tv Attorney General Sessions Before Senate Judiciary Committee Part One CSPAN October 18, 2017 8:00pm-12:47am EDT
post live.com. thank you so much, everyone. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] obsessions testifies before the senate judiciary committee. sextet -- general jeff sessions testifies. later, secretary of state rex tillerson. later, centcom commander general joseph hotel on the mid -- votel on the middle east. >> testifying before the senate judiciary committee today, attorney general jeff sessions defended president trump's position to fire fbi director james comey, and the decision to rebecca obama administration criminal justice reforms. while serving in the senate, jeff sessions previously sat on the judiciary committee.
for all the people in the audience, we welcome you as well. i thank general sessions were being here that attorney general sessions were being here for the oversight hearing. his is an opportunity for congress to investigate and question the policies and actions of any executive branch. it is an opportunity for the executive branch to take responsibility for any of those policies and actions, and an opportunity for congress to defend its constitutional powers and check any abuses by an overreaching executive branch, and it has been that way for 230 years. some have complained that we have not had an oversight
hearing with this attorney general earlier. my reason for deferring was that the attorney general should have his team in place before appearing before us. certainly, attorney general holder and attorney general lynch did have their respective teams well in place by the time they appeared here as you are now here. the other side has been blocking executive nomination for the past 10 months, significantly delaying the department of justice's ability to get management in place and things in order. but we are here now, and ready to do our oversight. the department of justice is an incredibly important branch, part of the executive branch, enforcing laws and ensuring public safety against foreign and domestic threats among a lot of other responsibilities.
our citizens look to the department of justice to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime. we rely on the department to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice. the department currently faces many difficult issues. our country is challenged with the over growing threat of foreign or homegrown terrorism. we have seen terrorist incidents evolving around the world, especially impacting europe. in the u.k. alone, there have been at least half a dozen major terrorist incidents in the past nine months, and i have a couple paragraphs here of other things going on, both in europe and the united states that, to save
time, i am going to skip over. but there has been a lot of people killed and terrorist attacks in the western world are something we ought to be very concerned about. they are real, and we must protect our country by lawful means. congress has tried to do so by providing lawful authorities such as section 72 of the fisa amendments act. congress passed the legislation, and president bush signed it into law, 2008. after more debate and president obama's support, congress reauthorize the law in 2012, unchanged. the law is again up for reauthorization. section 702 is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. it is up to congress to reauthorize this important national security tool while
preserving privacy and civil liberties, and increasing transparency for the american public. general sessions, i am interested in hearing your thoughts on that important legislation. in september, the fbi released its annual crime data. for the second euro, violent row, violentr in a crime increased across the united states. homicide, 8.6% increases, and other cities have seen massive increases in homicide. baltimore is on pace to top the number of homicides in new york city, even though the population is almost 8 million less, and this country continues to be mired in a national epidemic of overdose deaths and abuse of opioid drugs. over 47,000 people died in 2014. 50,000 died, 2015.
last year, 64,000 people. now that we have a new administration, i want to know what the department of justice is doing to reduce violent crime, to help ensure that the citizens around the country are safe. i also want to find out what the department is doing to combat opioid crisis, and we all care deeply about this issue. the abuse of prescription painkillers, heroin, synthetic opioids, fentanyl, as an example, artist ryan lives in communities across iowa and the example, are destroying lives in communities across iowa and the nation as a whole. i know that it is a national issue. i cosponsored the copperheads of addiction and recovery act, known as cara. it passed through this committee, signed into law last year. cara addresses the opioid crisis in a comprehensive way while also raising over $900 million over five years for recovery.
reports suggest that congress gave a pastor made -- gave a past two big drug companies by enacting the "ensuring patient access and effective drug enforcement act." doj and dea, just last year, signed off on this bill. now former dea employees are railing against the law, pointing fingers at lawmakers. if dea had problems with this bill, they were the ones that had the expertise to warn congress, and they did not. the obama administration provided light which were the bill and signed it into law. i am planning on having an oversight hearing that will your department, general sessions, to see what, if anything, needs changing.
october 1, this country suffered through the deadliest mass shooting, and i do not need to go through the history of that, but it will be in my printed statement. aft has recently brief the judiciary staff on the addition two guns called bump stocks. we will be looking more at that issue. in september, the president announced a wind down of the deferred action against childhood arrivals program, daca, for short. a six-month extension. my office received preliminary data showing 2021 individuals that had daca status terminated for criminal and gang activity. we want to know who these criminals are, what kinds of crimes they are committing, and
with it -- if they are with any gangs. secondly, general sessions, you announced earlier this year doj's recommitment to criminal investigation enforcement. 50 more immigration judges were supposed to be added to the bench this year, 75 more next year. we need to know what steps doj has taken and what still needs to be done to reduce this immigration court backlog. there is another issue i want to address that came up in the news just yesterday. in june 2015, at the beginning of last week, i wrote to the justice department -- about the acquisition of the radio -- in the last administration. that resulted in a holding of 20% of america's uranium mining
capacity. it turns out that during the transaction, the justice department had ongoing criminal investigation for bribery, extortion, money laundering into officials for the company making the purchase. ricin is involved in the conspiracy, and reported as -- coursing with high power government officials, some connected to vladimir putin. while this was going on, the clinton foundation was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars. -- this is one of the agencies that comes up to the takeover. somehow, despite all this, the previous administration approved the transaction. in my letter, i asked the agencies involved in approving the transaction if they were aware of the criminal probe, and the intelligence operation examining the activity. this committee has an obligation to get to the bottom of this issue. the committee is also waiting for a response to 11 oversight letters sent to the justice department on matters on which
the occur need general is not accused. there are more letters that have not been answered. the letters date back to january 2016. i expect these letters will be answered, including, most importantly, ones from the previous administration. i also want to ask you about the firing of former fbi director james comey. it was an important moment for the department of justice and for this country. the american people have a right to know why he was fired, especially in the middle of so many high-profile issues going on, including the investigation into russian interference in the 2016 election. thank you, general sessions, for being here, and for your continuous service to the country. senator feinstein? senator feinstein: i do, mr. chairman. good morning, mr. attorney general.
this is the first time you have appeared before this committee, and i want to say welcome. as a former member, you know well the oversight authority that we hold. as i mentioned that your confirmation hearing, i have a deep belief in the independence of the attorney general. although we have had attorney general to view their job as serving the president and as an extension of the white house, i do not believe that is the job of the attorney general. for the attorney general, his master is the people and the law. importantly, his job is to enforce federal law fairly and equally for all americans. this is why i was surprised that in april, you declared that the justice department "is in a new area. this is the trump era." i want for a moment to explore with a few issues what you mean by that. let me begin with voting rights. during your confirmation
hearing, you testified, and i quote "the aggressive enforcement of laws to ensure \enforcement of laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible voter, without hindrance or discrimination." that would be a "special priority." i was pleased future that. but this year, the justice department discarded its long-standing position on a texas voter id law. for nearly six years, the department of justice had argued that the texas law was unconstitutional. it intended to discriminate against minority voters. based on evidence, the voter id laws "have a disproportionate effect on minorities." despite this, just two weeks after you were confirmed, the department dropped its opposition to the texas law. the department also changed its
position on another key voting rights case. this one involved ohio's purge of voters. under ohio's procedure, voters who had not cast a ballot in six years and failed to return a postcard were removed from state voting rolls. this process reportedly resulted in the removal of 40,000 voters in one county alone, cuyahoga county, which covers cleveland and its surrounding suburbs. civil rights organizations challenged the process, arguing that the national voter registration act forbids the state from removing individuals for failing to vote. in july 2016, the justice department told the court it opposed ohio's purge, and in september 2016, the sixth circuit agreed that ohio's process for removing voters from its roles was unconstitutional.
this ruling cleared the way for thousands of ohioans to cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. however, that decision is being appealed to the supreme court, and now the department of justice is taking the side of removing voters from the rolls, even though the last election clearly demonstrated how this policy harms eligible voters. i would now like to turn to lgbt rights. throughout my career, i have
worked to ensure lgbt americans have equal rights and protections under the law. it is important to me that we preserve these protections. this committee should not tolerate efforts to undermine the progress that has been made. at your confirmation hearing, you testified, and i quote "we must continue to move forward and never back. i will ensure the statutes protecting the lgbt communities civil rights and their safety are fully enforced." so i was very pleased to learn that the department is sending a top hate crimes lawyer to iowa to assist with prosecution of the case of a transgender teenager murdered last year. according to the times, this decision was personally initiated by you. however, i was also surprised and concerned to learn that this summer, the justice department switched its position on title vii, and is now arguing that the law does not protect lgbt workers. on october 5, just two weeks ago, you issued a memorandum to all u.s. attorneys and agency heads, instructing them that their department must now take the position that title vii does not protect transgender
employees in all cases. in other words, it appears that your department is urging the courts to allow employers to discriminate against all lgbt workers across the country. i hope you will clear that up in your testimony. there are other controversial policies being implemented at justice. presidents travel ban, for example. multiple federal courts found the muslim ban unconstitutional, including another court in hawaii just yesterday. these travel ban efforts are an affront to our nations commitment destination's commitment to religious liberty, yet the justice department staunchly defends the ban. on daca, you recommended in september that the program be
terminated. i think we believe these young people have placed their trust in the government, they have come out of the shadows, they have provided all of their information to authorities. they seek the opportunity to get right with the law, and i think most of us believe these dreamers embody the american spirit and have made positive contributions to the country, so we should stand by them. finally, we will also wants to hear about the firing of fbi director james comey. president trump initially said he fired director call me based on your recommendation and that of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. within days, however, the president admitted to lester holt on nbc news that he actually fired comey because of
"the russia thing." it has also been reported that the day before he fired director comey, president trump summoned his top advisers and told them that he had prepared a termination letter. it is important, i believe, to understand what role you had in this process, including conversations with the president and others in the white house. last week, the democratic members of this committee sent a letter, making it clear we would be asking about director comey's firing at this hearing. we expected answers, or the assertion of a valid claim of executive privilege by the president. in conclusion, attorney general, your department as you know is incredibly important, and you are as well.
our country depends on a department that is independent, committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of all americans, not just some. so we look forward to hearing from you on these and other important issues. i thank you, mr. chairman. >> general sessions, i would like to swear you at this point. do you affirm that the testimony you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so hope you god? a.g. sessions: i do. chairman grassley: before you speak, we have a long session ahead of us, probably with you. there will be a lot of questions. since we did not get a copy of your opening remarks, i was wondering if it would be possible for you to submit your longer remarks and maybe summarize so we can get to questions sooner? i will defer to you, but that is
my request, but whatever time you need, take it. a.g. sessions: thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate the opportunity to be with all of you. ranking member on and distinguished members of the committee, former colleagues and friends, this is the honor of a lifetime. for me to serve as attorney general of the united states of america. you can understand and know that with my 15 years in that department and my 20 years in this committee with oversight of that department, i understand all of the responsibilities i have and the duties that i have the time -- to have to undertake, and i will do my best every day to be worthy of the trust you have placed in me.
everything will day, the men and women in the department of justice worked to protect our now still -- national security against terrorist threats, civil rights, reduce violent crime, stop deadly drug dealers, and strengthen the rule of law. today, i would like to share some thoughts about what we are doing, and give you insight into the exciting activities that are ongoing. the department of justice is resolutely focused on dealing with the terrorism threats that we face. they are real, the military tells us they can expect not a reduction after isis is defeated, but maybe even an increase in attacks. the president's executive order is an important step to ensuring that we know who is coming into our country. it is a lawful necessary order that we are proud to defend, and indeed, most may not know, the supreme court has already vacated one court's injunction
against that order, and we are confident with the -- as the time goes by in the supreme court. we know, colleagues, that violent crime is rising after almost 30 years of decline, for two years in a row we have seen the fastest overall increase in violent crime in 25 years. the homicide rate increased 20% in two years. in 2015, the increase was the greatest in 49 years. i believe it is a trend we must confront. the president understands this, and one of his first executive orders he directed us to, and fairly simple terms, to reduce crime in america. we have heard that challenge, we embrace it, and we are setting out to do something about it. after the department of justice at the moment of justice, we understand a key fact, -- at the department of justice, we understand a key fact. most police officers in america are state and local. they are better trained and more professional than ever.
it is a huge factor in the decline in crime, in my opinion, that we have seen recently, and we know crime in america will never be reduced without a partnership between federal and state officers. there is no doubt that federal, state, local, and travel resources especially a pride -- applied with scientifically proven polities can significant -- policies can significantly impact the crime rate. if you look at our cities -- mr. chairman, you noted that new york has dedicated itself over decades to highly effective, proactive, community-based policing. they saw 334 homicides last year. chicago, on the other hand, while only one third of the size of new york, logged more than twice as many murders. our professionals in the department have been intensely studying how research-based proven crime reduction
techniques can reverse increases in crime. they produced, in my opinion, a brilliant set of initiatives. i was very pleased with their plan. whatever the violent crime might be, might have been in the next few years, it will be lower if these policies are followed. i can ensure you of that. our aim is to not see how many young people can be incarcerated, but to focus on the most dangerous repeat offenders and actually reduce crime and violence in america. an effective crime reduction strategy also means starving criminal enterprises of their profits, the asset seizure and forfeiture program is one of the most effective tools congress has provided. i know a number of you are concerned about the operation of that program. i hear your concerns. i have established an asset forfeiture accountability director, who will oversee the entirety of this forfeiture program, and to ensure it operates in an accountable and responsible way, and be able to
report to you anytime you need information about it. it is part of this committee to protect the civil and constitutional rights of all americans, and to prosecuting hate crime violence. every american, regardless of race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation, must be safe from violence and criminality. we will not shy away from defending first amendment rights. we stand ready to force -- enforce federal law, to assemble and speak peacefully, and to freely exercise our religion. we are in the midst of the deadliest drug epidemic this country has ever seen. we have seen nothing like it. our availability of drugs, lower prices, increased security, alone with a doubly substance -- deadly substance, fentanyl, have resulted in climbing death tolls
across the country. it was 52,000 last year that died of overdose. 64,000 in 2015, and the same in 2016. many of these debts resulted from opioid overdoses that began with prescription drug addiction and then moved to heroin and fentanyl. there can be no doubt, colleagues, that we need much stricter accountability in the manufacture and prescribing and distribution of addictive opioids. we do not need to delay this any longer. it does often lead to death through other drugs. we know that most of the heroine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl that is fueling the drug crisis was brought across our southern border by powerful drug cartels, bringing violence, addiction, and death. an important factor in our long-term success requires securing our borders.
for decades, the american people have asked for a just, lawful system of immigration. they are right in their demands. we can and -- we can end the illegality. president trump has sent an unambiguous message to the world, and the illegal flow has been reduced by almost one half. but there is more to do. we can end the lawlessness. legislation is essential. the president has set out and a reasonable and effective plan with numerous immigration priorities for this body to consider, including a border wall, significant asylum reform, swift border returns, and enhanced interior enforcement. with the progress already achieved, our country is on its way. and whether it is an end to sanctuary city policies or a
e-verification system to ensure our lawful employment, they are supported by the vast majority of americans. there has been, i'm afraid, an erosion in the respect for the rule of law. too often, advancing political agendas has been substituted for following the law. this department of justice respects congress and the constitution, and we intend to enforce the laws of you have written -- enforce the laws as you have written them. the daca policy produced by the last administration could not be sustained. it was unlawful and contrary to the laws passed by this constitution -- this institution. congress, you now have the ability to act on this issue. i would just note that the president has said that he wants to work with congress. he has a heart for young people. but we have got to have more than just an amnesty, friends, we need a good improvement in the illegality going on, and
there is an opportunity right now. i am telling you, an opportunity now to do something historic. the department is also directing taxpayer dollars to the overwhelming number of city and states that cooperate with federal enforcement, but grant entitlement,t an it is an allocation of taxpayer dollars under the department to enforce the laws of congress and the federal department. so we urge our jurisdictions to cooperate with federal officials, stop letting criminal aliens back on their streets, that further victimize your community. it does not make sense. we are grateful that overwhelmingly, most cities and jurisdictions cooperate fully
and to those who have heard our message and are now cooperating, after 20 years in this body, i understand the responsiveness, mr. chairman, something you have been vocal about ever since i have been on this committee. we are going to do so. we inherited a very significant backlog of unanswered congressional inquiries, chairman grassley, dating back to 2015. we have already reduced it by half. you can be sure we will continue to reduce that backlog, and it will remain a priority of hours. -- priority of ours. finally, i want to address the letter i received last week from the minority leaders of this committee. that letter asked that i determined by today whether the president will invoke executive proceeds -- executive privilege on issues i may be asked about today. i have considered this request very respectfully. it is an important matter. but consistent with a long-standing policy and practice of the executive branch, i can neither assert executive privilege, nor can i
disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president. under the administration of both parties, it is well-established that a president is entitled to have private, confidential communications with his cabinet officials. his secretary of state, his secretary of defense, the secretary of the treasury, and certainly his counsel and the attorney general of the united states, who provides counsel. and that such communications are within the core of executive privilege. until such time as the president makes a decision with respect to this privilege, i cannot waive that privilege myself or otherwise compromise his ability to assert it. as a result, during today's hearing and under these circumstances today, i will not be able to discuss the content of my conversations with the
president. i understand you have an important oversight responsibility today, and i hope you will respect this long-standing practice and respect the duty that i feel and that i face. mr. chairman, thank you, and i will be prepared to do my best to answer your questions. chairman grassley: i would like to make two point before i start to ask questions. number one, would be -- and only because he mentioned the backlog of letters -- remember that in january the president put out an advisory that they would only answer questions for chairman of committees. that leaves out about 35 republicans, 48 democrats. i wrote to the white house. he has rewritten that advisory, or whatever it was, with the understanding he would answer questions for any member of congress, republican or
democrat, chairman or not. the other thing is, for the benefit of the committees and the long oversight hearing we are going to have today, i thank you for your cooperation on a request i made last time, that if you get at the end of your seven minutes and you start before the last second hits and you ask a question, go ahead and ask that question, you go ahead and answer it, general sessions, but don't have dialogue after the time has run out. ,ome of you noticed, i think that there was special consideration given to senator leahy and senator hatch and ranking member feinstein. i think they deserve that courtesy as former chairman of the committee and as ranking member, so if they run over a bit, just a little bit, that is ok with me. >> just a little bit. [laughter]member, so if chairman grassley: the only one
i paid much attention to was mrs. feinstein, and she was only a couple minutes, so do not crow about that. [laughter] a.g. sessions: you and director coates wrote a letter to the leadership about the importance of 702. fisa. you said that reauthorization of section 702 is the department's top legislative -- priority. if session 702 were not you said that reauthorization of reauthorized, could you tell us what impact that would have on the intelligence community and our national security interest? a.g. sessions: mr. chairman, having been involved since i have been in the department with many of the day today -- day-to-day impact the 702, it to-day impacts of section
702, it would have a significance. it would reduce our ability to identify terrorist acts and potential acts before they happen. that was one of the goals that we had when we passed the patriot act, and i know that -- i guess senator hatch and senator leahy worked very hard on that. it was one of the most intense times i have ever seen this committee do. 702 has proven its worth. courts have upheld it. it has the most rigorous oversight procedures of any act i think in existence today, and it enables us to focus on terrorists abroad and to identify those who could be threats to us. now that we have that in place, the fbi, for example, is able to search limited 702 collections subject to procedures you in u.s. person data to help connect the dots.
question -- if congress were to impose a warrant requirement on assessing information obtained through so-called u.s. person affect, how would that the fbi's ability to do its job? a.g. sessions: mr. chairman, it is just not practical and it is not legally required, in my opinion, to have a warrant requirement for this information. it originates abroad by people who are not protected by the u.s. constitution, and i do not believe that we could carry out the responsibilities that we are expected to do with a warrant requirement for any of the 702 type material. chairman grassley: there will be some talk of reforms in congress, i'm sure. are there any reforms that can be made that would help provide more transparency into the amount of information that the intelligence agencies collect or
the amount of searches conducted, especially with respect to u.s. persons? a.g. sessions: i think we are certainly open to discussing that with the members of this committee. a number of you have proposed ideas, and we would be pleased to provide our suggestions, support, or concern as appropriate. chairman grassley: i want to ask you a question that looks like history, but it was in the news recently. yesterday, i believe, according to government documents and recent news reports, the justice department has an ongoing criminal investigation for bribery, extortion, and money laundering into officials for the russian company making the purchase of uranium one. that purchase was approved during the previous administration and resulted in the russians owning 20% of america's uranium mining capacity. what are you doing to find out how the russian takeover of the
american uranium was allowed to occur, despite criminal conduct by the russian company that the obama administration approved to make the purchase? a.g. sessions: mr. chairman, we will hear your concerns. the department of justice will take such actions as is appropriate, i know, and i would offer that some people have gone to jail in that transaction already, but the article talks about other issues. so without confirming or denying the existence of any particular investigation, i would say that i hear your concerns and they will be reviewed. chairman grassley: i think i know why you are probably reluctant to go into some detail on that, but i would like to remind you that deputy attorney rosenstein directly supervised a criminal case when he was u.s. attorney in maryland. i do not think it would be proper for him to supervise a review of his own conduct, do you? a.g. sessions: it would be his
decision. he is a man of integrity and ability. if he feels he has an inability to proceed with any investigation, it would be his responsibility to make that determination, and should consult, as i told you i would and as i have done, with the senior ethics people at the department. chairman grassley: reports suggest that the clinton foundation received millions of dollars from interested parties in the transaction. bill clinton received $500,000 for a speech in moscow, june 2010, from the russian government aligned bank, the same month that russia began the uranium acquisition process. this fact pattern raises serious concerns about improper political influence on the process by the previous -- by the clintons during the obama administration. has the justice department fully investigated whether the russians compromised the obama
administration's decisions to smooth the way for transactions, and if not, why not? a.g. sessions: we are working hard to maintain discipline in the department. it would not be appropriate for me to comment on any ongoing investigation. chairman grassley: then let me move onto another issue. 2016, last year -- december, last year. this committee published a majority staff report and criminal referrals regarding payments in connection with transferring human fetal tissue. the report referral outlining -- outlined evidence from the organization's own financial records that they profited from the sale of fetal tissue, which is in violation of the law. no one from the department of the fbi replied to my criminal referrals or sought unredacted copies of the evidence outlined in the report. seven months after the report,
there is no indication that anyone from the fbi or justice department has actually read the referrals and the full report. i hope you will commit to providing the committee written confirmation when the relevant justice department and fbi personnel have completed their review of both the referral and the majority staff report. that's my question, and that will be the last one. i will go to senator feinstein. a.g. sessions: thank you, mr. chairman. i will evaluate your request personally and make sure it is properly handled. chairman grassley: senator feinstein? sen. feinstein: thanks very much, mr. chairman. i wanted to ask you a question or two about the firing of the fbi director. specifically, i have your letter
dated may 9 to the president. specifically, what was your designated role in the decision to fire director comey? a.g. sessions: it is a matter that i can share some information about, because the president himself has talked about it and revealed that letter. he asked that deputy rosenstein and i make our recommendations in writing. we prepared those recommendations and submitted them to the president. senator feinstein, i do not think it has been fully understood the significance of the error that mr. comey made on the clinton matter. for the first time i am aware of in all of my experience -- and i don't think i have heard of a situation in which a major case in which the department of justice prosecutors were
involved in an investigation, that the investigative agency announces the closure of the investigation. and then a few weeks before this happened, he was testifying before the congress, mr. comey was, and he said he thought he did the right thing and would do it again. so the deputy attorney general rosenstein, who has -- what, 27 years in the department of justice, harvard graduate, served for eight years as u.s. attorney under president obama, and four years under president bush -- he said that was an usurpation of the position of the department of justice. the attorney general's position. and that particularly we were concerned that he reaffirmed that he would do it again. i think that was our basis that called for a fresh start at the fbi. mr. comey had many talents,
there is no doubt about that, and there are no hard feelings about that, but i am really excited about the new director, chris ray, who you confirmed with an overwhelming vote. i believe he is going to be able to do the job of fbi director with great skill and integrity. sen. feinstein: what exactly did president trump tell you was his reason for firing director comey? i know he has said he thought the department was a mess and she asked you and mr. rosenstein to take a look at it. my understanding was these two letters were presented, the letter from you dated may 9 and the letter from rosenstein, dated the same date, a response to that request to take a look at the department. a.g. sessions: that is what i can tell you.
he did ask for our written opinion, and we submitted that to him. it did not represent any change in either one of our opinions, as deputy rosenstein has also indicated, i believe, and we were asked to provide it, and we did. sen. feinstein: did the president ever mentioned to you his concern about lifting the cloud on the russia investigation? a.g. sessions: that calls for a communication that i have had with the president, and i believe it remains confidential. sen. feinstein: but you don't deny there was a communication? a.g. sessions: i do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication between the president that i consider to be confidential. sen. feinstein: when did you first speak with the president about firing director comey? what date? a.g. sessions: i think that is also covered by my opening
statement. i believe the president has the right and i have a duty to meet with him on proper occasions and provide such advice, legal or otherwise, as i am called upon to do. i have done that, and i believe he has a right to protect that confidentiality until appropriate circumstances exist that he might choose to waive that privilege. sen. feinstein: all right. let me go to another aspect. that is emoluments lawsuits. the president is facing three different lawsuits alleging he is violating the emoluments clause of the constitution. in these cases, strangely -- to me at least -- the justice department is defending the president. what did the department due to a german -- what did the department do to determine it
was appropriate to represent the president? was the office of legal counsel consulted? a.g. sessions: i believe so. i would say it is the responsibility of the department of justice to defend the office of the presidency in carrying on its activities against charges that are not deemed meritorious. sen. feinstein: and you believe that emoluments is part of that charge? emoluments? a.g. sessions: senator feinstein, i guess i'm not able legally to discuss all the case law and history of it, except to say that we believe this is defensible, and we have taken the position that our top lawyers believe is justified. sen. feinstein: well, let me go to another subject.
that is the pardon of sheriff joe arpaio. president trump pardoned the former maricopa county sheriff, who was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop racially profiling and detaining latino motorists, based solely on suspicion they were undocumented immigrants. the washington post reported before he decided to pardon arpaio, the president asked you to drop the criminal case against arpaio. the president ask you whether the case against arpaio could be dropped? a.g. sessions: senator feinstein, i cannot comment on the private conversations i may have had with the president. i would just say that attorneys in the department of justice at the request of the judge prosecuted that case. a federal judge found the
defendant guilty of a andemeanor for his actions, the president decided to issue a pardon. sen. feinstein: let me ask you this -- what was the process by which the decision was made to pardon arpaio? a.g. sessions: i am not aware of the details of it. to the extent to which i can provide you in writing, i would be pleased to do so. the president has the power to issue pardons with or without the department of justice involved, and that has been done in the past in some very dramatic pardons. this pardon i think was well within the power of the president to do. sen. feinstein: my understanding is that pardon request usually go through the office of the pardon attorney in the department of justice and that
decisions are made according to certain standards set out in that office's rules governing petitions for executive clemency. it has been reported that the process was not followed here, as you so indicate. so what are you -- so what you are saying, in fact, that there was no process, that the president simply made the decision to pardon arpaio, who had been convicted? a.g. sessions: i am not intending to say that at all. i am just saying to you that i am not personally at this moment prepared to give you an accurate answer because i don't know that i remember or know it precisely. let me get you something in writing that would be accurate. i think i would prefer to do that. sen. feinstein: all right. i am over, i am sorry. thank you. chairman grassley: senator hatch? sen. hatch: welcome back to the committee. we appreciate the service you
have given, both on this committee and your current position, as well as others. before getting to my questions, i just want to set the record straight on something. over the weekend, the "washington post" ran an article accusing congress of passing a bill last year that the post claims gutted the dea's enforcement authority. the article insinuates that i, senator whitehouse, and the other sponsors but one over on congress by sneaking through a bill that no one knew anything about. mr. chairman and general sessions, ranking member feinstein, these allegations are complete baloney, and we all know it. this committee reported the bill out by voice vote. the full senate agreed to the bill by unanimous consent. every member of this committee supported the bill twice, first in committee and then on the floor. so i don't want to hear anybody claim they did not know anything about the bill. the bill was seven pages long. it took all of five minutes to read.
if the senate minority leader wants to take to the floor and decried this bill as unconscionable and grounds for withdrawing the president's chosen nominee, he should remember that he himself supported the bill twice, once in committee when he was a member of this committee, and again on the floor. we all supported this legislation, every one of us. we all voted for it twice. would like to pose to publish a response to their 10,000 word hit piece maligning me and my colleagues. i hope they will do so, and i believe i deserve an opportunity to respond. moving on, i have a few questions and would appreciate it, mr. attorney general, if you keep your answers brief. first i would like to discuss a substance which is often offered as a substitute for opioids. many states across the nation have adopted laws to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, based on research suggesting there is some medicinal benefit
or value to be found in it. to be clear, i remain opposed to the broad legalization of marijuana. however, i introduced, along with senator cassidy, a bipartisan marijuana effective drug studies act of 2017, because i believe that scientists need to study the potential benefits and dangers of marijuana. i'm very concerned about recent that doj and dea are at odds on marijuana research, particularly when it comes to granting applications to grow marijuana for further research. can you clarify the position of the justice department regarding these applications? a.g. sessions: i would be pleased, senator hatch, and thank you for your leadership. i have been honored to serve under your chairmanship. this -- we have a marijuana research system working now.
but there is one supplier of the marijuana for that research. people have asked that there be multiple sources of the marijuana for medicinal research, and have asked it be approved. i believe there are now 26 applications for approval of suppliers who would provide marijuana for medicinal research. each one of those has to be supervised by the dea, and i have raised questions about how many. let's be sure we are doing this in the right way, because it costs a lot of money to supervise these events. i think it would be healthy to have some more competition in the supply, but i am sure we do not need 26 new suppliers. sen. hatch: thank you, and on another topic, i remain firmly convinced that we need to revisit original intent requirements in our law.
because of the lack of mens rea requirements in our laws, i believe that many americans may be unwittingly breaking the law while not having the slightest idea that their behavior may be illegal. to address this problem, i recently introduced the mens rea reform act of 2017. which is set a default mens rea requirement, unless the statute explicitly states that an offense is intended to be a strict liability offense. general sessions, would you agree that mens rea reform needs to be a part of our conversation on criminal justice reform? a.g. sessions: it should be part of our conversation. it has to be. you have made sure that it is for a number of years. you have raised it and discussed it, and i have heard you articulate your concerns. so yes, i think it should be part of what we do, and we would be pleased to work with you to evaluate what kind of legislation might be appropriate. sen. hatch: thank you, and i
with you. just two weeks ago, you issued a memorandum detailing 20 principles of religious liberty, as well as guidance for executive departments and agencies in implementing those principles. the very first principle is, i think, the most important. "the freedom of religion is a fundamental right of paramount importance. cohen policynot a mere preference to be traded against other policy preferences. it is a fundamental right." general sessions, would you say this status of religious liberty as a fundamental and paramount right imposes the same obligation on the legislative branch as it does on the executive branch? a.g. sessions: i think it does. i would just say this, senator hatch, your legislation that you worked so hard and passed, religious freedom restoration act, was a big part of the
foundation of the principles we set out in the religious freedom guidance that we produced at the request of the president. we believe there is a lack of of the rights of americans, not only to have private religious thoughts but to exercise their religious freedom. that is what the constitution says, that you should have a right -- congress should make no law to establish a religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof. in the pastsed that and it was a big part of what we did, the legislation you and congress passed was a big part of what we were able to do. sen. hatch: thank you. i know the department and i have different views on this case and the topic remains controversial. that is why i introduced the
national communications privacy act to create a clear framework for determining when law force may access and individual electronic communications regardless of where those communications are stored. no matter which way the court rules, i believe this is a policy question that congress needs to decide. congress, not the court, should determine data privacy laws. i'm grateful for the court with its work thus far with me. i hope you will continue working with me and others on this committee to refine the bill so it can be enacted into law. i know my time has run, mr. chairman. chairman grassley: senator leahy. sen. leahy: thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, attorney general. forward to you also coming to the appropriations committee to talk about your budget. when you appeared before the
committee in january, after your testimony, i was concerned and i asked you in writing whether you had been in contact with anyone connected to the russian government about the 2016 election. you answered emphatically, no. we later learned about several meetings between you and the russian ambassador kinsley act -- kislyak. we did not hear this from you, we got it from the press. during the height of the 2016 campaign, you reportedly met with kislyak at a trump campaign event on foreign policy, at a republican national convention event and in your senate office, all while serving as chairman of then-candidate trump's national security team. i've never accused you of colluding with russians, but you concealed your own contact with russian officials, at a time when such contacts
were of great interest to the committee. one thing i do know -- we have known each other for decades, we have worked together on many issues. if senator jeff sessions was in my shoes, he would not tolerate being misled. do you understand why members of this committee believe your answer now was false testimony? a.g. sessions: i appreciate the opportunity to talk about that. i believe my answer was correct. i have the question you asked. you started off in the preamble -- it by the way said the intelligence community has concluded that russia intervened in the 2016 election in an effort to help elect donald trump. the report is available. the russian interference in our elections is larger than any candidate or political party, it
is about protecting our democracy. and i agree with that. then you asked a series of sub-parts, a-b-c-d. sen. leahy: the question i am referring to is i asked you if you had any contact with the russians. you answered emphatically no. a.g. sessions: i just wanted to cite the entire context of all your questions dealt with interference in the campaign by the russian officials -- sen. leahy: specifically, did you meet with any russian officials? a.g. sessions: the question you are referring to is subparagraph e, and it says, several of the president elect's nominees and senior advisers have russian ties. have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?
and i took that to mean, not any casual conversation, but did i participate with russians about the 2016 election? that something was wrong. everyone of your previous questions talked about improper involvement. i felt the answer was no, and i answered no, and i did not meet in anyway about the election. sen. leahy: let me ask you about that, because later in march when you did disclose such meetings, you said you could not recall what was said at the meetings. your answer to my question was an emphatic no. it wasn't, i don't recall. you are a lawyer. i am a lawyer. you are, in fact, our nation's top lawyer. is there a difference between responding "no" and " "i do not
recall"? a.g. sessions: yes. sen. leahy: thank you. a.g. sessions: certainly it is, senator leahy. sen. leahy: so if you could not recall, then you could not have answered my first question, yes or no, if later you said you don't recall what was discussed. the reason i ask that, u.s. intelligence intercepts reported in july that it would appear you did in fact discuss campaign issues with the russian ambassador, including candidate trump's position on russian issues. let me ask you this. since the 2016 campaign, have you discussed with any russian connected officials any of the following -- emails, russian therference, sanctions like magnitsky act and so-called adoption issues, or any policy
of the trump presidency? since the 2016 campaign? a.g. sessions: senator leahy, i want to be accurate so i don't have any ambiguity about your questions. but that is a lot of questions. so let's think about this. i have never had a meeting with any russian officials to discuss any kind of coordinating campaign efforts. i know you are shaking your head. i want to first say -- sen. leahy: let's take this piece by piece. did you discuss any of the following -- emails? a.g. sessions: repeat the question again about emails. sen. leahy:. since the 2016 campaign, have you discussed with any russian campaign official anything about emails? a.g. sessions: i don't recall having done any such thing. sen. leahy: have you discussed russian interference in our elections? a.g. sessions: no. have you discussed anything about the magnitsky act
, what they call the adoption issue? a.g. sessions: i don't believe so. have you discussed any policies or positions of the campaign or trump presidency? i am not sure about that. if i met with the russian ambassador after a speech at the republican convention -- he was right in front of the speakerphone and we had an encounter there, and he asked for an appointment in my office later. i met with 26 ambassadors in the last year, and he was one of them. he came into my office with two of my senior defense specialists, and met with me for a while. and i don't recall any conversation about -- what was the last subject? let me get it right. you asked me --
>> i think he wants you to repeat something. sen. leahy: any policies or positions of the campaign or trump presidency. a.g. sessions: i don't think there was any discussion about details of the campaign, other than it could have been that in that meeting in my office or at the convention, that some comment was made about what comes positions were. i think that is -- comment was made about what trump's positions were. sen. leahy: have you been interviewed or been requested to be interviewed by the special counsel in connection to the comey firing, or the russian investigation, or your own contact with russian officials? a.g. sessions: you would have to ask the special counsel. sen. leahy: no, i am asking you. a.g. sessions: repeat the question then. sen. leahy: have you been interviewed or been requested to be interviewed by the special counsel, either in connection to director comey's firing, the
russian investigation, or you're on contact with russian officials? a.g. sessions: i would be pleased to answer that. i'm not sure i should without clearing that with the special counsel. what do you think? . sen. leahy: i'm just asking -- have you been interviewed? a.g. sessions: no. sen. leahy: you have not been interviewed by the special counsel in anyway, shape, or form? a.g. sessions: the answer is no. sen. leahy: thank you. mr. chairman, i have gone over my time, i appreciate the courtesy. i do have a lot more questions along this line. chairman grassley: senator leahy. , attorneythank you general sessions, for your service and for being here today. in may, you implemented a new charge and policy for federal prosecutors. the policy requires, as i understand it, that prosecutors
must be required to "pursue the most serious, readily provable offense." the policy does permit prosecutors, and some circumstances, to apply for approval to charge something less than the most serious offense that is readily provable. can you tell me what factors the department would be considering, in deciding whether to give approval to prosecutors in those instances, who want to charge something less than the most serious, readily provable offense? senator lee, that decision -- that memo's decision establishes a long-held position of the department of justice, that a prosecutor should charge the most readily provable -- serious, readily provable offense. it was altered by the previous
obama department of justice, i believe attorney general holder, in which he declared that you should not -- and even directed you should not -- charge what congress has set as a serious offense that carries a minimum sentence. sen. lee: so you were restoring -- a.g. sessions: we were restoring what was previously set. and i was determined to have a simple directive to our capable assistant united states attorneys. not have a long six page memorandum. we submit a one-page, slightly over one page memo to them, and it is, if you think that is not just and you clear it with your u.s. attorney or the designee of the u.s. attorney, you can charge less than the most serious, readily provable offense. you don't have to call washington. you don't have to get some bureaucracy. we are going to trust you. and i told them i hoped that would work and that if we had serious problems with it, we
would revisit it. and by the way, it only requires that the minimum sentence be imposed, the minimum mandatory. it doesn't require a maximum sentence, as some have said. it simply says that if you commit a serious crime that congress says would carry a certain sentence, you shouldn't fail to charge that because you want to have a different sentencing result. sen. lee: do you track or you do you intend to keep track of how often attorneys -- how often prosecutors and which prosecutors in particular are departing from this? a.g. sessions: yes, we will. i don't know that we have a formal process. deputy attorney general rob rosenstein is an experienced supervisor, 12 years of assisting united states attorneys. we have discussed this in depth and we feel like that this is a sound policy for the department of justice, and essentially
restores us to what it used to be, but with perhaps even more flexibility than previous policies. sen. lee: in march, justice thomas issued a statement in connection with a denial by the supreme court in a case called leonard v. texas. in that statement, he suggested that modern civil-asset forfeiture practices may be unconstitutional, at least casts some doubt on the constitutionality of those procedures, as used by the federal government and many state governments. in may of this year, i wrote a letter to you, asking whether the department would review its civil-asset forfeiture policies and practices. in july, you announced new policies that expanded the department of justice's use of civil-asset forfeiture. can you tell me whether you have asked the office of legal counsel, or any other component of the department of justice, to
provide a formal review of civil-asset forfeiture practices of the federal government, of the states, and particularly, the states and localities that participate in the equitable-sharing program with the department of justice? a.g. sessions: we had an intense series of discussions in the department about this subject. it is one i am familiar with, having served 12 years as united states attorney myself, and having utilized this policy. the policy was changed by the former attorney general and it constricted the ability of asset forfeiture in a number of ways. i simply restored the previous policy. the change only occurred two or three years ago. i believe it is the best policy, but i am aware of the serious concerns you have and others have. i have constricted and placed some limits on how we do these
forfeitures, and i have just announced the appointment of a special director of accountability, to be in charge of all the forfeitures in the united states, to review them, to review any complaints that arise. we want to carry out this policy effectively and fairly, without abusing anybody's rights. i would note that for decades, it has been affirmed by the supreme court. i don't believe there are votes on the supreme court that would declare is somehow now not legal. and we want to do it right. sen. lee: i'm not sure that's clear one way or the other. i understand your position, but i think there is some lack of clarity on this. and i think the statement issued by justice thomas, in connection with the denial in leonard v. texas, does cast doubt on it. one of my questions is, have you asked the office of legal
counsel for an opinion on this? a.g. sessions: we are simply restoring the law that has been in effect for decades. i don't know that we have asked a formal opinion of the office of legal counsel, and i don't think it is necessary to do so. sen. lee: ok. as you know, the reason i am concerned about this is a in our criminal justice system, we have robust protections for the accused. you are entitled to a jury trial, a court-appointed counsel, you have a lot of due process protections, as someone accused in this country. if the courts can circumvent those rights, at least with respect to the property of an accused or to the property of himself or may not herself even be accused of a crime, but just as to which there is some suspicion about involvement of the property,
that presents significant concerns. if the government can just seize the property and make it the government's property, rather than that of the owner, such that it reverses the presumption of innocence, it reverses the burden of proof and eliminates the requirement that proof of a crime be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. that's a concern. it is especially a concern where some states and local governments have adopted legislation restricting the use of this, and it has been then circumvented, with the help of the federal government through this equitable-sharing program. i do believe it needs to be reviewed and reviewed aggressively. thank you, mr. attorney general. a.g. sessions: briefly, mr. chairman, a number of years ago, maybe almost 10 years ago, senator schumer and i reached an accord when these issues were being raised. we raised the burden of proof, so a seizure of assets, often
cash, those seizures cannot be affected without probable cause to believe it's either a product of the drug or criminal activity, or a facility used to facilitate a criminal activity. and then if the person who had the money contests the case, they would have to -- the government has to prove it on a evidence,nce of the which is a evidence, which is a normal civil standard in a civil lawsuit. and the probable cause standard, you can arrest an individual, a grand jury returns an indictment on probable cause, so it meets the same standard, really, that it would take to put somebody in jail. so i think it is a sound policy. 80% of the seizures are not even contested when the dea, the drug
enforcement administration, sets up a procedure for claimants to make their claim. and i believe it is a sound policy, but we will continue to monitor it. i am going to watch it even closer than we have before, and i would be pleased to stay in communication with you and hear your concerns. chairman grassley: senator durbin, and i will return before senator durbin is done here. i will be just a minute. sen. durbin:. attorney general sessions, welcome back to the committee. your positions on daca and dreamers are well documented. we have all given many speeches, yourself included, and i think your position and opposition has been well documented over the course of your senate career. a.g. sessions: it may not be quite as simple as you might suggest. to. durbin: i will leave you explain your rationale, but i think i know how you voted consistently against comprehensive immigration reform and any form of the dream act.
but let me ask you this. last month you announced the trump administration was terminating the daca program. it's my understanding that according to long-standing justice department policy, the office of legal counsel is "responsible for providing legal advice to the executive branch on all constitutional questions." on issued a 30 page memo november 19, 2014 that concludes that daca is lawful. it is a lawful exercise of executive authority. when you go back to the justice department after you're hearing today, check your website. that opinion is still on your website, that daca is lawful. so could you please tell me whether you consulted with the career attorneys at the office of legal counsel before your announcement that terminated daca. a.g. sessions: we did. we talked with a large number of experienced lawyers in the department. senator durbin, what i would say to you -- and i believe this is
accurate -- that the so-called approval of daca by olc, office of legal counsel, was based on the caveat or the requirement that any action that's taken be done on an individual basis. the court has held, that struck down daca, that individual decisions were not being made and a blanket policy was, in effect, being carried out under the daca program, in reality, that was not on an individualized basis and therefore, that is why the court found it unlawful. sen. durbin: that statement is a departure from what is currently on the department of justice website. olc opinion of 2014. if you have a new olc opinion that was the basis of your letter to the statement terminating daca, will you
provide us with a copy? a.g. sessions: i would be glad to, but i think it is fair to say that the olc document said -- document required and said a daca program might be legal if it was done on an individualized basis. the department of justice can't just wipe out whole sections of american law, and just say we are not going to enforce it after congress has passed such a law. so i would be glad to review it. we will review -- sen. durbin: i hope you will. and for the record, each daca recipients is individually, individually interviewed, goes through an individual criminal background check, and determines whether there is individual eligibility. so having said that -- a.g. sessions: the court found otherwise. sen. durbin: i hope you will share that olc opinion. did you have any communication
with the texas attorney general, or any other attorney general who was threatening to bring a dacait to avoid -- void before the decision was made by the trump administration? a.g. sessions: i would just say this. that kind of legal discussion, i believe would be part of the work product of the attorney general's office, and i should not reveal it. sen. durbin: you cannot tell me? you are saying you are privileged, that that communication is privileged? that you had a communication with the texas attorney general about their threatened lawsuit you are saying you are against daca before the administration's announcement, and it is privileged? lcg. sessions: even the o communications that we have are in fact privilege, so i would say that is correct. i will review it. if it is something i can feel that is appropriate for me to reveal to you, i will do so. sen. durbin: i think this would
have been just about the moment when senator sessions of alabama would have been blown up. if the attorney general said he can't even tell us whether he communicated with another attorney general in another state. i take you to one part of your statement here that i take personally because i happen to represent the city of chicago, and i honored to represent that am city. what happened in las vegas was tragic and awful and heartbreaking. 59 people killed. gunshots innded, by just a brief period of time with some military-type weapon. it was just awful, horrific, and disgusting. having said that, so far this year 3000 people have been injured by gunshots in the city of chicago, and over 500 have been killed. this is not something that is a political debate in my heart. it breaks my heart to think what the families are going through in the city that i represent. the superintendent of police who has worked there -- and you gave credit to local law enforcement,
and i join you in that -- he has worked for the department for 30 years and want to read to you what he said. "the federal government's plans will hamper community policing and undermine the work our men and women have done to reduce shootings by 16% so far this year." and this is the sentence i want to focus on. >> i have said it before and i will say it again, undocumented immigrants are not driving violence in chicago. and that is why i want our officers focused on community policing and not trying to be immigration police. the money we are going to get -- we hope to get from the federal government for burn grants, we are putting into something, a program called shots fired. it is a monitoring device in our city, block by block, that can tell instantaneously when a gun has been shot, so our police can respond instantaneously to try to get the shooters and save the life of the victim. you want to cut back these funds
because you want the city of chicago to play the role of immigration police on federal, civil laws. mr. attorney general, you are not helping us solve the murder problem in the city of chicago, by taking away these federal funds. the superintendent says that your pursuit of undocumented immigrants has little or nothing to do with gun violence in chicago. a.g. sessions: well, chicago is a great city. it has got many good things going for it. i do think this murder rate is a cloud over the city, and it looks like this year may be an even higher murder rate than last year. good, community-based policing is absolutely essential for this. i am worried about the health and morale of the chicago police department. we would like to see that improved. i think that politicians cannot say that if you remove a vibrant criminal from america, that is illegally in the country, and he is arrested by the chicago
police and put in the chicago jail, that once they are released they should not be turned over to the federal ice officers so they can be removed from the country. they were here illegally to begin with. much less commit another crime. and then should not be -- how does that make the city of chicago safer when you don't remove criminals who are illegally in the country? sen. durbin: mr. attorney general, you can't give an opening statement throwing a bouquet to police, and then ignore what the superintendent of police in chicago tells you that it has nothing to do with gun violence. you want to cut off federal funds to that city and come here and criticize the murder rate. a.g. sessions: i have increased the number of atf agents to prosecute gun crimes in chicago by 12, which is why a large number, more than any other city, i believe -- the united states government can't take over law enforcement for the city of chicago. we are not doing it for a lot of others.
we are a third of atf agents to chicago and we will continue to work with you. i do not want to not have grants go to chicago, but we need their support. when somebody is arrested in the jail that's due to be deported, we simply ask that they call us. so we can come by and pick them up and say they need to be removed. that is not happening and we've got to work through it some way. >> thank you mr. chairman and general sessions. sen. kennedy: welcome back and thank you for your service. did you conspire with russia or an agent of the russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? a.g. sessions: no. sen. kennedy: do you want the special counsel who is investigating those matters to succeed? a.g. sessions: i want to completed investigation
professionally, yes. sen. kennedy: if he asks you for your cooperation, would you give it? a.g. sessions: yes. sen. kennedy: if he asks to meet with you to discuss what if anything you know about all that, would you agree to meet with him? a.g. sessions: absolutely. sen. kennedy: i want to talk to you for a second about new orleans. new orleans is extraordinarily important to my state. my first job in government was with a government and at the time he took an economic development trip to japan. he tells the story he was meeting with about 20 japanese business people and he started off by asking them, how many of you have been to louisiana? he said five japanese business people raise their hand. then he said, how many of you had been to new orleans? he said 15 raise their hands. [laughter] it's a big part of our culture and our economy. we have a crime problem in new orleans as you know. we had a police officer, officer mcneil, killed in the line of duty this weekend.
the byrne grants are very important to new orleans to help us fight crime. now your office wrote a letter to my friends, mayor landrieu, asking him questions about the cities compliance and let me cut to the chase. there allegations that new orleans is a sanctuary city. you have asked for information. mayor landrieu who is my friend, but you got to call it like you see them, wrote you back a very unprofessional letter. i'm sorry for that. he called you caustic. he suggested you were a mere politician. he said you were scapegoating immigrants. he called you a fearmonger and basically called you a liar. now i consider that not to be
productive discourse. i apologize on behalf of louisiana. would you agree with me that we are a nation of immigrants? a.g. sessions: well, virtually the vast majority have emigrated here at one time or another for sure. sen. kennedy: we are also nation of laws, is that correct? a.g. sessions: that's correct. sen. kennedy: now if i don't agree with the law, do i have to follow it? a.g. sessions: yes. sen. kennedy: i hate traffic cameras. i don't agree with them. do i have to follow the laws of traffic cameras? a.g. sessions: yes. sen. kennedy: i do like the laws about traffic cameras so i need to go change them, is that right? a.g. sessions: that's correct. sen. kennedy: would you be willing, would you make yourself available if i could arrange a meeting with you and your
colleagues and mayor landrieu -- we are about to elect a new mayor in new orleans -- to sit down and work with the department of justice to resolve these allegations of being a sanctuary city in a way that the justice department is comfortable with so we can keep that money? a.g. sessions: absolutely i would. and i would just say senator kennedy that there were 10 cities during the last attorney general's tenure that were noted as being cities likely to be in violation of federal 1373 cooperative law that requires cooperation on detainers or at least communications with federal law officers. new orleans was one of those. about a half of those now have gotten off the list. we would love to see new orleans get off the list, but we are not
there yet. the mayor has talked openly about how some of these strategies where he describes what we are asking them to do is to go out and arrest people in the city that are here illegally. we are not asking that. we are asking that when the city arrest somebody that is illegally in the country for some other crime to communicate with us, give us notice before they are going to be released back into the community, because we may find or ice officers may find that they are due to be deported. there here illegally and they commit another crime, they ought to be deported. that's what the law says and that's what we intend to do. it's amazing to me that some of the mayors are so reluctant and so hostile to that simple request. and i don't think it is my duty
to give out grants to cities that are failing in the most fundamental relationship between the federal, state jurisdictions. sen. kennedy: i don't mean to imply that you are taking on new orleans. i think you sent a similar letter to new york city and i believe philadelphia if i'm not mistaken. and chicago. i think it's clear that are mayor in new orleans does not agree with america's immigration laws. and i understand that. this is america. you can believe what you want, but my understanding is we have to follow those laws. my understanding as well is that all the department justice is asking that the city of new orleans follow federal law. or go change it. is that your understanding?
a.g. sessions: that's correct. in fact, we should really strengthen 1373. it's a commonsense request for partnership with our state and locals that we support in any number of ways. i would love to see our relationships continue to get even better than they have been nationwide in crime-fighting. sen. kennedy: i want the record to reflect, mr. chairman, i stayed with my time. chairman: thank you very much. senator whitehouse. sen. whitehouse: thank you, chairman. just to opening questions. over and over we have heard the national security officials and people who study those issues professionally that campaign election interference by the russians is not going away, that we can expect more of it in the 2018 election. we can expect more of it in the 2020 election.
but i would like to know a name of a person in the department of justice whose job it is to look at that and make recommendations to the senate as to what legislative remedies we should pursue to prevent that activity from happening. is there such a person and what is his or her name? a.g. sessions: it would fall within our national security division which is led by dana bente, appointed by president obama. i'll be frank. i don't know that we are doing a specific legislative review at this point. sen. whitehouse: do you think it would be prudent to do it? we have been warned. a.g. sessions: i think that is a suggestion and i know that with your time in the department of justice that you can contribute to that discussion.
i would be glad to discuss it with you. sen. whitehouse: similarly there is an executive order out of the white house regarding cyber security that is more or less a call for information from various cabinet departments. to my knowledge there has been no proposed legislation of any kind. my conversations with mr. bossert at the white house have not produced any liaison or any way of going forward on this issue. as you know, there are multiple congressional committees that touch on cyber security and it complicates life that there's not somebody at the department justice whose job it is to work with us on cyber security legislation. and the silence has been deafening. if you could get me a name of a person whose responsibility it is at the department justice to work with the senate on cyber security legislation, i think that would help move things
forward. a.g. sessions: i will do that. there are two levels of it. first anytime, i would hope you call our legislative affairs and say i want to talk about legislation. sen. whitehouse: well, the reason i bring this up with the right now is that we have a lot of trouble getting answers to anything out of the department justice. i have a list here of unanswered mail. january 30, 2017 letter unanswered. february 2017 letter unanswered. march 7, 2017 letter renewed september 15, 2017 unanswered. may 26 .17 letter unanswered, renewed july 27, 2017 unanswered. july 27 2017 unanswered. september 26 letter unanswered. please don't refer me to the people were supposed to be in charge of this relationship when they won't answer my mail. a.g. sessions: my new director was just confirmed recently.
we have got the backlog by half and we will continue to cut the backlog. knowing that you are particularly knowledgeable about these complex issues, you would like to talk to an attorney actually working the cases and has dealt with the issues. sen. whitehouse: so yeah, i'm up to speed on that side. the issue is that there are things we need to fix legislatively on cyber security. at the moment, i can't find a point of entry into this administration of anybody who is working on cyber security legislation or is appointed to or delegated to. that's the person that i need -- about legislation and not just an update on cases. i'm pretty familiar with that stuff. a.g. sessions: i understand. sen. whitehouse: so executive privilege. the reason i sent you the letter would be that you would be prepared to talk about executive privilege and this would not be
a gotcha moment. let me ask you the november 4, 1982 executive order by president reagan is still the guidelines under which the department operates? a.g. sessions: that is part of the principles we operate under, yes. sen. whitehouse: it is a document that describes how the executive branch will respond to executive privilege, correct? a.g. sessions: that is said and -- it is that and case law and other objective documents that have been issued over the years. sen. whitehouse: so let me know if any of this has changed. that rule says that executive privilege will be asserted only in the most compelling circumstances and shall not be invoked without specific presidential authorization. that's still the rule? a.g. sessions: repeat that. sen. whitehouse: executive privilege will be asserted only in the most compelling circumstances and shall not be invoked without specific presidential authorization. a.g. sessions: executive privilege cannot be invoked except by the president. sen. whitehouse: congressional request for information shall be
complied with as properly and fully as possible unless it is determined the compliance raises a substantial question of is if -- of executive privilege. is that still the rule? a.g. sessions: that's a good ruling. sen. whitehouse: the attorney general has the authority to determine on his own that executive privilege shall not be invoked. you can make the decision not to invoke executive privilege yourself. a.g. sessions: the attorney general does not have the power to invoke it. only the president can. sen. whitehouse: you can determine it shall not be invoked. you have the negative power to allow questions to be answered and documents to be released not violating executive privilege. you can make that determination under paragraph three, correct? a.g. sessions: i'm not sure about that. sen. whitehouse: while i don't think so. i'm reading aloud. the attorney general and the council of the president may determine that executive privilege may not be invoked in
the request of the lease of information. it says it right there. a.g. sessions: i don't believe they can do it without the approval of the president. sen. whitehouse: they can't release? of course it have to be able to release information without the approval of the president. you do it all the time. a.g. sessions: i guess you're talking about core. core privileges of the executive branch, such as private conversations. sen. whitehouse: even for that, there is still this rule that the issue has to be presented to the president. you have a moment what they call a request of the congressional body that holds this request for that you are allowed to request for. sooner or later, the claim of
executive privilege must be made with a specific approval of the president. my concern is that this period of advance has turned into a non-assertion assertion of executive privilege. we have questions we have asked you about going back to your intelligence committee appearance in june or july. how long do you need to get the answer from the white house as to whether these questions are protected or not? you can't have a situation which the president never has to asserted and the advance goes on indefinitely. don't you agree with that? a.g. sessions: well, i think you make a point, but the burden is on those who want to breach a core privilege of the president, which is private conversations with his attorney general to show precisely what it is that you would like him to waive it on. that is what your letter failed and sort of reverse.
it said you have to tell us what you are going to talk about. and what you're not going to talk about and i think it needs to be -- sen. whitehouse: tends to refer to the questions in which you asserted in interim executive privilege. we will follow up on that if we have more time. we do have questions that we will pursue any intelligence committee. a.g. sessions: just briefly, i have to say that the executive branch is a coequal branch. and you would not want someone demanding to know who you talk to in your office, your counsel, your chief of staff. neither would we want to be prowling willy-nilly through the supreme court and what their clerks now and what they were told by the justices leading up to some decision that's not popular. so i would just urge us all, first and foremost, to respect
the legitimacy of any president's right to seek advice and confidence. eisenhower was once reported to have said if one of my advisors reports the advice they gave me during the day, they will be fired that night. this is not a little matter. that's all i'm saying to you. if this is not legitimate and you make the specific cases, we will review it. it should not be done casually. i've got to say. sen. whitehouse: my time is up. chairman: before i call on senator graham, a question to you on this very subject, has the intelligence committee since he told them similar to what you're telling us today contacted to compel you to either answer specific questions or claims of privilege or subpoenaed you in any way to get answers to questions? a.g. sessions: i don't believe so, mr. chairman.
chairman: senator graham. sen. graham: for the record, that was more than a little bit. chairman: i thought it was important enough for senator whitehouse and senator sessions. maybe it will shorten it for other people. sen. graham: it was important, but it wasn't a little bit. chairman: i ought to be able to define a little bit. sen. graham: i'm joking. chairman: joking, ok. [laughter] give him back his time. sen. graham:'s is speaking back -- so speaking of letters not answered, august 30, senator grassley and i sent a letter to the department of justice wanting information related to drafting of memos exonerated -- exonerating secretary clinton before the july statement of
director comey. we have got nothing back. do you think we will ever get an answer to that letter? a.g. sessions: do you need an answer or explaining why can't be answered? sen. graham: either way. a.g. sessions: i will take that make sure it happens. sen. graham: apparently on the fbi's website, they have got emails with no content suggesting that comey in may was talking and the title of this thing -- what is the title of this thing? drafts of director comey's july 2016 statement regarding email server investigation. that's what the title of this thing is. when you look at it, there's nothing there. apparently in may, comey was talking to senior staff about draft memorandums clearing clinton before he ever talk to her. are you aware of this?
a.g. sessions: well, i have not been engaged in that. i told the committee at confirmation -- sen. graham: who do i talk to? who do i talk to about getting my letter answered? a.g. sessions: i think you should direct your letter to the deputy attorney general or to the legislative affairs. sen. graham: the reason we wrote that letter is because there is a hatch act investigation of a former fbi director that the committee office of special counsel under the hatch act gave transcripts of committee where to senior people talk about drafting this memo. so we just want to know, did comey instruct his people to draft memos rendering a conclusion about the email investigation into former secretary clinton before july, before he interviewed her?
not before july. if you could have somebody answer that question, we would appreciate it. thank you. a.g. sessions: we shall respond to your inquiry. sen. graham: sentencing reform -- there are many members of this body and committee looking at trying to reform sentences for nonviolent offenders. would you be willing to work with us in that endeavor? a.g. sessions: i certainly would. sen. graham: i know you want to secure the border and how the -- and talk about the president's plan. count me in for securing the border. when you talk about the wall, is a 2200 mile wall? a.g. sessions: it's clear that the present is not expected to be. sen. graham: so it will not be 2200 miles? a.g. sessions: no, it will not. homeland security is involved in the issue. sen. graham: do you support a pathway to citizenship for dream act kids if we get good border security and return? a.g. sessions: i do not support
explicitly anything about citizenship but i said something , can be worked out on this, but it can't be one-sided. sen. graham: i agree with that. the first thing i want to talk about is russia. did you ever hear of anybody in the clinton campaign talking about having collaborated with the russians? a.g. sessions: you mean on the media? sen. graham: did anybody in a campaign -- did you ever overhear a conversation between anybody on the campaign meeting with the russians? a.g. sessions: you said the clinton campaign. sen. graham: i'm sorry, the trump campaign. a.g. sessions: i have not seen anything that would indicate a collusion with the russians to impact the campaign. sen. graham: were you aware of a meeting between donald jr., manafort, jared kushner, and
russians in trump tower? a.g. sessions: no. sen. graham: that they tell you the content of that meeting? a.g. sessions: i never discussed the content of that meeting. sen. graham: no one said the russians are on our side and they want to help us? a.g. sessions: no, all i know about is what has been in the papers, which i've not follow that closely. sen. graham: as into the clinton email investigation, do you know if there's a phone call between the former attorney general miss lynch and the white house on whether she should take a meeting with former president clinton on the tarmac? a.g. sessions: no. sen. graham: is there anyway we can find that out? would there be records available? a.g. sessions: the inquiries could probably directed to the deputy attorney general. sen. graham: ok, i will do that. do you know if the so-called trump dossier ever see toward?
-- ever used by the justice department to seek a warrant? a.g. sessions: no. sen. graham: could you find out? a.g. sessions: it would need to be directed to someone else in the department, but you can make that inquiry and you deserve a yes or no response. sen. graham: secretary comey gave three reasons at various times -- i can't find my sheet here -- about why he took this case in july. if that is the main reason for why the president wanted to fire him for jumping into the email investigation and taking it over in unprecedented ways, why did it take so long? a.g. sessions: the investigation? sen. graham: no, the firing. a.g. sessions: you mean, why did the president -- sen. graham: the president knew when he was inaugurated that comey jumped into the middle of
the clinton email investigation and took the job of attorney general over. that's the main reason he was fired. why did he wait so long to fire comey? a.g. sessions: i'm not sure he ever grasped the full import of that. he asked the deputy attorney general rosenstein and me for recommendation. that's the recognition we gave him. that something everybody familiar with the department of justice had been buzzing about for months. sen. graham: now this is very important. i've got nine seconds. i know that comey has told of the committees that the main reason he got involved in july to take over the investigation was not because of the tarmac meeting. it's because he was worried there was an email in the hands of the russians between the dnc and the department of justice. i know that testimony exists. some claim the email was fake.
you know anything about this and is there anyway to find out what actually happened? a.g. sessions: suggesting one way or another that i know anything about it, i would just say that would be improper for me to share at this time if i knew. sen. graham: thank you. chairman: senator klobuchar. sen. klobuchar: i will start with a few questions following up my colleagues. the president has described this investigation as a witch hunt. do you share that view of the council's work and you still have confidence in the special counsel as you have stated before the intelligence committee in june? a.g. sessions: people are quite free in this country to express views about the matter. i'm just an old prosecutor who just says the process has to work its will.
sen. klobuchar: but back in june, you said you had confidence in special counsel mueller's work. do you still have that confidence? a.g. sessions: i've known special counsel mueller for many years before he became even fbi director. i think he will produce the work in a way he thinks is correct and history will judge. sen. klobuchar: are you still saying that your testimony changed about special counsel mueller? a.g. sessions: my mind has not changed. sen. klobuchar: when he appeared before the intelligence committee, you declined to answer questions about whether you discussed pardons for any of the people involved in the russian investigation. without getting into that or your reasoning, broadly speaking, do you believe it would be problematic for an ongoing investigation if the president were to preemptively issue a pardon for someone we have reason to believe is of interest to that investigation before the special counsel had a chance to finish his work?
a.g. sessions: well, the pardon power is quite broad. i'm not studied it. i do not know if that would be appropriate or not. sen. klobuchar: so we don't know. maybe we can follow up and you can look at that? a.g. sessions: i would. i would respond to a written request. sen. klobuchar: so as you know, i'm very pleased with the choice of christopher wray. i was there at his ceremony and i also had a good working relationship with director comey. do believe there are inherent risks in any private communication between the president and the fbi director? this comes out of the fact that director comey testified he had nine private conversations with president trump in four months. he also testified in three years that he only spoke twice with president obama. following director comey's firing and his testimony that the president and properly raise
the subject of an ongoing investigation during that private meeting, have you taken any steps to ensure the justice department officials are not being inappropriately approached by the president or anybody in the white house? do you think there are risks in this and what steps have you taken? a.g. sessions: actually we have discussed it at some length about proper procedures. i believe the holder or lynch memorandum on that subject remains in effect. it is probably tighter than previous memorandums on that subject and the deputy attorney general and others in the department -- i don't think we have completed our new policy, but we think there should be a careful policy on that subject. it's not appropriate to say for white house officials to call lower-level prosecutors or civil
attorneys and carry on conversations. it should be done in an appropriate fashion. those rules remain in effect. we are reviewing whether they should be altered in any way. sen. klobuchar: ok, we will look forward to that and i'm sure you will let us know if they are altered. on july 11, i sent a letter with senator whitehouse and ranking number feinstein switching out some election issues. i was joined by my other democratic colleagues asking about the justice department's apparent coordination with the commission. this is the pence come back election integrity commission, which you know has been controversial. we have sent a number of letters about this to try to figure out what the relationship is between the integrity department and that commission because it's the justice department's job to ensure that voting rights are protected.
a number of us are really concerned about this commission that is requesting data from a all over the country, including secretaries of state's, many of whom are republican, rejecting this about going to a computer allegedly housed in the white house. i just wondered if you have had communications with members of the commission about their efforts and what kind of coordination is going on. a.g. sessions: i do not believe i've never had a single conversation with any member or staff of the commission directly. sen. klobuchar: have people that work for you been coordinating with them? a.g. sessions: i don't know of coordinating is the correct -- we have been asked for assistance on several issues. i think it's quite appropriate for the president to have a commission to review possible irregularities in elections. you can be sure that the department of justice will fairly and objectively enforce the law.
sen. klobuchar: i believe that to be true. i'm just concerned that this commission is often doing the work and we just found out this week from the washington post that one of the employees have been charged with possession and distribution of child pornography. i just asked that you asked the vice president and the vice chair to answer our questions about that. if the staffer has been charged with the horrendous crime had access to voter data, including minors, and what is that to the commission? a.g. sessions: we would fulfill our responsibility. i think the directions should go to the commissions and not doj. sen. klobuchar: maybee could pass it on. along the lines of elections, senator warner and i have been working on a bill that we think
is really important and this is more to bring it to your attention. i know you have recused yourself from the russian investigation. i respect that decision. i truly do. this is just beyond that because it's about the advertisements that were brought during the 2016 campaign. advertisements were bought on facebook with rubles and billions of dollars were spent on political ads in 2016. unlike ads broadcast on tv or printed in the newspaper, there is no requirement on online platforms that at any point they register those ads or have a way of indicating if they are paid for and how much money is spent on them. it's a national security issue because of what we have seen now with russia. but is also completely absurd that we have some kind of ads that you can register and check out on public file and then these others are completely dark and hidden from view. given what is going on, do you think that the election laws
should be updated as overseeing the department that has first -- jurisdiction over the people's voting rights to better protect our democracy? a.g. sessions: well, in this new fast-paced world of technology, perhaps there are needs to updated it and i would be pleased to work with you. sen. klobuchar: i appreciate that, attorney general. thank you very much. chairman: senator cruz. sen. cruz: thank you, mr. chairman. general sessions, welcome back. we miss you on the side of the dais and we spent a lot of time in this hearing room together and thank you for your good and honorable service as attorney general and the many positive things that happened at the department justice in the last nine months. i want to talk with you about issue that is near and dear to your heart, which is immigration. i want to cover a couple of
areas. let's start with daca. i want to commend you and the president for doing the right thing, terminating president obama's illegal executive amnesty program. it was contrary to federal law. it was contrary to the president's responsibility under article two of the constitution to take cares that the laws be faithfully executed. and it directed federal law enforcement officers to disregard abiding federal law. so i commend you for announcing the suspension of that program. as you know, the president has indicated that it is now for congress to legislate a program addressed to those daca recipients. and there are right now considerable ongoing debates and discussions within congress about if and whether to do so and if so how. my first question is, does the
department of justice have position on whether congress should legislate a new amnesty program for daca recipients? a.g. sessions: the department has not taken a position formally on that. the president has certainly left the door wide open and indicated that he would favor something like that. it certainly would be a lawful and proper thing for congress to do. sen. cruz: so my understanding is that as of september 2017, there are 689,800 individuals currently with daca registration. there have been estimates done that there are nearly 2 million potential daca recipients and the country. in your judgment, should those nearly 2 million people here illegally in this country be eligible for united states citizenship?
a.g. sessions: my best judgment that i have expressed over the years is that someone who enters the country unlawfully, if they are given some sort of legal status, and normal legal status, should not get everything that would flow to people who properly weight their time and enter lawfully. i'm not taking a position on it that would support citizenship for those who have entered illegally. sen. cruz: certainly as a senator on the side of the dais, i think you have multiple times spoken with great passion on the issue. as attorney general, do you have any view on whether those here illegally should be eligible for u.s. citizenship? a.g. sessions: well, i've not changed my view at this point. sen. cruz: let me ask you, as attorney general, if those some 2 million people here illegally that are potential daca
recipients were granted green cards and ultimately u.s. citizenship, do you have concerns about the next step of chain migration of those individuals that bring in potentially 3, 4, 5 million relatives as the second step of an amnesty program? a.g. sessions: yes. they need to be evaluated. when you use the figure 2 million, it just raises the question that we should think carefully about, like who would qualify for a daca program if one were to be carried out? the president has made clear, and he cares about this. he cares about young people who came here at a young age, but he also believes that the nation and he cares about this. should have an immigration policy that serves the national interest and that it should not be -- it should be a more merit-based policy like canada.
that is something i've believed in for a number of years. sen. cruz: let me ask a different question. in your personal judgment, should those here illegally be made eligible for public welfare and for billions in both federal, state, and local funds to provide for their various needs? a.g. sessions: if people are here unlawfully, which it strikes me that the last thing you would want to do to subsidize that unlawfulness, you would not and should not be normally eligible for benefits. maybe some things we will do, no doubt about it. still fundamentally, a person should not be attracted to enter the country unlawfully and then demand lawful benefits. sen. cruz: let me shift to a different topic under immigration, which is border security. i want to commend the administration. early on we saw dramatic
decreases in illegal crossings and the neighborhood of a decrease of two thirds of the opening months of the of ministration. i commend you for that. i will say that i'm concerned by reports i'm hearing from the border. i'm concerned. according to the public numbers of august this year, customs and border for texans saw a 20% increase in apprehensions of inadmissible person at ports of entry. i had a conversation with the rangers in south texas that earlier in the year the number of illegal crossings had dropped significantly, but throughout the summer, he saw the number spiking up again. he was concerned that it was returning to levels we saw earlier. are you concerned about that and what is the department of justice and the department of homeland security doing to prevent this? a.g. sessions: i'm very concerned about it. the president's own strong
leadership resulted in a decline, we believe, of almost half the attempted entries into the united states. colleagues, if you make clear the border is closed and we back it up, there's no doubt attempts to enter unlawfully will plummet. this is not an impossible task for america to secure the border. they are challenging us now. there are many, many problems with our abilities to enforce the law, some loopholes of monumental proportions, and i strongly believe that legislation from congress is going to be essential for doing what the american people want. sen. cruz: let me ask one final question. i recently did a townhome with the number border patrol agent and visited a number of control agents along the rio grande. what i am hearing from border patrol agent's is that the policies of catch and release of
the obama administration are still continuing in the current administration. that is highly troubling. when i heard those reports in january and february, i told them give the administration some time to get their team in place. you cannot turn a battleship overnight. it is now october. is the trump administration continuing the policy of catch and release, and if so, what is the plan to and that policy? a.g. sessions: i'm glad you asked that question. in 2011, we had a backlog of immigration cases of 300,000. it is now over 600,000. 5000 people in 2009 who were apprehended at the border claim they should not be deported because they have a fear of being sent back home. last year, it increased from 5000 to 94,000. those people are basically entitled the hearings. this is a loophole that is too
big. we need to create some sort of control over it. we are looking if there is anything we can do effectively short of legislation, but there is no doubt, mr. chairman, we need legislation on the subject and several others. we are adding judges. we added 50 already and we will have another 40 by january. the backlog, instead of going up, will be going down. we will continue to work with that. legislation is critical. sen. cruz: my time is expired, but if i could ask for direct yes or no on whether catch a release is still the policy? a.g. sessions: essentially it's not the policy, but it's the reality that there are so many people claiming and being entitled to hearings that we don't have the ability to provide those hearings. they are being released into the community and they're not coming back for their hearings.
it is acceptable. chairman: senator franken. sen. franken: attorney general sessions, welcome back. last time we spoke, i asked you about russian interference in the 2016 presidential election there is now absolutely no question that the russians meddled in the election in order to undermine confidence in american democracy to damage the campaign of hillary clinton, and to boost donald trump. our intelligence agencies have confirmed this. we also know that there were many contacts and communications between russian operatives and trump campaign officials and associates. now in order to make sure that this kind of attack never happens again, we need to understand what happened. and whether anyone inside the trump campaign assisted the russians effort. during her confirmation hearing,
i asked you, and i quote, "if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trunk -- trump campaign communicate with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what would you do?" that was a simple, straightforward question. what will you do? the implication was will you recuse yourself? but rather than answer that question, you replied "i've been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians." that was on january 10. on february 8, you are confirmed. on march first, there was a story that you met with a russian once in july and once on september 8.
it was later reported that you met with the russian ambassador a third time at the mayflower hotel in april of 2016. confronted with these reports, you suddenly changed your story. your answer under oath before this committee was that you "did not have communications with the russians." but on the morning that the story broke, you said, "i've not met with any russians at any time to discuss any political campaign." on twitter, you said, "i never met with any russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign." so confronted with the truth, you started to qualify your answer. later in a letter you sent to this community to clarify --
to clarify your testimony, you wrote, "i do not recall in discussions with the russian ambassador or any other representative of the russian government regarding the political campaign on these occasions or any other occasions." but this summer, "the washington post" reported that american intelligence agencies intercepted communications between the russian ambassador and moscow in which he described two of his conversations with you. the april meeting at the mayflower hotel and the july meeting at the republican national convention, citing both former and current u.s. officials, the intercepts reportedly indicated that you have "substantive" discussions on policy matters important to moscow. according to officials familiar with russian intelligence reports, the abbasid was well
-- the ambassador was well known for accurately relating his interactions with u.s. officials back to the kremlin. attorney general sessions, in response to this report, the justice department declined to comment on the veracity of the intelligence intercepts, but doj did assert that you did "not discuss interference in the election," which is also how you describe your communications to the senate intelligence committee. again, the goal post has been moved. first it was, i did not have communications with the russians. which was not true. then it was, i never met with any russians to discuss any political campaign, which may or may not be true. now it's i did not discuss interference in the campaign, which further narrows your initial blanket denial about
meeting with the russians. since you have qualified your denial to say that you did not "discuss issues of the campaign with russians," what in your view constitutes issues of the campaign? a.g. sessions: well, let me just say this without hesitation that i conducted no improper discussions with russians at any time regarding the campaign or any other item facing this country. i will say that first. that has been the suggestion that you have raised and others that somehow we had conversations that were improper. no, you had a long time, senator franken. i would like to respond. sen. franken: we will note that senator cruz 12 minutes over.
they are going to cut me off so i want to ask you some questions. a.g. sessions: mr. chairman, i don't have to sit here and listen to -- sen. franken: you are the one who testified. a.g. sessions: without having a chance to respond. give me a break. sen. franken: ok, thank you. go ahead. a.g. sessions: it's not a simple question, senator franken. sen. franken: i'm sorry. a.g. sessions: it was not a simple question. the lead in to your question was very, very troubling. i answered to you in a way that i felt was responsive to what you raised in your question. let me read it to you. you said, cnn has just published a story, meaning that day, while we were in a hearing, that i had not heard about. sen. franken: keep reading.
a.g. sessions: i'm telling you this about this new story that has just been published. i'm not expecting you to know whether or not it's true. cnn just published a story alleging that the intelligence community of the united states of america provided documents to the president elect last week that included information that "russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about mr. trump." you went on to say that these documents also allegedly say "there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government." now again, i'm telling you this as it's coming out so you know, but if it's true, it's obviously extremely serious and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trunk
campaign communicate with the russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do? so taken aback by this dramatic statement that i'd never heard before and knew nothing about, i responded this way. senator franken, i'm not aware of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in this campaign and i did not have communications with the russians. i'm unable to comment on it. i don't think that can fairly be interpreted as saying i never had conversations with any russians. it was referring directly to the suggestion that if there was a continuing exchange of information between trump surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government, which did not happen, at least not to my knowledge and not with me, and that's why i responded the way i did.
i'm disappointed. yes, you can say what you want to about the accuracy of it, but i think it was a good-faith response to a dramatic event at the time. i don't think it's fair for you to suggest otherwise. chairman: three minutes and then finish. sen. franken: he took more than three minutes. a.g. sessions: how much do you want? i do not take as much time as senator franken took. chairman: let me just deal with senator franken. three more minutes please. sen. franken: ok, first of all, you said i did not have communications with the russians. this is about ongoing communications. you have three communications with kisylac.
you cannot recall whether you discussed or what you discussed with him. a.g. sessions: what i would say to you is -- sen. franken: please go ahead. a.g. sessions: you make a lot of allegations. that's hard for me to respond to them in the time that i've got. sen. franken: can i have a little bit more time? ok. you said today in response to senator leahy that you don't recall whether you talked about the campaign. you don't recall whether you talk about issues and trump's views on issues with the russians. those are very, very relevant to the campaign whether a surrogate
from the campaign is talking with the russian ambassador about the candidates' views on russian policy, especially at the republican national convention, at the mayflower hotel the day before trump is going to give his first speech on foreign policy. that's very different not being able to recall what you discussed with him. it's a very different than saying i am not -- i have not had communications with the russians. the ambassador from russia is russian. how your responses morphed from i did not have communications with the russians to i did not discuss substantive tests i did
not discuss the political campaign and then finally going to i did not discuss interference in the election. that to me is moving the goalposts every time. we are starting off with it extrawide and then by the end we are going to a 75 yard field goal. saying i didn't discuss interfering with the election is your last statement, that is a very different bar then i can tell you i did not meet with any russians. a.g. sessions: so he gets to do about 10 minutes of improperly framing the subject and i'm giving a short answered
response? chairman: proceed please. a.g. sessions: first and foremost, senator franken: to you and i have had a good relationship on this committee. i would tell most of my colleagues that i've committed myself to a high level of public service. to reach the highest standards of ethics and decency in my service, to be honest about things that i said. you have now gone through this long talk that i believe is totally unfair to me. it all arose from this question. when it was charged that these documents allegedly say "there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates -- as if all them -- trump's surrogates and russian intermediaries," isn't that what
you said? sen. franken: i did not say all them. a.g. sessions: i felt a need to respond and i responded on the spot. it's been six hours in the hearing. it's at the end of the day and i said i'm not aware of those activities. and i wasn't and am not. i don't believe they occurred. i said i've been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and i do not have communications with the russians. i'm unable to comment on it. i was talked about as a surrogate in the campaign. i did not have a continuing exchange of information. so now everything else now you take that as if i ever met with the russian and i've not been candid with the committee and i reject that.
>> i was paying enough attention that i don't a dr pepper on senator cruz. that is what was distracting us on this side of the dice. i like to talk about the russians but in the long-term objectives that vladimir putin has to undermine the public trust. obviously the 2016 investigation -- election matters a lot and i've tried to talk about something slightly different, but the longer-term goal that they have. anybody who reads intelligence, this is not through the prism of who you voted for and 2016 election are what you think happened. as important as all that is, anybody who reads intelligence is know that we face a sophisticated, long-term effort by a foreign adversary to undermine our foreign policy and ability to lead in the world by undermining confidence in american institutions.
there's nobody reading intelligence right now that doesn't know vladimir putin has that objective. so this part this should not be , a republican versus democrat issue. vladimir putin is an opportunist, which means that any partisan or ideological alignment he has is temporary. he wants to undermine america and every patriotic american ought to be concerned about that. you listen to certain news outlets and it somewhat there is , a russian behind everything happening in america, and it's laughable. and then you listen to others, and it is that he has america's best interests at heart. i think people know that russia is going to be back in 2018. they will be back in 2020, and they have goals to undermine democratic, republican, small d, r, institutions and to
exacerbate hatred. we live in a time where misinformation is a far more cost-effective way for people to try to weaken the united states of america than thinking they can outspend us on a military nations chiefhe law enforcement officer and as a supervisor of multiple components of the intelligence community, i am curious. i would ask you a series of questions. do you think we are doing enough to prepare for interference with adversaries in the information space? sion: probably not. and we are not. and the matter is so complex. most of us, we are not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there. commercial penetration by some of our toughest trading partners. we have got disruption and interference, it appears, by
russian officials. people. it requires a real review, -- so what steps has the department taken or should they take to learn the lessons of 2016 to learn the lessons in fighting foreign interference? sessions: we have looked at a number of fangs. we have looked at the commercial interference, the theft of trade secrets and important data, information that some private topanies have spent decades develop and hundreds of millions of dollars and to have it stolen at a moment, and we have got documents that deal with those issues. the national security division of the department of justice has got some really talented people. group ofas as good a
experts on sophisticated computer technology as probably exists in the world, but whether we are at the level we need to be yet, i don't ink so. senator: i think you are asked confidenceyou have in the january 6, 2017 intelligence amenity evaluation interfere attempts to with the 2016 election. i stepped out a bit. sessions: i have no reason. senator: you have confidence in the intelligence of the men and women in the community? no interests about whether or not our pipeline is robust enough? do we have enough people? if you were arriving at the doj today and were to focus on this
the first hundred days you were there, talk us through a little bit about how you would prioritize in this space, because my view is that we are to being way too little ready for offenses and defenses aspects of cyber, at large, and especially info ops and misinformation. sessions: i do not know if we are at the bottom of this yet, and it continues to need to be examined. entire defense department situation to see how there, and weare have many vulnerabilities in our defense department and our missile systems, perhaps, and then we have got the commercial penetration, that we have some cases that are ongoing now that validate that concern quite clearly. senator: so that is looking current software and
hardware exposures retrospectively, that do you think the department of justice has a proactive role in hardening our democratic process currentwith interference? sessions: you make a good point, and if you have thoughts, i would be glad to hear it. i am not sure we have a specific review underway at this point in time. of course, most of this has to donated with the intelligence community, nsa, cia , the director of national intelligence. senator: i appreciate your responsiveness to me on a number of issues, so i will follow-up with you on -- in a less public forum, and i will not ask for dent, if they are questioning it, but if i can run over by 30 seconds, i would just draw to your attention, general,
the fact that we have a number of crimes committed by illegal aliens in nebraska. the of these are some of most heartrending crimes you can imagine, but i want to point out that this is just not a case of cherry picking particular isolated bad apples. we know that some of the crimes that are committed by illegal aliens in the country are dealing with threats that are posed in particular by transnational organizations like ms 13, and i have got a series of donated with the intelligence questions. i would like to ask you about that, but because we are at time, i am just going to pivot to would you commit to coordinating everything with me on the payment systems used by some of these transnational criminal gangs? sessions: i would be glad to. the transnational criminal organizations have been given to us as a priority by the president, especially ms 13, and we would these the please -- please to discuss it with you.
was going to call on others and ask if you needed a few minutes away from the table. this is what is ahead of us. , andve senator blumenthal democratsve seven wanting five minutes, second round, so we have got at least 40 minutes for second round. if you just want to stay there, we will -- sessions: well, i would like to have a break at some point. chair grassley: we will take a 20-minute break. senator: make it half an hour. chair grassley: that is what senator feinstein asked, and that is what we will do. senator: it is good to see you again.
this is the first time we had an your oversight ruling as attorney general, and i have appreciated this so far. you have publicly recused yourself all matters dealing with the ongoing russian investigation. want torney general, i focus on that, because i am concerned about whether or not you have honored that recusal fully. it is more important to actually do it. i wrote to the office of professional responsibility in the part of justice back in july, asking exactly how employees at the department of justice participating in the special counsel of mueller are assured that they are honoring your recruiter, and i have not gotten an answer. i took that sort of personally until i realized from what the chairman said earlier that there are many letters that have not been answered yet by the department, so if your department has not yet answered, could you please, mr. attorney general, just answer directly,
how are employees participating in special counsel or mueller's directed?ion ssions: i told this committee that i would meet with the -- the ethics committee as to whether recusal is needed. the day after that, we had a series of meetings, and since i realized that there is a possibility i would need to recuse myself in the first i received no information whatsoever from that investigation, never met with an -- met withrs investigators, never knew that lawyers were officially working the case, and reviewed no documents related to it.
you have to know something about it. an inkling with director comey, that i would not be involved in the investigation, that neither i nor my staff, the attorney general's staff, were to be involved in this investigation or receive information about it. said that hey once did not get this, but we have got the document emailed to him directly by name. gets a lot and may have missed it, but we definitely did that, and i complied with that rigorously. purpose of the russian investigation, the attorney general of the united states, his deputy attorney
general rod rosenstein makes all of the decision and manages the processes and guarantees its integrity. senator: have you spoken with set -- with president trump about the investigation at any point? ssions: i have never discuss anything with him on -- well, i'm not going to comment on the conversations we have had, because i think that violates the privilege, executive privilege. senator: do you think the deputy attorney general made the right decision to appoint a special counsel question were you said that mr. mueller, having respect for his experience, do you think that was the right choice? ssions: the decision to appoint a special counsel depends on the facts and circumstances, of which he was fully apprised, which i am not, so i am not able to opine about
he is asion, but talented and experienced prosecutor. senator: fighting violent crimes, keeping our nation safe, respecting and promoting rule of law. i think it is important, as you have stated, that this investigation reach its natural and full conclusion without any interference. in your view, if the president asked your advice about whether to remove or fire the special counsel, would that be an appropriate conversation for him to have with you? sessions: i have not thought that through, but if it deals with the special counsel, i think the communication would need to be directed to the person who supervises the special counsel, and that would attorney general. senator: if the special counsel were removed, would you protest or consider resigning in order to clarify the importance of
that position in that investigation being done until it's and? ssions: i do not when to deal with a hypothetical. i think it is best to leave my as it was. senator: in your confirmation hearing, you said, and i think this wasn't response -- this was in response, it would be appropriate for me to recuse myself in any questions with anything involved with secretary clinton raised during the campaign, and the chairman said, you say you will recuse. do you mean you actually will recuse, and the decision will fall to the deputy attorney general? and you said, there is a procedure for that, which i will follow, and you just shared with me that you followed it, and yet, on may 9, deputy attorney general rosenstein delivered to you a memo entitled "restoring public confidence in the fbi."
it is about director comey's conduct during the clinton investigation. ions: you are talking about the recommendation. senator: and then that same day, you recommended that director comey be removed. a.g. sessionss: that is correct. senator: so if you were recusing yourself in things related to secretary clinton and the email investigation, why did you write a memo to the president, exclusively relying on that matter? wasadministrative decision his conduct related to the clinton email investigation. why would you participate in that manner if you were recused from participating? sessions: first, the attorney general does not remove
himself from the supervision of the fbi, the $7 billion agency that he is responsible for, because he may have recused himself about one or more matters that the fbi was working on, number one. number two, the clinton case had been closed. it was not an ongoing matter at that time. number three, the discussion about whether or not mr. comey conducted himself properly did not deal with whether or not there was sufficient evidence to go forward or not with regard to a charge against secretary clinton. it don't with whether or not he acted properly -- it dealt with whether or not he acted properly when he closed the case in set of the attorney general's office , the prosecutor in the attorney general's office, -- instead of the attorney general's office.
--m confident that i did not i was not required to recuse myself on the decision of directorr not to keep comey. general,mr. attorney in your letter on may 9, you say , i am committed to the rule of law at the department of justice, and i am concerned that we may have a different understanding of the scope of your recusal when that was the cited reason for the firing of the fbi director. sessions: let me respond and say that i'm very confident -- veryid not comfortable in that decision, because it was not based on the merits of the investigation or based on his performance, publicly and in regard to announcing a decision.
it was a decision he was not entitled to announce. .hair grassley: senator senator: thank you, mr. chair. attorney general sessions, thank you for being here. i hope you know i have been a strong opponent of yours in confirmation, and in the summertime, when the president was wavering his support in you, i had the ultimate confidence in you, and i will continue to. i want to cover something. the good thing is i have to preside at 1:00, so i cannot go over even if i wanted to. these civil division nominee coming before us, and i know that the nominee is in the room, so we can drive down on that, but chuck has something. your office responded to a letter that we sent to you all that the program is effectively over. and talk toout businesses and depository
institutions, they are still concerned with what is going on out there with examiners and people out, and the various regulatory agencies, that i still think have not gotten the so i would appreciate any effort that doj could do to communicate to these lower-level bureaucrats who think they are going to transcend us and so tht they can't reawaken this program at some point, that if they do that now, and we can find out if they are doing that and not paying attention to the leadership -- i hope that means it comes at the cost of their jobs. i do not what to talk about that now, because i want to talk about a favorite subject we have had several times on immigration, but i do need to get better clarity for those that were abused at the checkpoint program under the obama administration, and those exact is, if they are going to continue to do it, i need to make sure that they are not doing it anymore. sen. collins: queue. we believe we took strong and
-- senator, wen believe we took strong and immediate action. senator: we can work with people back in north carolina and people i have heard across the country, and it probably needs to go down to the name of the people who are not paying attention to what the leadership has told them to do, and if they do not change their behavior, we need to shed light on those individuals, and to the extent they can be terminated, i am going to push every button i can to make sure that happens. they need to follow their leadership. i want to get a response to a question i get from citizens. want tobody really throw out good, educated, and accomplished young people who are serving their country, brought to their country through no cause of their own? we're talking about the daca recipients. what do you say to that? a.g. sessions: it cannot be the
policy of the united states that someone can bring a young person into the united states, and they cannot be deported. that is not sustainable overall. however, that citizen who happens to be a united states president, how do you reply? a.g. sessions: the president made clear that he would like to deal compassionately with people, young people, who came here and who have been here a and have performed well in our country, and he would like to have reform in that area, but he wants some other things that are essential to go with it. as i think you do. senator: i do, and i should mention that i always appreciated your chairmanship on the immigration committee. i always characterized it as a debate, because i have a bit of a difference. were active.: you
senator: i want to ask you a question about daca. it is your opinion that that is an executive branch overreach. a.g. sessions: exactly. senator: so it would also be your opinion that every day he has delayed until may 5, he is condoning an executive branch overreach? or he would have ended the program and caused operas to do their job back on september 5. -- and caused congress to do their job back on september 5. a.g. sessions: there was a lot of effort to start that program, and they need some time to wind it down. i think it is appropriate. it,hink -- they requested and they feel it is appropriate, and i believe it is appropriate to wind down. i am sorry, because i am running out of time, and i do have to preside. what do you think the president meant in a tweet back in early september, when he said "we have
six months to legalize daca"? or months to legalize daca, i will revisit it. would you advise him he has no administrative authority to revisit it? a.g. sessions: i am not sure what the president meant in these short statements, but i know he wants to fix this problem, as you do. senator: i do. you were in the senate for 20 years. is that right? a.g. sessions: that is right. senator: how many successful reforms did you see over 20 years? a.g. sessions: not many. i have seen some bad things. my little line has always been any time you brought up anything in this hottie on immigration, it would actually work to reduce lawlessness, it would never pass.
senator: senator sessions, if we go down the path -- there are two extremes in this debate. we do not need borders, we need bridges. they are wrong. and then there is another group that says they entered the country illegally, even if they were minors, and they all need to go home. twoe allow either of those ends of the spectrum to dominate the debate, where do you think we will be in 20 years on the immigration debate? a fair analysis of it -- what the american people want is what i would like to see, is less and the lawlessness. does anybody advocate allowing people to enter the country unlawfully? senator: absolutely not, and i will finish, because you are the attorney general, but you and a number of your staff are actively engaged in the immigration reform strategy, and i would ask people to think reasonably about how we can go
about taking care of every layer of issue we have there, whether it is daca, the work visa programs, the abuses of our work visa programs or the visa programs, and until we get the same people coming in a room and recognizing we are not going to get it all done in one bill, and it did not even get done when the democrats had super majority, then we have to have a dialogue, with these people who will be here 20 years for now -- i will not be one of them -- they will be guilty of the same failure for the last 20 years, and i look forward to working with you and actively engaging with those in your office with something that actively produces an outcome. senator: right now. senator: something senator feinstein and i know, and maybe senator franken, i want to read , ranking member feinstein
about the investigation back in march. he provided some specific information that i think would resolve senator franken's concerns about the attorney general. unfortunately, we are not at liberty to say something about something that was given to us in a secured brief, but after that briefing, the ranking member and i wrote to the fbi and requested that the fbi give the full committee, all 20 members of this committee, to know what the two of us know from that briefing. the fbi did not do that, and now that we have conflicts that i think could have been avoided if the fbi would just have been more transparent with the oversight of this committee. we will adjourn now for -- have. them
[gavel] chair grassley: senator blumenthal, seven minutes. you,or blumenthal: thank mr. chairman. welcome back, mr. attorney general. committee,k to the and i want to pursue a question that was asked before the break, which i don't believe was answered. counsel contacted you regarding a potential interview or testimony?
well, maybe we should just leave that with the special counsel. blumenthal: the fact of the matter is that he has contacted you. is that a fact? a.g. sessions: i am not aware. center blumenthal: you are not aware that the special counsel has contacted you? how are you aware of who the special counsel has contacted? senator blumenthal: are you aware of them requesting an interview with you by the special counsel? no a.g. sessions:? -- yes or no? a.g. sessions: i don't think so. senator blumenthal: you don't think so? no a.g. sessions:? a.g. sessions: iowa will he to respond to the special counsel in any way, but i don't recall that i have been contacted. i certainly have not spoken with anyone directly with the special
counsel. senator blumenthal: but the fact is the special counsel has asked for an interview with you, correct? a.g. sessions: i am glad to let you know within hours. senator blumenthal: i am asking you now. i am not aware of being asked, and you seem to so i don't want to be trapped. maybe it was shared with somebody in my office, so i will go check and let you know. senator blumenthal: it would make sense for the special counsel to ask for interview, yes? that is up to him. senator blumenthal: you have knowledge about collusion and more, correct? a.g. sessions: it would be up to the special counsel, not me. senator blumenthal: the question to you was whether your office has been contacted, and you would certainly know the answer to that question. well, i have no knowledge of any meeting or
interview to be conducted and no dates certainly have been set, if there has been any conversation with somebody, i would verify before i gave you an absolute final answer. what can i tell you? chair grassley: can you give him an answer before the day is out? a.g. sessions: i said within hours, and i can do that. i can check. you seem to know. mr. attorneynthal: general, with all due respect, answeringe one questions today. i will welcome an answer to my question as soon as possible following this hearing, as the chairman has suggested, and as i think you have agreed. answering questions today. let me ask you. my understanding is that the president of the united states has interviewed a number of candidates for united states
attorney positions around the country, including new york. is that correct? yes.sessions:let me ask we have done quite a number. we are not there yet, not complete, but we are working through the u.s. attorney process. blumenthal: isn't that quite unusual for the president of the united states to inerview the line prosecutor an office like the united states well,ey? a.g. sessions: it is a big state, important office. i do not know how many people the president of the united states has interviewed in these situations. it is his appointed, as you know. what we do and the federal judges do, the review, we send that over, and the president -- senator blumenthal: do you know of any president anywhere in our history previously interviewing
a candidate for united states attorney? i certainly was not interviewed by the president. you were not interviewed by the present before we were appointed united states attorney. has it ever happened before? a.g. sessions: with the candidates, oftentimes they are friends of presidents. senator blumenthal: you are not answering my question. you are correct that presidents sometimes no candidates for united states attorney, but to my knowledge, no president previously has ever interviewed the chief federal prosecutor in any united states attorney district. i consider it quite unusual. how many other attorneys general candidates has the president interviewed besides new york? i am not aware. i am not sure i remember whether he has interviewed for new york, it you say so, i assume so, and he has the right to, for sure,
because he has to make an assume that and i everybody would understand that. senator blumenthal: my understanding, general sessions, is that certain grants have been terminated to the city of new its alleged of violation of sanctuary cities policy. correct? a pointsions: we are at of reviewing those grants, and i do not know. they may well have been slowed under review, but it could be that a final decision has been made. on the list of one of the cities that was considered to be probably in 1373 under thew obama administration. we have reviewed those. a number of them have not been. blumenthal: such an
order stopping any grants to new york, and i am asking you whether the department of justice is potentially violating that order. if you can come back to me with a response, i know that you may not recall, but if you can also let me know about that, i would appreciate it. say,sessions: i can just senator blumenthal, my staff just handed me a note that i have not been asked for an interview. my office certainly has not been contacted with regard to that. maybe you had better check your source. senator blumenthal: let me ask you finally. you said that the pardon power is very broad, but if that pardon power were used to prevent or forestall testimony in a lawful investigation, that could be obstruction of justice, could it not? i don't know,
senator blumenthal. i have never researched that. i know you served in the department of justice as secretary and may well be more familiar than i, but i have -- my understanding is that a pardon can't be issued before a conviction occurs areas do you understand it that way? i will comeenthal: back to that issue in our subsequent questioning. thank you. senator: thank you, mr. chairman. i just want to note for the record involving the emollients lawsuit, that you said it has no merit, but the clause is notcally the present will -- exempt a present from a foreign state, and if the
argument of no merit is that the money does not go directly to him but to a not -- company or to those kinds of entities, then it is up to the court to decide if the emoluments clause can be evaded. a.g. sessions: i would just say -- you are right. the court will decide about that. senator: with the question from senator feinstein, you provided an expiration -- an explanation fired, director, it was but that was directly contradicted in public, where he said he find good tractor, and because of "the russian thing," and he said he was going to fire director, anyway, regardless of submitted, so are you contradicting the president explanation? -- fire director comey anyway, regardless of any memo you submitted? a.g. sessions: the president made the decision, and he is
talked about it, to some degree publicly. i do not know exactly what he said. senator: you were asked to give an explanation as to why andctor comey was fired, that was due to a letter sent to the president, and he directly contradicted that. a.g. sessions: i think that stands for itself. and i thinks:-- that stands for itself. a.g. sessions: let me correct myself. we were asked to give an opinion, and we gave it. the president makes a decision. yes, and i believe you were giving an expiration as to why the president fired him. let's move on. some questions about consent decrees at the department of justice entered into at that time. there were 20 of them. i believe in 1994, congress thated a statute authorizes lawsuits specifically to target a pattern or practice of unconstitutional behavior in
law enforcement agencies. during your confirmation hearing, you made it pretty play that you are not a big fan of these kinds of consent degrees, calling them "a dangerous exercise of raw power," and although i asked you at that time whether you were going to amend any of the existing consent decrees that had been negotiated, agreed to, and approved the courts, my recollection was that you were not sure but, in fact, you are reviewing all of these consent decrees. can you tell me why you are reviewing them, and is there a plan to amend any of these existing decrees and whether you intend to make public any of the findings of your review of the existing consent decrees? well, consent decrees are never to be permanent. the federal government nor the court should be permanently enjoined from running police departments and sheriffs
departments in any city. there is a situation in one state where a sheriff was sued about a jail that was improperly being run or and him proper jail. the jail, perhaps we should see about removing that from the , sincection of the court it has barely met the challenges that he was given. senator: i am running out of time. i hate to be rude. so you have some concerns about the time frames of consent degrees, because my understanding of consent degrees is that they do not go in perpetuity. what they want to see is some improvement is occurring, so why don't we get to the question of whether you intend to make public the findings of your review of the consent degrees that are in existence? i don't know that
we have any plan to review ofsent decrees with the idea terminating them, but we should terminate those that are ready to be terminated. i do not have the unilateral power to do so. the court has already taken jurisdiction, and if the parties do not agree, if the attorney general recommends a termination, a judge would have to find that is appropriate. senator: are you going to make your recommendations public after your review? well, if we ask for a termination, it would be public. it would have to be filed in court. senator: i think you are -- you it is a very simple question about whether you would enable the public to understand the basis of your review, and, of course, it has to be terminated, you have to go to
the court. i understand that, so, ok, you are just not responding to that question. let me get to your religious liberty memorandum. on october 6, you issued guidance on religious liberty, withly directing agencies 20 principles of religious liberty, and you also issued a memo on how the department of justice should implement these him and you said they should be incorporated into litigation strategy and arguments, operations, grant applications, pending cases, and opinions for other agencies, and i am wondering, did you issue principles related to, for example, what the doj should do with regard to civil rights issues or individual liberty issues or voting rights or second amendment cases? a.g. sessions: we have not issued such a statement of principles on other issues. senator: but on religious items, you did. let me point to one of them.
section eight of your memo says that government cannot selectively impose regulatory burdens on some denominations but not others. etc., etc., and, friendly, mr. attorney general, this provision leads me to question whether, for example, a section raises questions such as whether the government can grant an exemption to the affordable care act as the social benefits requirement to a business owner who claims to adhere to a religious faith that only practices faith healing and believes that any other sort of medical intervention is morally wrong or raises the question such as whether a business owner who has a demonstratively false religious belief that all vaccines contain fetal some cell tissue-- fetal stem cell or cause autism is an except aanch a burden that is substantial burden.
mr. attorney general, i would say the 20 religious principles, i only cited one which raises concerns that i have. let me go on to another question. lgbtq rights. in a case argued this year before the second circuit, your departments omitted a brief and argued that title vii of the -- andights act of 1964 your department submitted a brief that argued that title vii of the civil rights act of 19 d4 -- 1964, to include sexual identity. this is inconsistent with the eoc guidance and what came from the court of appeals. violates federal law to fire an employee because they are gay? a.g. sessions: we carefully reviewed the law on that. my staff has. since the 1964 civil rights act, of which title vii is a part, it
had been interpreted that way. all circuit courts of appeals had interpreted that that way, except this year. there was a reversal, i believe, the seventh circuit, as you indicated, so the position we have taken in the litigation is consistent with president obama 's department of justice, all but one of the courts of appeals, and it has been that way for quite a long time, so we itk a lawful position, and is distinctly the minority position to hold otherwise. senator: i just need to have that clarified. chair grassley: senator feinstein for five minutes, second round. attorneyeinstein: general, fugitives cannot possess legally guns. months ago, the justice department issued a memo
redefining who qualifies as a fugitive from justice, and since then, more than half a million names of fugitives with outstanding arrest weren't -- warrants had been removed from the instant criminal background check. we are hearing from local law enforcement, which has concern about this. why did the department reject the fbi view that the law blocks sales to anyone with an arrest weren't -- warrant? to. sessions: i will have review that, senator feinstein. senator feinstein: you would? thank you. i would like to know the details of that. i should know. senator feinstein: i should know, too. for a moment on the dark web. "the new york times" wrote a piece about the use of the dark web of criminal enterprises and
others secretly doing business with users, so it seems to me that the problem of a dark web being used by criminals is going to grow in the coming years. do you have any plans to address it, or would you begin to think about it so we might have some conversations on this? does i think there is a lot of concern out there in law enforcement communities about the dark web being used to commit crime. i would bens: pleased to do so. we are very concerned about that. the fbi is very concerned about that. they did take down, i think, the two biggest dark websites. this last one we took down recently. 240,000 sites, where individuals were selling, for the most part, it illegal substance is or guns on that
-- forncluding fentanyl the most part, illegal that site,or guns on including fentanyl, and they use bitcoin, and it is a big problem. senator feinstein: thank you. i would like to work with you, where it recall -- calls for legislation. i'm going to quit while i am ahead. chair grassley: thank you very much. senator: attorney general sessions, i would like to pick up on where we left off on this issue of privilege. to refresh your recollection, we were talking about the process reagan 1982 order for the assertion of executive privilege, and your concluding remarks were about the importance that there actually soan executive privilege that the president can have conversations with his immediate
staff and cabinet members and so forth, and that is a principle that i think everyone in this room agrees to. there is an offsetting principle, which is that congress has the power of oversight over the executive tell,, and as best i can where those conflicting prince was come together is in that conflicting-- principles come together is in that 1982 reagan order. that is the prevailing order right now under which the department of justice is operating, so i go back to that says that executive privilege shall not be invoked without special -- specific, sorry, specific authorization. as we go on through the order, as we discussed, there is a provision that allows for a
even properly assertion of privilege, described as a request to the congress to hold in advance -- nce, while the executive branch determines whether or not to exert executive privilege, so -- and i get that. it makes certain sense that there should be a period of abeyance, to determine what should be part and what should not, or whether there is a question of what should touch on executive privilege, and you have to make that temporary assertion, because you cannot make that call necessarily from your chair at that moment. i get all of that. here is my problem. i do not see any effort on the part of the administration to ever get a specific presidential
authorization for the assertion of executive privilege as to anything, and there were some very specific questions that were asked of you and the intelligence -- in the intelligence committee, one by senator warner. your knowledge have any justice department officials been involved in conversations about the possibility of any presidential pardons with any individuals involved in the russian investigation, and senator heinrich asking if the president ever expressed frustration towards you about recusing yourself, and i think you appropriately did not abeyanceecause of the period, where you seek out whether it was to seek out privilege. a.g. sessions: i think so. senator whitehouse: but at some
thet, he has to enact privilege greet it just cannot be in abeyuance. can you? a.g. sessions: the way it has been done historically is that specific requests have been made, various steps occur, and if an agreement is not reached in the process, it is supposed to occur and to see if it can't , and most of these are documents. i am unaware of the supreme that congressing has a right to inquire of the president's private conversations between top cabinet officials. senator whitehouse: it actually works the other way around according to present reagan, which is that they have the ability to acquire into absolutely anything and that
congressional requests for information are to be complied with as fully as possible, unless, unless there is an assertion of executive privilege . the default is that you have to answer our questions. it is only when there is an assertion of executive privilege that that default is no longer the case, and while there is a nce, what i ama worried about is this administration is de facto rewriting ronald reagan's order by executive privilege so that has noriod of abeyance end in that congress is stonewalled without ever getting an assertion of executive privilege, an assertion to which i believe we are entitled if we are going to be prevented from getting information. indicated,ns: as you you have quite the ability to work your way through the complexities of this. i would say we are not at that
point. i believe before you have an assertion of executive privilege by the president he must know precisely what it is he is being asked to provide, number one. and he also has the right to be informed as to why his privilege is of high value, why it should waived in exchange for the request and the reason the request is made, and one thing i think you raised or somebody did, senator whitehouse, i think i may have misunderstood. it is true the attorney general by talking to the white house counsel, who is presumed to speak for the president, can waive or not waive a request, but really, the white house counsel is considered under those circumstances to be an extension of the president. so i think --
senator whitehouse: ok, fair enough. my time is up. we will have to pursue this. chair grassley: i would like to pursue it a little bit from history. i'm not sure what i want to stay here, directly response to what you and senator whitehouse were talking about. but i have had the same problem with previous attorney generals, and i got answers similar to what you are giving senator , sessions. i would say i will read when attorney general holder was in that chair, i asked him questions about why he would not give us information about the department's false statements that were made to this committee gun lobbying in "fast and furious," and the information had nothing to do with communications with the president and not advocate any constitutional privilege. still he would not answer. , and then chairman leahy did not direct him to do so. then, at another time, when same questionct
you have been asked sometimes, senator -- general sessions, when holder testified on fast and furious he said the exact same thing that attorney general sessions is saying today. quoting holder, "we will act in a way that is consistent with what other attorney general's have made determinations as to what information can be shared with congressional oversight committees. and these are republican as well as democratic attorneys general. and i will act in a manner that is consistent with the history and the tradition of the department." then i said, you are refusing to provide drafts of that february 4 letter? that goes way back to 2010 or 2011, and emails about the drafts even though they have been subpoenaed by the house without a valid constitutional
privilege, that, of course, risks contempt of congress. why would you risk contempt of congress to prevent us from finding out who reviewed the drafts of that letter and whether they knew they contained false statements? this is what the attorney general holder said. "well, i will certainly try to work with you and providing all the relevant information that we can. we will, however act in a way , that is consistent with what other attorneys general have made determinations as to what information can be shared with congressional oversight committees. and these are republican as well as democratic attorneys general. and i will act in a manner consistent with the history and tradition of the department." senator leahy is next for her -- a second round. five minutes. senator leahy: thank you. i think it is generally accepted the people here, the press knows
this. 9d rosenstein's may memorandum tying director coming's pardon to his handling of the clinton administration served as a pretext. president trump fired director coming due to the russia investigation. president trump has said as much. now, the press recently reported letter pennedent , by president trump to justify firing director coming because of the russia investigation. one report says you are involved in discussions in the oval office surrounding the initial letter, not the clinton won, but the russian one. one but thelinton russian one. when you signed off on the may 9 memorandum, you did, the president did, when you signed up on the may 9 memorandum time coming's determination to the
clinton investigation, were you aware of the initial letter? a.g. sessions: senator leahy, i also believe it consumes a possible communication for the president of the united states, and the same privilege would apply. senator leahy: so you are not going to answer if you are aware of the russia one? a.g. sessions: i think that is the proper course for the attorney general at this time. senator leahy: you think that. i don't. my concern is you are part of the russian façade and went along with it. and i'm sorry. i have known you for years, and i am sorry you would do that. now let me ask you another area. , president trump says he believes the cuban government is responsible for sonic attacks against our diplomats. i have heard all the reports. we can't find anything that connects the cuban government to a sonic attack. i doubt they have the capability for such a thing.
cubans, after this had gone on for a while, we told him about it. bring the fbi down. bring the fbi. they said please feel free. it took us weeks to get around to doing that. do you know of any evidence to support the president's assertion that the cuban government is responsible? now, we are not talking about privilege here, because he said this openly. do you share the president's conclusion that the cuban government is responsible? a.g. sessions: i almost called the mr. chairman again. senator grassley might get upset with me. i did serve a long time under your chairmanship, so it did hurt me to say you think i am part of a façade. i am not part of a façade.
but on this question of cuba, it is a matter that may be -- let me just say this. i can't confirm or deny the existence of an investigation it has not been confirmed by an authoritative government agency i don't believe. >> are you aware that the cuban government -- do you have any evidence that the cuban government is responsible? a.g. sessions: i'm just not able to comment. >> do you know why it took so long for the f.b.i. to accept an invitation to go down and investigate? come on in. bring all of your equipment. bring anything you want. it took us weeks to make up our mind to do it. any reason for that? a.g. sessions: i would say to you i will consider your
oncerns. >> i have yet to see any evidence that the cuban government is responsible. if there is, have someone meet with me. they can tell me. would you do that? a.g. sessions: we will valuate that, yes. >> now, the citizenship a reliable indicator of worst r terrorist threats? a.g. sessions: i don't know exactly what you mean by that. >> the basis of the president's travel ban. both former director colmeand john kelly said it is not a reliable indicator.
i'll ask you this question. you're free to answer it the way you want. we talked about dhaka. you argued it was obama's failure to enforce laws. it put us at danger of crime risk or terrorism. how many daca recipients have been involved in terrorism? a.g. sessions: i think in the previous hearing you asked one my attorneys from the department of justice about that. i believe you were incorrect in the quote to him. >> i asked if he could provide a single example of a daca recipient involved in terrorista activity. he said he was not aware of any examples. a.g. sessions: most importantly, i want to correct that my comments did not focus
solely on daca recipients. it was others that entered the country unlawfully. i believe that is correct. >> i read back -- the division chief said he did not know of a single dam of daca recipients being involved in terrorist activity. a.g. sessions: we know 2,000 have been taken off as daca recipients for serious crime,. >> dreamers are less likely to be incarcerated than native born americans of the same age. a.g. sessions: i don't believe in open borders. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
2,000 out of 780,000 daca applicants were found to have disqualifying criminal records. is that what you're saying? a.g. sessions: i'm saying after they were accepted into the daca program. actually accepted, 2,000 vob removed as a result of -- >> 2,000 out of 780,000 a.g. sessions: i think that is correct number over a short period of time. i'm not saying there was any disproportionate amount of crime out of that group although we are seeing young gang members being infiltrated. that is after the deadline for daca so they would not be in that group. >> they are escaping the background check, fingerprinting requirements for daca? a.g. sessions: after they have
done a background check, been approved for daca, i believe 2,000 have been convicted of some serious crime. >> out of 780,000. we had people turned down by guns because they have felony records. a.g. sessions: that is not the basis as you know for our daca difficulties. it was a legal matter from our perspective. i do think senator, i know you care about it. if we could seize this opportunity, some good things might happen. >> i hope they will. i want to make sure i understand the guidance that you released from your department when it comes to lgbq rights and religious freedom. turned guidance you released to all of the federal agencies. let me ask you this question.
could a social security administration employee refuse to accept or process schoolhousal or survivor benefits for surviving same sex spouse? a.g. sessions: that's something i never thought would arise. i would have to give give you a written -- >> i would like to. federal contractor refuse to provide services to lgbq people? a.g. sessions: i would say to siting title 7 for this or the guidance? >> the guidance. a.g. sessions: i'm not sure that is covered but it. >> there are others too. this is a challenging issue. when you have said i believe you, that you do not want to discriminate and people are
discriminating in the name of their own personal religious liberty. it is a real challenge for us. to reconcile those. would you like to speak to that? a.g. sessions: yes, i would say that wherever possible, a person should be allowed to freely exercise their religion and not to carry out activities that further something they think is contrary to their faith. but at the same time, if you participate in commercial exchanges, you have limits on what you can do under those laws. accommodation-type laws. so the balance needs to be properly struck. i think we have. we tried -- those issues were discussed. we wrestled with this policy. >> we'll send you a list and ask you for your response to those questions. historically we have struggled
with some aspect of that. on the criminal sentencing, when the initiate i ever was announced by the previous administration, they went through an extensive review of criminal justice to see what practices were best to reduce crime and address recidivism. i would like to ask you before rescinding on crime and enacting the new policy, did you conduct a review process? a.g. sessions: we had our career attorneys work intensely on evaluating a lot of good crime policy. the essential project safe neighborhood system has been proven to be successful. that is what we would like to implement. i would say, under this previous policy, we for the first time in 30 years, we have seen significant increases in violent crime in
america to the degree that i'm very worried about it. the murder rate particularly is up 20% in two years. >> are you concerned about the increased incident of gun violence and gun crimes? a.g. sessions: yes. we already have a substantial increase in gun prosecutions. it would be a top priority of mine as department of justice. i think the second quarter of the year, third quarter of the year, we had a 25% increase. i think third or fourth quarter of this year, we have a 14% increase in gun prosecutions. i encourgs that. i think it does reduce violence. > thank you. > senator? >> i'm sorry. i was hoping that no republican would come back. [laughter] >> i would like to note for the record that you said that
and not me. i'm just trying to be polite. >> i guess i know where i stand. i appreciate it. thank you for. the ninth circuit decision in the sanchez-gomez case that ended the safety protocols for detaining. it is obviously very important for arizona. we have a very busy docket as it pertains to immigration. it has the support of the national sheriffs association, western states sheriffs association and the arizona sheriffs association. we have a lot of historic courthouses in arizona that don't lend themselves well to separation between detainees and the public. often having to share hall ways and door ways without the
long standing restraint protocols that existed. it makes it impossible to bring a number of people through system. and it will really hobble the flaufert arizona. have you looked at this and how do you believe this decision the ninth circuit will impact the courtroom? a.g. sessions: i will be glad to look at it. i'm not familiar with it. the issue has been out there for a long time. judges ence is that decide that fairly day after day. some people deserve to be shackled but they don't do it unless it is necessary. the ninth circuit, the case would reverse that long standing policy. >> that is correct. obviously we have protocols and court decisions with regard to jury trials and the appearance of somebody who is
restrained. but this is just arraignments. went before a judge. really puts court officials, security officials, the public at risk in men circumstances or it ties up our sheriffs and other law enforcement officials from actually going out on the beat and doing what they should do. to actually having to be in the courtroom at all times. it is really a problem with regard to implementation of something like operation streamline which we spoke about many times. it really inhibits the ability to move the number of people through the system quickly enough because where we used to be able to have 30 or 40 individuals there, arraigned at the same time, now they can only do six or seven. so it simply makes it impossible to move through the docket. appreciate the d.o.j.'s position on this. i hope the supreme court grants are there. a.g. sessions: we will review it.
>> with regard to human trafficking. earlier this year, the subcommittee on investigations concluded a two-year investigation. it revealed the company knowingly facilitated online sex trafficking. in july the subcommittee referred to case to your office for criminal investigation. can you tell us to the extent that you're able, what the status of that investigation is? a.g. sessions: i don't believe i can. i'm not able to now. a review as to whether or not i can comment on it. what the status may be. >> we'll check back with you on that. i have letters of support to stop enabling sex traffickers act. several of my colleagues would prevent companies like backpage.com from committing
online sex trafficking crimes. these are letters from the national center of missing and exploited children that i would like to submit for the record. >> without objection, your letters will be submitted. a.g. sessions: human trafficking is a priority of ours. my deputy attorney general feels strong aboutette. rachael brand has made that one of her interests and made a couple of speeches on that recently. we can do more and we will do more. >> ok. thank you. one other item. you mentioned in your opening remarks, with regard to civil forfeitture. that you put some protocols in lace in terms of those whose assets were seized. what other protocols? what are we doing to ensure we have a better system than we have in the past? i'm convinced that has been
abused at every level. a.g. sessions: we will respond to any problems that are out there that we identify in the future. when the government has probable cause and is able to seize the money usually, drug trafficking money usually, the -- they have a certain period of time to respond. we cut that by at least half if not i believe a little more than half. we have -- we have directed our assisting united states attorneys to monitor the state authorities and the d.e.a. to make sure the systems are working well. we have required that before we adopt a case from the state that they be trained in proper procedures for a federal court system and not just any police officer so they know what they are supposed to do. i think that will be a big
help. i believe there is some other they think so. then i don't know if you were here, but i did announce a accepted out monday a directive to establish an accountability officer who'll be in the deputy's office monitoring all of these cases, complaints that may occur so we can respond properly. we want this -- this system is important. it is a top priority. every law enforcement agency in america but it has to be run right. that is going to be our goal. >> cutting the time in half, for notification. is cold comfort for some who have this stretch on for months and years. i hope that we do more than cut the time in half for some of these. >> that's just one of the things that would happen. we won't take nothing but good cases. we're winning at the 90%
level. st of these cases are open shut. i know your concerns. i'm not taking this lightly. we will monitor this problem. >> thank you. attorney general. i'll start with where i ended with the election issues. turned to russian cybersecurity. as you know, there have now been established by our agency 21 state where is there was some attempt to tack into their election equipment. as senator graham and i have a bill, we tried to get an amendment to the mdaa to provide some more funding to states to beef up their infrastructure. back up ballots. the bill is carried by mark
meadows, the head of the freedom caucus. there is strong bipartisan support for this. are you aware of any efforts between the department and other federal agencies to assist states in this upcoming election to protect our elections from hacking? a.g. sessions: the f.b.i. is as -- has capabilities and has experience in many of these matters and has some really superior capabilities. so i do think it is an important matter. i look forward to working with you on it. and we do not need to this any way subject our election process to some sort electronic alteration on the vote totals. that would be a stunning disaster and cannot happen. >> thank you. new topic. when i asked you about voting rights at your hearing in january. are you acknowledging discriminatory voting laws that led to the passage of the
votings rights act. rules and procedures adopted in a number of states with the specific purpose of blocking african-americans from vote and it was just wrong. they are facing some of the same problems today. the circuit court in the north carolina voter i.d. case said the north carolina laws were crafted with "surgical precision" to keep certain people from voting. so my question is do you believe that voter i.d. laws that are found to be intentionally discriminatory rve any kind of legitimate policy objective and my second question is why the justice department changed its sition on the texas voting i.d. case. a.g. sessions: you cannot have laws that deliberately seek to diminish one group's vote total although there can be
objective criteria set that could have some impact on -- impact. with regard to texas, the way that happened and it came -- when i became attorney general, texas had been sued over its voter i.d. law. it was being challenged as being discriminatory. an election was coming up before the final abjude indication was rendered and the federal court approved so it could go forward. the texas legislation then took what the federal court had approved and adopted it as a law of texas. we felt that at that point the department of justice should not continue the lawsuit against texas. because had it actually enacted a through a the
federal court had approved. >> ok. i'm we can maybe go back and forth in writing on that. i have some different views. i wanted to finish up with two issues key to me. this is on freedom of the press. we talked about it at your last hearing. you said you wanted to look at what was going on with the ongoing regulations. the department is now taking some action. i will ask the question, will you commit to not putting reporters in jail for doing their jobs? a.g. sessions: i don't know if i can make a blanket commitment to that effect but we have not taken any directive action against the media at this point. but we have matters that involve the morse serious national security issues that put our country at risk. we will utilize the authorities that we have
legally and constitutionly if we have to. always try to find an alternative way. you probably know, senator, to directly confronting a media person but that is not a total blanket protection. >> understand. we're just really concerned because to have president's recent communications about f.c.c. licensing with some of the media content and we're working with the f.c.c. on that and didn't get a positive answer from the chairman on that. i will put on the record some of the questions i have in the ntitrust -- a provision with the september court filing. it was before the new anti-trust head was in. i just ask that you review that. over all i support that decision but there was a surprising entry in that order that i would like you to look
at and then the second is just committing to follow the merger guidelines that have been in place and then criminal justice already covered by my colleagues, something i care a lot about. again, i'll just put a few more questions on the record. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. attorney general. i would like to just touch on our last conversation and then move on. i would like my five seconds back. then go to the d.o.j.'s record on lgbt people. their rights. i just want to get this clear. at thened of your answer, at the end there, you said i felt the need to respond and i responded on the spot. this is an interim transcript.
i may have it wrong. this is how i recollect it as well. it has been six hours in the hearing. it is at the end of the day and i'm not aware of those activities. communications with the russians. i don't believe they occurred. is that that you don't believe that surrogates from the trump campaign had communications with the russians? a.g. sessions: i'm not aware of anyone anyone else that did. i don't believe that it happened. >> that's what i wanted to ask you. do you believe that michael flynn was a surrogate for the campaign? >> he could probably be designed as that. >> do you believe that paul n fort was a surrogate for a.g. sessions: for a short time. >> do you believe that jared
kushner was a surrogate for the campaign? a.g. sessions: i really don't know whether his role -- there are no clear definition. i assume a surrogate is normally someone who is speaking on behalf -- >> do you believe that donald trump jr. was a surrogate? a.g. sessions: he was his son and he spoke. >> ok. just wanted to know then. i would like to talk about the department's record. on protecting the rights of lgbt people. a man charged with murdering a transgender teenager in iowa. i will be the first to say that d.o.j. should be lauded for doing so. far too often crimes targeting lgbq people, particularly transgender women of color go
nderreported and uninvestigate prosecuting this hate crime, d.o.j. has wasted time undermining attempts to safeguard them by revoking policies declining to % them and declining to defend their rights in court. they revoked guidelines to make schools safe and welcoming places for d.o.j. students. they argued federal civil rights laws don't protect lesbian, gay or bisexual workers. they asserted transgender people don't deserve federal protection from discrimination at work. they are defending the president's ban on transgender troops in court. drecking the government to accommodate people with
anti-lgbq views and it could allow them to sidestep laws banning it in schools and work all in the name of religious liberty. general sessions, there is an argument to be made no single trump fertile has done more to hurt lgbq people than you. your actions stand in stark contrast to the promises you last made when you last appeared before this committee. you said you understand the demand for justice made by the community and promise to ensure that the statutes protecting their civil rights and safety are fully enforced but steady under your leadership, d. jombings has demonstrated an -- d.o.j. has demonstrated an unrelenting hostility to lgbq people. they are not worthy of protection from discongratulations or from being harassed at work or
school. businesses shouldn't have to serve them if they don't want to. that emboldens people who want to do them harm. with aggressively pursuing an agenda that gives cover to discrimination and hits a? a.g. sessions: senator franken, i would ject the phrase unrelenting hostility. we do not -- this department of justice has no hostility to transgender or sexual orientation issues. in fact, we follow the law as i promised to do. with regard to several of the job employment issues you raised, that is directly controlled by title seven of the civil rights act and title
seven of the civil rights act has never been held or at least by the department of justice under the entire eight years of the obama administration to include these protections. and the 11 courts of appeals, my understanding 10 of the 11 courts of appeals all agree that it is not protected by titleployment law under seven. only one circuit has recently reversed that position. so the position we're taking is the president obama, eric holder, lynch position. in the title seven issue. on title nine, the education, the schools question, it likewise is not covered in our opinion in the same way that seven is not covered,
does not cover this employment issue. the department of justice or the department the department of justice or the department of education, sent a directed to states telling them they had to accommodate transgendered individuals in their choice of bathrooms. we felt the law did not answer that. we felt the states and localities could make -- senator franken: that is at odds with the obama administration. we reverse to that, we believe it is in alignment with law. >> thank you for having a second round. i am deeply troubled by the president's attacks on the press, seemingly repeated and relentless, the suggestion that reporters should be prosecuted for stories that are adverse to
him, not a violation of localities any any national security interest, but simply unfavorable. then his suggestion that broadcast licenses should be challenged simply because he disagrees with the network's coverage of him, reminiscent of richard nixon's encouragement of a challenge to the washington post broadcast license for coverage he claimed was inaccurate. i have asked every member of the fcc to reject and repudiate these threats, which have a chilling effect on coverage. i would like to ask you now to do the same. isn't it -- wouldn't it be illegal to deny a broadcast license or revoke a broadcast license simply because the president's dislike of its
content? a. g. sessions: if you let me respond to senator franken just one moment, i felt to mention there is a violence against women law and the ron white act. that both explicitly mentions sexual identity and orientation. we enforce those as you would want them enforced. the other laws don't. senator blumenthal, i would suggest -- >> he went above his time. >> you get another 30 seconds. i hope no republicans come back. we've got 15 more minutes for democrats. i still have my second round. we have votes at 3:00. i want to get out of here by 3:00.
blumenthal.ator a.g. sessions: this is a good counsel i am talking to today. the president is open, direct and expresses himself when he wants to express himself. it is a free country. there are limits. senator blumenthal: it is a free country. i apologize for interrupting you -- but this issue is so profoundly serious. for the fcc to deny license or revoke a license based on content of tv coverage would be absolutely illegal, don't you agree? a.g. sessions: the fcc would need to decide how to handle those matters with propriety and integrity and consistent with law. the president can make his own expressions. senator blumenthal: mr. attorney
general, i am going to follow-up on this line of questioning in another forum. do you have under consideration any analysis of a potential pardon for any of the following individuals -- jared kushner, donald trump jr., or paul manafort? a.g. sessions: i am confident -- i don't think it is appropriate for me to comment on the pardon process. a.g. sessionssenator blumenthal? a.g. sessions: it is an investigation that probably should not be discussed in this forum. i will review it if i am wrong. senator blumenthal: would you agree the president, even though he has broad pardon power, does have the power -- does not have the power to pardon himself? to pardon himself. a.g. sessions: i have not
researched that. senator blumenthal: on the emoluments clause, i have joined 199 colleagues in a lawsuit against the president. blumenthal versus trump. he is taking foreign payments and benefits without coming to congress for consent. the department of justice is defending him in court. these personal benefits and payments to the trump organization and him are a violation of the emoluments clause. the department of justice is challenging that lawsuit on the basis of our standing, even though the law clearly requires he come to us for a consent. wouldn't you agree that we have a legitimate case here of agreement and injury -- aggr ievement and injury when in effect the president is stopping us from doing our job?
a.g. sessions: senator blumenthal, we believe lawyers in the department, this is a proper defense of the president, that having a business abroad, if interpreted broadly would mean -- they would have to sell everything they've got abroad. if somebody buys something from them, they receive something from a foreign party -- you have a right to challenge it, take it to court. we think this law has never been enforced in that way. senator blumenthal: i'm glad you agree we have a right to go to court and that we have standing to do so. thank you mr. chairman. a.g. sessions: i did not intend to concede standing. >> did i cut you off? senator cornyn for seven minutes, first round. senator cornyn: it is good to have you here before the committee again. it has been a long day. i regret many of us have
conflicting appointments, including at the white house, to talk about tax reform and other issues. i want to say i am proud of the job you have done as attorney general. those of us who know you personally and have worked with you, alongside of you, none of us are surprised you are the same person of character and committed to the rule of law. i just want you to know how much we appreciate it. serving in public life sometimes is not fun. certainly you have caught your own slings and arrows in the process, but i just want to encourage you to not be discouraged. you've got a tough job to do the department of the department of justice after eight years of mismanagement where i think the american people lost confidence in the department's ability to do things in a nonpolitical fashion.
i know you are the man to help restore the reputation of the department. i know how much you care about it and how many years you have given to that. keep up the good work. a.g. sessions: thank you. senator cornyn: i want to ask you about a couple things. this may sound a little bit obscure. i know you are familiar with the committee on foreign investment in the united states. as you and i have discussed on the telephone, china steals our intellectual property on a regular basis through cyber theft and cyber espionage. also foundve creative ways to invest in u.s. companies, in ways that circumvent traditional review of the also found investment, in wt give them access to the crown jewels of a company.
property, foral example, in a way that blunts the u.s. technological advantage when it comes to national security, and in a way that undermines our industrial base at home. if it takes us 10 years to do the research and development, but china can steal it through cyber or invest as a minority shareholder or in a joint venture and get access to that without having to go through the same expense and delay, that is a threat to national security. i might just ask if you would comment on whether you support the effort to modernize and reform the process to deal withs a threat to national security. this threat to national security. a.g. sessions: i absolutely do. we have looked at that hard. i have talked with attorneys and agents who investigated these cases. they are really worried about
our loss of technology. we certainly need additional legislation.to national just as you said, you can buy an interest in a company and gain access to the same technology.l. just as you said, you can buy an interest in a company and gain access to the same technology. the program is not able to be effective enough. your legislation is first rate. we think it has great potential to push back against the abuses and dangers we face. i'm excited about it. anything i can do to say publicly, thank you for that work, and to call on congress to move on it rapidly, you would be winning the confidence and support of people who investigate these matters every day and know what is going on. they support what you are doing and hope congress can follow through. senator cornyn: i want to
briefly mention the internet crimes against children task force program we are trying to reauthorize, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces of local and state law enforcement focused like a laser on trying to fight the scourge of child pornography and fight the predators who take advantage of the dark side of the internet to harm children. senator blumenthal, who i just -- i guess has just left, he and i joined a bipartisan bill called the protect our children act. i appreciate the support and the consultation we have had with the justice department in getting this as far as we have. sends not signal it congress and the image -- sends congress and the
administration is ready to fight this terrible scourge. in the two minutes i have left, i want to revisit section 702. of the foreign intelligence surveillance act. the administration is ready to fight this terrible scourge. in the two minutes i have left,n this because we have been told by people like you and the fbi director and others in the intelligence community that this represents the crown jewels of our ability to detect terrorist activity and prevent terrorist attacks, and keep america safe. there are some who worry about this capability of the federal government, but as you pointed out this morning, it is focused exclusively on foreign targets. just like a wiretap that a police officer or law enforcement officer may have access to, there may be more than the person whose phone is tapped in a domestic criminal
investigation that comes on the line. the fact somebody else that is not the target of the investigation comes on the telephone and you happen to hear their conversation doesn't mean that represents a illegal or unconstitutional search under the fourth amendment. as you know, there are multiple levels of supervision. both at the intelligence community, like the national security agency -- elaborate protocols to protect the privacy of u.s. persons who may be incidentally collected as part of this process. there are audits. there is congressional oversight. both the house and the senate have intelligence committees that take this very seriously. senator feinstein and i both represent the judiciary committee on the intelligence committee for that purpose because we take that and all of the committees, the work done in this area very seriously.
i think most people don't realize there's also federal court supervision, the foreign intelligence surveillance court because we take that and all of that monitors the activities of the intelligence community to make sure privacy rights of americans are protected and the constitution is enforced. the chairman is giving me a little latitude here, since this is my first round, but would you mind summarizing your support for section 702? if you disagree with any of the characterization have made, please feel free to say so. a.g. sessions: thank you for your support. actually, i appreciate how you have been able to find time to master the details of this. it is a complex subject. i thank you for doing it. look-- >> you answered the same question fro me. can you give a short answer to
him? a.g. sessions: there is no doubt you have a right to survey all communications of a person who is a noncitizen abroad. the reason you do that is to find out who they are talking to. if they are talking to a terrorist. you really want to know if they are talking to a terrorist in the united states. we don't have the money or the time and the effort just to srveiurveil the world. obvious purpose of it is defined not who they are talking to and what they might be plotting is not necessary to have a warrant. the courts have never required that. to do so would be unimaginable problem for our officers. maybe there are things we can do to create confidence, but i hope as you wrestle through with that we don't add things that aren't valuable, but make it problematic for agents to be effective in using this
constitutionally approved procedure. senator cornyn: would it be dangerous to erect obstacles to section 702? would it be dangerous to the american people? a.g. sessions: there is no doubt about it. as the head of the national security agency, head of the fbi have all testified. >> i'm going to take my five minutes now. during your june 13 hearing before the select committee on intelligence, you testified you had discussed the issue of james comey's firing with deputy attorney general rosenstein before either of you were confirmed for your current position. mr. comey was fired may 9. why did you talk to deputy attorney general rosenstein about the firing of mr. comey, and what did you discuss with him? when did you come to the conclusion that james comey needed to be terminated?
a.g. sessions: in my view, after discussing with director comey, excuse me, my possible new deputy attorney general rosenstein, we discussed it. he was the united states attorney 12 years, i was the united states attorney 12 years. we love the department. we know about it. it was my best judgment, as i expressed it, that a fresh start at the fbi was appropriate. >> why did you think mr. comey needed to be removed? a.g. sessions: i don't think he was essential at that time, but that was my best judgment. and i think his. i believe a few weeks before he was actually terminated, he was testifying before congress, and that that time, asserted he
the crime problem in america and how best to address it. the professionals have impressed me dramatically with an updated project safe neighborhoods policy that focuses on the key areas where crime rate is high. the whole idea that you shouldn't see where the crimes are occurring and investigate those crimes is a mistaken thing. new york and other jurisdictions have proven if you do this systematically, you can reduce crime and make communities safer. we are going to do that on a localized basis, encouraging u.s. attorneys to take the lead with federal and state. we have statistics that prove those policies have worked. dropped whereally
they have been implemented. i don't want to be overconfident. i don't now how strong this think weime is, but i can make a difference and i am determined to do so. >> we are deploying a similar strategy in delaware that is making some progress. but the combination of the opioid crisis, the easy availability of guns, and other factors is making it particularly tough in our community. in your confirmation hearing, you stated that a special priority for you would be the enforcement of laws to ensure access to the ballot for every availability of guns, and other factors is making eligible voter, but earlier after six years of litigation the department dropped its claim ,, the texas legislator passed a law to discriminate. only weeks later the courts found that claim had merit. shouldn't the department of justice continue to pursue discrimination claims when supported by the evidence? a.g. sessions: yes it should
pursue that when it is supported by the evidence. let me say this about voter id. the supreme court has upheld voter id policies if properly conducted. taxes passed a voter id law. the court found it defective and struck it down. an election was coming up immediately. the court approved a new version of the voter id law. texas legislature passed that court-approved modified version, we withdrew our opposition to it. we think that was the right and proper thing, and not really -- i will say the department of justice was still in the case. in a way we reversed it, but i would say the department of justice won the battle and got the law improved. senator coons: my broader concern would be to hear how many cases the administration has brought to enforce access to the ballot box, and how many
cases are you bringing to prosecute discrimination against the lgbt community. i will say i respect and appreciate your answer about defending against hate crimes, but one of the core challenges is to prosecute against cases of active discrimination. if you have some update on what is being done to be an effective advocate in prosecuting cases of denial of access to the ballot box and discrimination against the lgbt community, i went appreciate it. a.g. sessions: we are open for business. anybody denying someone the vote, blocking their right to vote is in violation of constitutional rights and federal law, and we are quite willing to defend that. your other was lgbt rights. lgbte going to protect our citizens with vigor and
determination, and not going to look the other way. we will enforce the law as written, and continue to do so. we have acted -- i got a letter from some congressman listing about seven cases they were concerned about. i major every one of them was looked at to see if there was one unified person or group number ing those , two, to see if there was some type of pattern in them, and if anything more could be done to prosecute them. at least one case they found new evidence and maybe we will go forward with that. senator coons: thank you. >> mr. attorney general, the end is nearing. in april, the district judge in hawaii ruled in a case relating to the president's executive order travel ban.
you made a remark, to put it nicely, that was ignorant. the remark was ignorant. you said i'm amazed a judge sitting on an island in the pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the united states from clearly what appears to be his constituent -- his constitutional power. oahu happens to be where the judge sits. a.g. sessions: the birthplace of my wonderful granddaughter. >> when a public official like you makes a statement like that, it legitimizes the views that people who think the racial diversity in my state makes us somehow less american. do you still stand by your statement? a.g. sessions: i had no idea it would be interpreted that way. there are 600 federal district judges in america, and the president issues what i believe is a lawful order that i believe will be held up by the supreme court.
one of those judges happened to be on an island in the pacific. >> yes, so you acknowledged -- a.g. sessions: it stopped the entire process. i think judges need to be careful that they are not just setting policy in using their power. >> let me just clarify. you when you give your explanation. clearly all district court judges can issue rulings that impact the entire country. that happened in the texas situation, where a texas district judge prevented the implementation of president obama's daca expansion. you're not saying district judges do not have that authority? a.g. sessions: under the current law they do. it has been going on for quite a number of years. it has picked up some speed. it is subject to criticism.
judges need to begin for before they do that. >> let's say that they are. regarding u.s. attorneys, who was involved in the decision to dismiss all of the u.s. attorneys without any warning? >> we had gone for a number of months, about half of the united states attorneys in the country had already resigned. it is traditional that they are replaced by the next administration. clinton didesident the same and issued a single order. it toas a precedent for complete the process of change over. >> it was president trump who made that decision. you were not involved in that decision? >> i believe the responsibility is the president's. >> you are not involved in that?
>> i cannot believe i cannot remember that. it is an important issue. the president appoints u.s. attorneys. it was appropriate, at that time , to make the change. >> you are involved? >> yes. >> when young people signed up -- daca, they were relying what they were told or given information that the information they provided for not be used to target them for deportation. now there are at least three pending in new york and california on the basis of the
lawsuit for due process concerns about the president's actions to end act --.gov. did you consider the bait and switch problem in issuing your opinion on the legality of daca? >> i believe it was known and considered. it is the department of homeland security that decides how to administer and gather evidence. >> you are the one who said daca is unconstitutional and illegal. that was your opinion that you issued. did you consider any due process considerations when you issued that matter of opinion that it was unconstitutional? >> i do not believe there was any explicit discussion about
the in any document for department of justice. it is a valid issue that needs to be discussed and considered. i do not think homeland security to do as youy suggest. >> there are a large number of daca recipients who have reviewed the daca status for two years. they have different expiration times for when their status ends. what happens to the recipients ends in five months? what happens to these daca recipients whose daca status has not expired, but if the court and that this is based on unconstitutional law, what happens to them? >> before you answer that, you will be done once you get to
more questions. go ahead and answer her. >> all right. you are asking? >> if doctrines in five months -- if dacaipients , whatn five months happens to all these people? is in yourer to that hands. congress has the ability to deal with this problem in any number of ways. the president has indicated he andilling to support reform try to work to fix this problem and help these young people that justify help, if congress says
-- so decides. without any improvement in the loopholes and problems in immigration -- but if we work together, something can be done on that. >> thank you. i was disoriented thinking i had to answer senator blumenthal is third time. -- a third time. >> thank you for answering all of our questions today, mr. attorney general. i want to ask you first of all to say that i think many of my colleagues feel like you have stretched this concept of executive privilege may be to the breaking point. what it's talk about
valid purpose and effect is. i will not pursue it in light of time that is passing here. i want to ask you about a tweet on the president of the united states, "attorney general jeff sessions has taken a very time . i want to ask you about a very weak position on hillary clinton's crimes, emails and dnc server and intel leakers. did that treat have any effect on your thinking on these issues ? i promised this committee that i would do. much of that is simply not something i can personally be engaged in. i expect the department of justice to do the right thing,
to investigate matters that need to be investigated. when cases are closed and there is new evidence that would justify reopening the case or not, we are speaking in general terms. i can understand the president's concern about the people who will be handling these cases. if i am handling them, we will do it according to the law as we are given to understand it. >> without respect to the president's tweets, on september 25, the media reported that his closest advisers discussed white house business, including current members of the administration and two former members. if jared kushner or the other individuals who are named sent
or received classified information using private email accounts, would you prosecute them? it would have to be evaluated at the time. a thing of that nature could make a prosecution and proper. i would note that it is a little bit different in the executive branch. in the senate, we used campaign funds, so we never got in trouble using an official phone for what might turn out to be a poll goal discussion -- political discussion. usehe executive branch, you -- i use almost exclusively now, i get almost no emails on my personal phone. everything comes on your official phone. you could receive emails or send
them inadvertently on your personal phone. thatrocedure is set up so you can forward those to the official records -- your official phone and email system, so it would be part of the federal records act. it is provided that some problems might arise. >> are you investigating any of those individuals for the use of private emails? >> i can neither confirm or deny. emails accounts include classified information? >> i am unable to comment on that. >> have you had any conversations with them or the white house to make sure those emails are preserved? >> have not been engaged in that. i assume that appropriate steps would have been taken by
appropriate attorneys in the department. it might not even be required. i cannot even confirm that it is being discussed or denied. >> in light of the constraint of time, i have other questions that i will put on the record. second, in clarify a had heard of this trump tower .eeting from news reports i did not know it at the time it was good -- occurring. my view is that there was no communication by others in my opinion. i have no knowledge of it. i do not believe it happened. >> i did not hear you when you asked for a minute to respond.
-- president trump's foreign-policy. , too abandon the ideals refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain the last best hope of earth for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems. [applause] >> this is unpatriotic as any other attachment to a retired dogma consigned to the ash heap of history. we live in a land made of ideals
, not blood and soil. we are the custodians of those and the champion of broad. we have done great good in the world. that leadership has had its cost. we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy. we have a moral obligation to andinue in our just cause we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we do not. [applause] announcer: we will bring you all of senator mccain's acceptance speech at the national constitution center at 6:30 eastern on c-span. tomorrow on c-span, former president obama campaign. coverage from richmond at 6:00 p.m. eastern. -- coverager ryan starting at 8:40 eastern time.
live with the free c-span radio app. c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. theng up as they morning, bipartisan policy center discusses their new report, looking at the fiscal condition of the social security and medicare trust funds. then former u.s. ambassador to nato talks about one abilities with u.s. -- vulnerabilities with u.s. voting machines. discussion -- the discussion. sunday night on afterwards. >> the cases end up in settlements. what does that mean? that means the woman never works
in her career ever again and she never talks about it. gagged gagged. how else do we solve a sexual harassment suits? we make it a secret proceeding. nobody ever finds out about it to file a complaint. you can never talk about it, ever. nobody ever knows it happen to you and you are also terminated from the come -- from the company. this is the way our society has decided to resolve sexual-harassment cases, to telld women so that we can people we have come so far in 2017. announcer: gretchen carlson talks about sexual harassment in her new book. she is interviewed by washington post columnist sally quinn. watch