaining when he appointed an attorney who just appointed a committee to make sure the death penalty was carried out so it was like whose responsibility is this, you can remove the attorney general if you're not happy, so these things do continue to happen out there if we're not careful about and i thank you for raises it. >> going back to something senator lee was talking about. can you give a top line summary of what you believe the olc to be, between the olc, the attorney general and the white house? >> well, the olc has statutory
duties to make opinions. the olc team reports to the attorney general who could reverse i suppose or remove the olc head, the deputy attorney general, if he thought that department was not following the law, but essentially they are given the power as attorney general, i had opinions section in alabama, and they rendered opinions on a whole host of matters when called upon from school boards and highway departments and that sort of thing, so this olc does represent a key position in the department of justice. they must have extraordinary legal skill. they have to be terrific lawyers. they have to understand the constitutional order of which we are a part. and they should render objective
decisions day after day, week after week. ultimately the responsibility of the president and the attorney general to ensure that we have that kind of quality at olc. >> thank you. >> senator ren kkirenkin. >> senator congratulations on your nomination. >> thank you. >> in 2009 when you became the ranking republican on this committee you were interviewed about how you would approach the committees work and nominations specifically. you said that democrats should expect you to be fair because you had been through this process yourself back in 1986 and you felt back then the committee had distorted your record. you said that moving forward "we're not going to misrepresent any nominees' record and we're not going lie about it," and we
certainly don't want to do that to our colleague. but i also think it's fair to expect that sitting before
us today that you're not going to misrepresent your own record, that's fair to say, right? >> that is fair. >> good. now in that same interview you said "i filed 20 or 30 civil rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations and county commissions when i was the united states attorney, so 20 or 30 desegregation cases, did i miss read that quote? >> i believe that's what i've been quoted of saying and i suspect i said that. >> okay. that was 2009, but in november your office said "when senator
sessions was u.s. attorney he filed a number of desegregation lawsuits in alabama not 20 or 30 this time but a number, so tell me, did you file 20 or 30 desegregation cases or is it some other number? >> thank you senator franken, it is important for us to be accurate, the records don't show there were 20 or 30 actual files cases, some cases involve multiple parties and defendants, a count school board being sued racial discrimination and the number would be less than that. >> what do you think would have caused you to say that you filed 20 or 30 desegregation -- >> well we had some of them started before i came
and continued after i left.
some of them were brought an then settled promptly. and so it was extraordinarily difficult actually and i was surprised to get a record by checking the docket sheets to find out exactly how many cases were involved. i heard one from the lawyer of the department of justice, i believe a large number, but i don't -- the record doesn't justify it. >> the questionnaire you submitted for today asks you to list and describe the quote, ten most significant litigated matters you personally handled. personally handled. and among the case you -- cases you listed that you personally handled are three voting rights cases and a desegregation case. last week i should note three attorneys who worked at doj and who actually brought three of the four cases wrote an open ed
piece where they say, quote, we can state categorically that sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. now you originally said you personally handled three of the cases, but these lawyers say you had had no substantive involvement. chairman grassley, i would ask that op-ed from last tuesday's "washington post" be entered into the record. >> without objection it will be entered. >> are they distorting your record here? >> yes. in fact, one of the writers there, mr. had hebert, spent a bit of time in my office. he said i supported him in all the cases he brought, that i was more supportive than almost any other u.s. attorney, and that i
provided office space, i signed the complaints that he brought, and as you know, may know, senator franken, when a lawyer signs a complaint, he's required to affirm that he believes in that complaint and supports that complaint and supports that legal action, which i did. we sued -- >> that's your personal involvement was that your name was on it? >> well, look, you can dispute the impact or the import of the questionnaire. another attorney who paul hancock who brought cases in our district said, well, attorney general claims credit for the cases in the department of justice, he saw nothing wrong with my claiming that this was a case that i had handled. >> okay, two of the -- >> so you can disagree with that, but those cases have my signature on the -- on the docket sheet. my name is listed number one on
the -- >> okay. >> -- as attorney for the case. >> i'm not a lawyer. i'm one of the few members of this committee who didn't go to law school and usually i get by just fine, but seems to me that a lawyer, if lawyer has his name added to a document, a filing, that lawyer would be misrepresenting his record if he said he was personally handled these cases. two of the lawyers who wrote the op-ed have also submitted testimony for today's hearing. mr. jerry hebert and mr. joe rich. mr. hebert says, quote, litigated -- says he, quote, litigated personally two of the four cases you listed, said i can state with absolute certainty that mr. sessions did not participate personally in either. mr. rich worked on one of the four cases you listed. he said, quote, i never met him
at that time, nor any other time and he had no input to the case. these represent three of the four cases that you claimed that were among the top ten cases that you personally handled. now, in your 1986 questionnaire, you used phrases like, quote, i prepared and tried the case as soul counsel and i was the lead prosecutor on this case assisted by so and so. why didn't you use the same level of detail in your 2016 questionnaire? >> in looking at this questionnaire, we decided that was appropriate response since it was a major historic case in my office. let me just reply, senator franken, and in this fashion, mr. hebert, in 1986, when he
testified at my hearing, said, quote, we have had difficulty with several u.s. attorneys in cases we have wanted to bring. we have not experienced that difficulty in the cases i have handled with mr. sessions. in fact, quite the contrary, closed quote. he goes on to say, i've had occasion numerous times to ask for his assistance and guidance. i have been able to go to him and he has had an open door policy. and i have taken advantage of that and found him cooperative. and that is an accurate statement. i don't know mr. rich. perhaps he handled a case i never worked with. he goes on to say -- >> one of the cases -- >> no, you raised this question. >> one of the cases you listed was a case that mr. rich handled. if you don't know him, it is hard for me to believe that you personally handled it. >> when i found that -- these cases, i had been supported --
>> filed. >> mr. hebert says, quote, and yet i have needed mr. sessions' help in those cases and he has provided that help every step of the way. in fact, i would say that my experience with mr. sessions has led me to believe that i have received more cooperation from him, more active involvement from him, because i have called upon him. quote, i have worked side by side with him on some cases in the sense that i have had to go to him for some advice, closed quote. >> in some cases. we're not necessarily the ones you listed. >> well, look, 30 years ago, my memory was of this nature and my memory was my support for those cases. >> your memory. okay. look, i am not -- i'm one of the few members of this committee who is not a lawyer. the chairman, the ranking aren't. but when i hear i filed a case,
you know, i don't know some of the parlance, might have a special meaning in legal parlance, but to me, as a layman, it sounds to me like filed means i led the case. or i supervised the case. doesn't mean that my name was on it. and it seems to me, look, i'll close, mr. chairman, setting aside any political or ideological differences that you or i may have, doj is facing real challenges, whether it is protecting civil rights or defending national security and our country needs an attorney general who doesn't misrepresent or inflate their level involvement on any given issue. so i consider this serious stuff
as i know that you would if you were in my position. >> well, you're correct, senator franken. we need to be accurate in what we say. when this issue was raised, i did do a supplement that said i provided assistance and guidance to civil rights division attorneys, had an open door policy with them and cooperated with them on these cases. i signed them. i supported cases. and i attempted to be as effective as i could be in helping them be successful in these historic cases. i did feel that they were the kind of cases that were national in scope, and deserved be listed on the form. if i'm in error, i apologize to you. i don't think i was. >> well, you couldn't find 20 or 30 desegregation cases that you stated you had participated in. and you don't sound like you personally handled cases that
you said you personally -- >> i was on a radio interview without any records and that was my memory at the time. >> i think you answered the question. senator flake, now, it is 12:59. so at 2:09, we will adjourn for lunch. i'll be back here then at 2:39. whoever is present will start then. but i hope everybody can be back here at least by 2:45. whatever -- i got the -- you know what i mean. go ahead. >> thank you. wait, you say we're adjourned or i'm going? >> you go ahead. >> all right. always nice being the last one standing between lunch. >> let's have order for senator flake. >> i just want to say at the outset how much i've enjoyed working with you and being your colleague. i appreciate having you as a
friend. no secret we have had difference of opinion on immigration legislation that we put forward. you had different ideas. i had no doubt that as attorney general you'll faithfully execute the office. and i appreciate the answers that you've given today. let me ask unanimous consent to submit a column written by our own attorney general in arizona, mark burnvich for the hill newspaper this week. >> without objection it will be included. >> supporting your nomination. let me talk to you about an aspect of immigration that is important in arizona. as you know, we have a large border with mexico. we have a program called operation streamline that has over the years been tremendously effective in cutting down recidivism in terms of border crossers. what it is basically, it is intended to reduce border crossing by expeditiously prosecuting those who enter the
country illegally over under a no tolerance or zero tolerance policy. it is credited with being instrumental in achieving better border security, specifically in the yuma sector along the western side of arizona's border with mexico. nevertheless, in recent years, the u.s. attorneys office for the district of arizona adopted a policy that ended prosecutions for those who cross but for -- well, without criminal history other than simply crossing the border. i've asked attorney general holder and attorney general lynch as well as secretary johnson at homeland security on what is being done here, and i haven't gotten a straight answer. no matter how many times i ask the question, so i'm looking forward to a little more candor here as attorney general. if you're confirmed, what steps will you take to restore
operation streamline to a zero tolerance approach that has been so successful in arizona. a portion of arizona's border. >> thank you, senator flake, i have enjoyed working with you and i know the integrity with which you bring your views on the immigration system. like you, i believe that streamline was very effective. and it was really surprised that it has been undermined and significantly. the reports i got initially some years ago, maybe a decade or more ago, it was dramatically effective. and so i would absolutely review that. and my inclination would be, at least at this stage, to think it should be restored and even refined and made sure it is lawful and effective, but i think it has great positive potential to improve legality at
the border. >> thank you. it has been effective in yuma and i can tell you there is concern there among the sheriffs office, concern that we're seeing an increase in border crossings simply because the cartels understand very well what -- where there is a zero tolerance policy and where there is not. word spreads. we can quickly get to a situation where we have a problem in the yuma sector like we do in the tucson sector. is there any reason why we haven't expanded this program to the tucson sector if it has been successful elsewhere? >> i do not know what reason that might be. it seems to me we should examine the successes and see if they can't be replicated throughout the border. >> all right. well, thank you. look forward to working with you on that. >> i appreciate that opportunity to work with you on that because i've long felt that it is the right direction for us to go. >> thank you. when we have a successful
program, it is difficult to see it scrapped. and to see the progress that has been made in certain parts of the border done away with. let me get to another subject here. victims rights, this is an area of the law you've shown particular interest in over your time as a senator i have with me letters of support for your nomination from various victims groups and advocates, victims of crime and leniency, victims and friends united, op-ed by professors paul cosell and steve twist, all in support of your nomination. i would ask the documents be placed as part of the record. as attorney general, what steps will you take to ensure that victims' rights are protected? >> we cannot forget victims' rights. we have a victim witness legislation that creates within each united states attorney's office a victim witness coordinator. and the job of that person is to
make sure that concerns of the victims are heard. if they have to come to court to help them get there, to make sure they don't feel threatened and are protected, that's a direct responsibility of the department of justice and the criminal justice system as directed by congress. so i really think that's one step. and that's the fundamental mechanism, i think senator kyle was strong advocate for that. and it helped really improve the treatment of victims in federal and criminal cases to just no doubt about it. >> thank you. i was going to note the presence of senator kyle, my spread cesser in this office, who did so much work in this area, partnering with you. so thank you for that answer. >> i'm honored that he's giving of his time to assist me in this effort. honored very greatly. >> thank you. let's talk about prison rape elimination act. it was mentioned previously by nor collins.
as attorney general, you is not only led the department of prosecutors and law enforcement officers, but also the bureau of prisons. you'll be responsible for 190,000 federal inmates currently in custody. this is an often overlooked part of the attorney general's role. but it is important part of the position that you're being nominated for. i believe one of the highlights in your record in the senate is your leadership in passing the prison rape elimination act of 2003 or prea which passed both chambers without objection, signed into law by george w. bush, a bipartisan bill. you worked across the aisle with the late senator kennedy as well as with republican representative frank wolf, democrat representative bobby scott in the house, and i have letters of support from anti-prison rape activists that i also would like to put as part of the record. without objection?
if i could? thank you. thank you. with the law approaching its 15th anniversary, 11 states have certified their compliance, others provided assurance they're working toward compliance, only four states and territories have chosen not to participate. is prea meeting the expectations you had for it when you introduced the bill in 2003? >> i don't think there is any doubt it improved the situation. as to whether it reached its full potential, i don't think i'm able to tell you with certainty, but i certainly think it made a positive difference. you know, it was a special time for me, senator kennedy was a strong critic of me in 1986, and he said we welcome working on this, he said i wanted to work with you on legislation like this, i think it was sort of a reconciliation moment, we also worked on another major piece of
legislation for several years. it would have been rather historic. but it was private savings accounts for lower wage workers in america that i guess the financial crisis -- something happened to end that prospect. but i believe that it is important for american people to know that when an individual is sentenced to prison, they're not subjected to cruel and inhuman punishment under the constitution at a minimum. and the idea that was so widely spread that there is routine sexual abuse and assaults in prisons and other kinds of unacceptable activities was widespread in media and widespread among the american people. one of our goals was to establish just how big it was to require reporting, to create circumstances that -- that helped ensure this a person who
should be prosecuted for violence in the prison actually do get prosecuted, was a real step forward. we do not need to subject prisoners to any more punishment than the law requires. >> thank you. just remaining seconds i have, let me just say there is another area that we have worked on and hopefully can continue to work on and that's the area of duplicative doj grants. as you know, department awarded approximately $17 billion in grants over the years. oig reports, gao reports have all shown there is duplication and waste, sometimes fraud and abuse. will you continue to work to root out this kind of duplicative action there? >> well, i know you had a history of being a staunch deafedeaf
defender of the treasury and those who abuse it. every dollar that is extracted from the american citizen that goes into the government needs to get to productive valuable activities. and any of it that is -- that delivered for political and insufficient reasons is a cause of great concern. i will make it a priority of mine to make sure that the dollars we have are actually getting to the purposes they're supposed to go for. it is one thing to say i did a great thing, i got more money for this good purpose. but did it really efficiently and effectively go there? did it really mackke a positive difference? i think the department of justice can utilize the grant programs to help valuable activities and it needs to guard against improper activities. >> thank you, senator sessions, thank you. >> we'll break for about 30 minutes. we'll reconvene at 1:40. senator coons will be next up. he's indicated he'll be here on time. so recessed for now.
>> -- try to be an anarchist and they need to be thrown out. and same goes for photographers that jump up after they agreed to stay down and not be an issue themselves. so i'm enforcing the rules, still am. >> seemed like some of them were -- looked like some of them were getting some of the shots standing up. you were saying you responded to them getting up. >> they are not allowed to stand up and block my view. they were more interested in what was going on behind me, i was interested in the responses of people in front of me at the hearing. they became an issue and they should have been thrown out. the photographers, they broke their word of keeping the rules. >> what do you think of senator sessions? >> i think he's doing very well. he's a sharp man.
>> -- department of justice standing outside. what happens when the department of justice can't be trusted to stand at your side? >> thank you very much. >> thank you. >> your thoughts about how the day went and how, you know, your thoughts on the nominee. >> i think the hearings had been ultimately differential and on occasion confrontational. there have been moments of accountability. but there is far too much deference to the senator. we need to be very clear about this. the collegiality that allows you to serve in the senate does not translate into the constitutional suitability to lead the department of justice. if the united states senate is going to give him credit for his
personality serving in the senate, they also have to give him accountability with respect to his record in the senate. and so we appreciate all the questions that point to his support for mandatory minimums. his opposition for -- to immigration rights. his failure to stand up for lgbtq rights and the rights of women with respent ct to hate crimes. we appreciate the lines of questioning that go to accountabili accountability. we have to be clear about this. you cannot have an attorney general who is standing on the wrong side of history, on and on the wrong side of a distrust with respect to communities and activists across this country. we have done too much. come too far to go back at this moment in history. >> and three and a half hours