tv Attorney General Jeff Sessions Testifies Before House Judiciary Panel CSPAN November 14, 2017 10:54am-12:01pm EST
due to his quick wit and his warm demeanor. he worked closely with the holocaust remembrance program of post 697 of the jewish war veterans in bucks county which continues his work today. bernie found incredible purpose from a dark experience in his life. a lesson that we can all benefit from. madam speaker, i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman yields back. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house until noon today.
that one, the campaign had communications with the russians through mr. pop dob luss. so let's -- papadopoulos. so let's try to correct the record. yes or no, did you chair the march 31, 2016, meeting of the national security advisory committee? mr. sessions: yes. mr. nadler: did mr. papadopoulos made some -- r. sessions: i remember -- mr. nadler: yes or no.
i don't have time. you shut george down when he proposed that meeting with putin, is this correct, yes or no? mr. sessions: yes. i pushed back. i will say it that way. mr. nadler: your answer is yes. so you were obviously concerned with mr. papadopoulos' connections and his possibly arranging a meeting with putin. yes or no, did anyone else at that meeting, including then-candidate trump react in any way with what mr. papadopoulos presented? mr. sessions: i don't recall. mr. nadler: your testimony is that they didn't express any meeting with the russian president or concerns of communications between the campaign and the russians? mr. sessions: i don't recall. mr. nadler: we know the papadopoulos guilty plea, donald trump jr.'s emails, among others, that contrary to your earlier testimony there were continued efforts to communicate with the russians on behalf of the trump campaign. we have established that you knew about at least some of these efforts.
they caused you such concern hat you, quote, cut george down. after the march 31 meeting, did you take any steps to prevent trump campaign advisors or employees from further outreach to the russians? mr. sessions: mr. nadler, let me just say it this way. i pushed back at that. you made statements that he did in fact at the meeting i pushed back. mr. nadler: we know that. mr. sessions: i have to be able to answer. i can't be able to -- mr. nadler:: well, i'm -- mr. sessions: i won't be able to answer if i can't answer completely. mr. nadler: you said you pushed that. after the meeting did you take any further steps to prevent trump campaign officials, advicors or employees from further outreach to the russians after you pushed back at that meeting? mr. sessions: you allege there were some further contacts later. i don't believe i had any knowledge or any further contacts and i was not in
regular contact with mr. papadopoulos. mr. nadler: your answer is no because you don't think you were any such contact. mr. sessions: i am not aware of it. mr. nadler: did you raise the issue with various people but your answer is no? mr. sessions: to the best of my recollection. mr. nadler: you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31 meeting because nothing happened. mr. sessions: repeat that. mr. nadler: your testimony, therefore, is you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31 meeting. mr. sessions: i don't recall it. mr. nadler: at some point you became aware that the f.b.i. was investigating potential links between the trump campaign and the russian government. after you became aware of the investigation, did you ever discuss mr. papadopoulos' effort with anybody at the f.b.i.? mr. sessions: did i discuss with the matter with the f.b.i.? ask them questions about what they may have found? mr. nadler: did you ask the bap do luss question with the
f.b.i. -- papadopoulos question with the f.b.i.? mr. sessions: i did not discuss anything with mr. muller or anybody. mr. nadler: at the department of justice? mr. sessions: no. mr. nadler: at the white house? mr. sessions: no. mr. nadler: any member of congress? mr. sessions: i don't know if these conversations may have come up at some time but not to obtain information. in any -- with regard to your broad question, i don't recall at this moment sitting here any such discussion. mr. nadler: i have one -- >> the time of jat has expired. we have a lot of people wanting to ask questions. goode goode charp ohio, -- mr. goodlatte: charp ohio, for five minutes. mr. chabot: the 2016 presidential campaign apply to any discussions regarding efforts by the democratic national committee and the clinton campaign to secretly
fund a squirrelest and widely discredited doss way on candidate donald trump? mr. sessions: mr. chairman, anything that arises in this nature that may be or may not be connected to the -- my recusal on the question of the campaign and russia would be discussed between me, the senior ethics advisor at the department of justice and that's how i make my decision, that's what i promised to do when i was confirmed before the senate judiciary committee and that's what i will do. i'm unable to provide information to you as to what decision has been made in this matter. . mr. chabot: thank you very much. i'm not and never was a prosecutor but did criminal defense work back in the day when i practiced law for almost 20 years.
it seems to me that a presidential campaign using a law firm as a conduit to pay for activities with which the campaign itself doesn't want to be directly associated is more than just dirty politics, it's also quite possibly illegal. to me it seems that this is at least a violation of campaign finance laws for failure to accurately disclose the actual recipients of campaign disbursements. however, this type of arrangement is not illegal if it's not illegal under current law, i fear we're risking opening pandora's box with all sorts of underhanded activities by campaigns being laundered through law firms and shielded under attorney-client privilege. as the chief law enforcement official in this country, do you share a similar concern? in your opinion, is it legal under current law for a presidential campaign to hide its funding of the compilation and dissemination of political dirt on its opponent by using a
law firm to directly pay for the work? mr. sessions: i would think that those matters are worthy of consideration. you but as to the details of them and me express a comment today i'm unable to do so. mr. chabot: thank you. let me shift to something different. federal law currently still marijuana as a-- dangerous drug, still illegal under federal law, yet a number of states have -- for both medical purposes, now even for recreational purposes, have basically made it legal. what is your department's policy on that relative to enforcing the law? mr. sessions: our policy is that the same, really, fundamentally, as the holder policy.
is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes, but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes. mr. chabot: it seems to me there's always been a tremendous amount of gray area in that whole field which i think as a nation we need to look much more closely at, both from the state's point of view and the federal government point of view. that's just my feeling on that. running out of time. i have four other things. let me go to one final thing here. i have been very involved in the area of victims' rights. i was the following henry hyde's leadership on this introduced the victims rights constitutional amendment years back. various pieces of legislation on victims' rights. and i have also worked closely with the parents of murdered children. and when you talk about something that affects one's
family, there is nothing that affects a family more adversely than something like that happening. we still have capital punishment on the books, both at the federal level and many of our states. yet these families are dragged left and right up, up and down, back and forth into hearing after hearing. cases can drag on for more than 20 years before the imposition of capital punishment actually occurs. in many instances it never does. while these people are behind bars, oftentimes they attack, sometimes kill guards, attack, sometimes kill other inmates. i would be interested to see what is your intentions relative to capital punishment if in country? mr. session: let me state capital punishment, federal government has capital punishment for a number of offenses. we have within the department a
recommendation process through appointed committee to seek or not to seek a death penalty when a case is charged. sometimes it's a complex thing. but i believe the death penalty, the federal death penalty, is a part of our law. i think it's a legitimate penalty. it's constitutional. and we will do our duty even if those circumstances that require the imposition of the death penalty. mr. chabot: thank you very much. my time expired. >> the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from california, mrs. love grep, for five minutes. ms. lofgren: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. attorney general, for being who are today. former national security advisor michael flynn is under investigation because of his work and ties to foreign governments. according to various reports, much of his work with these foreign governments went unreported when mr. flynn was required to make certain disclosures by law. as chairman of the trump campaign, national security
advisor committee and lead advisor on the trump transition team, i think you worked closely with mr. flynn. i'd like you to answer a few yes or no questions about mr. flynn. knowing that mr. flynn is under investigation, i'm going to stick to subject matter that predates both the special counsel investigation and your appointment as attorney general. the foreign policy platform at the republican national convention undertook dramatic changes. did you discuss changes to the republican foreign policy platform with mr. flynn at any point during the campaign? mr. sessions: i don't recall it. i was not at the convention when the platform committee met. ms. lofgren: you were the lead of the campaign, but you don't recall discussing it with him? mr. sessions: that may be a bit of a stretch. i was asked to lead, inform, and
find some people who would join and meet with mr. trump to give him advice and support regarding foreign policy. and i did so. although we were not a very effective group, really. ms. lofgren: you met with ambassador kisniack in november of 2016. did you discuss your meetings with him with mr. flynn? mr. sessions: did i discuss mr. flynn with him? ms. lofgren: did you discuss your meeting with the ambassador with mr. flynn? mr. sessions: i met, i think, some 25 ambassadors that year. i did meet once in my office with mr. kysliak, and do i not recall and don't believe i communicated any of that information to mr. flynn. ms. lofgren: are you aware of any meetings between the ambassador and mr. flynn that might have occurred around the time of your meeting with the am
-- ambassador? mr. session: do i not. ms. lofgren: former acting attorney general sally yates testified one week into the trump administration she notified the administration that mr. flynn had lied to vice president pens about -- vice president pence about discussing sanctions with the ambassador. as part of the transition team and the president's pick for attorney general, in january, were you notified when the administration was notified of mr. flynn's lie and his susceptibility to russian blackmail? mr. sessions: i don't believe so. ms. lofgren: we now know that you were aware of the efforts of carter page and george papadopoulos to meet and establish communications with the russian government. did you at any -- mr. session: not necessarily so at least from what mr. carter page says. i don't recall that. ms. lofgren: all right. did you at any point discuss
with michael flynn the possibility of then candidate trump or his surrogates meeting with the russian government? mr. sessions: i do not recall such a conversation. ms. lofgren: did you know that flynn was working for the turkish government while acting as a surrogate for the trump campaign? mr. sessions: i don't believe i had the information to that effect. ms. lofgren: did you know he was working for the turkish government at any point after the election? mr. session: i don't believe so. ms. lofgren: were you or anyone on the trump campaign aware of mr. flynn's efforts to extradite turkish cleric gulan? mr. sessions: i read that in the paper recently. but i don't recall ever being made aware of that before this recent release. ms. lofgren: you read about it in the newspaper afterwards. after the inauguration, you did not know that the f.b.i. was
requested to conduct a new review of turkish 2016 extradition requests for mr. gulan? did you know about that? mr. sessions: i'm aware that the turkish government continued to press the federal government with regard to seeking the return of mr. gulan to turkey. ms. lofgren: did you know -- mr. sessions: my department had a role to play in that although aim not at liberty to discuss the details. ms. lofgren: did you know the turkish government allegedly offered $15 million for mr. flynn to kidnap mr. gulan? mr. sessions: absolutely not. on --fgren:
>> the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from iowa, mr. king, for five minutes. mr. king: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, general sessions, for your testimony today and service to the country over the years you have been front and center. a number of things i wanted to discuss. one of them is the daca situation. and it seems as i recall made a public statement some time back about the constitutionality of the policy that was implemented by president obama. would you care to reiterate that position today? mr. sessions: well, the president, president obama, indicated multiple times that he felt that daca, he didn't have the power to do daca in the way it was done. and eventually they must have changed their mind and executed this policy to make persons in the country unlawfully and give them lawful status, work permits, and even participation in social security.
i felt for some time that was not proper. a federal district court in texas so held. and the fifth circuit court of appeals also so held that it was unlawful. what happened was we worked on the research but the department of homeland security withdrew the policy because it was not defensible, in my view. mr. king: and established a date to close it down of march 5 of next year? mr. sessions: that's right. the homeland security asked for time to wind this program down. and i thought that was appropriate. mr. king: there's a lot of public dialogue about what kind of legislation might be passed in conjunction with the daca policy. that's up in the air right now. i'm noticing the democrats are saying we're going to have everything we want on daca or we'll shut the government down. it causes me to think about what should happen if congress reaches an impasse and there is no passage of any legislation to extend the daca policy.
if the president should decide to honor -- on or before that march 5 date that he wants to extend the policy, what would your position be? mr. sessions: that's hypothetical, i don't think i should speculate on that. i do think congress will have to give it thought. we have a law now. it's in place. congress passed. and congress would have to change it. mr. king: i would just remark that i'm watching a lot of people be rewarded for violation of the rule of law. i appreciate your emphasis on the rule of law in your testimony today. multiple times coming back to that point. mr. sessions: mr. king, i would say it is correct in my view, i think you probably share it, that something is lost whenever you provide an amnesty. it's a price that will be paid if that's done, but sometimes circumstances are such it may need to be done. but we need to be careful. mr. king: thank you. it's been -- we have been made
aware here in this committee there is a significant backlog in immigration cases. have you presented any request to congress or statement that could inform us as to how many resources you might need. how many judges you might need to get that backlog caught up? and idea how many we might need to maintain an anticipated level? mr. sessions: that's a very good question. yes, we worked on it. we have some preliminary information. we're seeking a total of about 360, 370 judges. we have added about 50 to the total. we have shortened the time process for selecting people. not shorting the training program. and we're adding judges. i would say on the backlog it's gone up dramatically. it's now the 600,000. but the last two or three months we're almost not adding to the backlog. i'm told by the additional work we're doing by january we will
not be adding to the backlog but hopefully reducing it. that would be a real change in the trends that we were heading on. mr. king: thank you. i ask you to reflect as this committee anticipates the potential of a special counsel to broaden this look that i think is forced upon us in a reluctant way. i certainly support the special counsel. to look back at some times here that i believe should be incorporated into this and that is, i look back at october 16, 2015, when barack obama was speaking of hillary clinton and whether she might have violated ny security clauses in our statute, in particular the 18 u.s.c. 793, when he said that no impression that mrs. clinton had purposely tried to hide something or to squirrel away any information. made the point of intent behind
that, in april after that, april 10, a similar statement, she would never, meaning hillary clinton, she would never intentionally put america in any kind of jeopardy. those words of intent when i heard james comey use that very word july 5, 2016, and it seems as though he latched on to the statements made by president obama and a more or less implied and implemented an end to interpretation of the statute that word intent as if it were a condition before there could be any prosecution for a violation of 18 u.s.c. 79 p. -- 793. i don't know that i've question on that. i want to make sure i put that into the record so it's under consideration. >> the time of the gentleman has expired of the the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from texas, ms. jackson lee, for five minutes. ms. jackson lee: i thank you very much. mr. general, do you believe in this book, the constitution of the united states? mr. sessions: yes. ms. jackson lee: and will abide by it, all of your intention? mr. sessions: that's exactly correct.
ms. jackson lee: i thank you so development i took the liberty of reviewing federal crimes against children, particularly those dealing with sexual or physical abuse. as you well know, lee coffman, wendy miller, debi watson gibson, and beverly young nelson, these young women have accused this individual, judge moore, who is running for a federal office, the united states senate, child sexual activity. do you believe these young women ? mr. sessions: i have no reason to doubt these young women. ms. jackson lee: with that in mind, if you believe these young women, do you believe judge moore should be seated in the senate if he wins? and will you introduce investigations by the d.o.j. regarding his action? mr. sessions: we will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated. this kind of case would normally be a state case.
i would say, representative jackson lee, that the ethics people at the department of justice, i have talked to them about that when this campaign started, it's a seat i used to hold, they advised me that the attorney general should not be involved in this campaign. i have friends in the campaign. ms. jackson lee: thank you, mr. general. mr. sessions: i have adhered to -- ms. jackson lee: i want to make sure if he comes to the united states senate that there would be the possibility of referring his case for at least a federal review by the department of justice. mr. sessions: we will do our duty. ms. jackson lee: let me also refer you back to the meeting on march 31, 2016, with mr. papadopoulos. you well know that mr. papadopoulos in addition to his comments in the meeting regarding a meeting between trump and mr. putin had a series of meetings dealing with, as you
can see trump, mr. pop dop plus, and you leading that committee. i can't imamin your memory would fail you so much. moving on, he was in that meeting. you also had steven miller a. senior policy advisor, who was noted in the stipulated statement of defense to receive conversation from mr. papadopoulos about his constant interaction with the russians to intrude in the 201 election. you continued -- 2016 election. you continued in the october 18 meeting before the judiciary committee in the senate to not answer the question. now in light of the facts that are now part of the record, do you wish to change your testimony before the senate intelligence committee on june 13, 2017, where you said i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or foreign officials? let me jump to the final part, no knowledge, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the trump campaign. do you want to admit under oath that you did not tell the truth or misrepresented? or do you want to correct your
testimony right now? mr. sessions: you're referring to my testimony -- ms. jackson lee: before the senate intelligence committee. my time is short and i have two more questions. mr. sessions: i'm not able to respond because i don't think i understand -- ms. jackson lee: i'm asking your intelligence committee testimony do you want to change it where you indicated you had no knowledge of the involvement of the trump individuals in involved in conversations regarding the trump campaign and russia? mr. miller gave -- supported mr. trump's press conference where he said russia, if you're listening, i hope you will abe able to find the 30,000 emails. do you want to change your testimony that was where you said i have no knowledge of any such conversation about anyone connected to the trump campaign regarding russians involved in the campaign? that was a testimony on june 13. mr. sessions: i'm not able to -- ms. jackson lee: let me move forward. mr. sessions: let me say this, mr. chairman. ms. jackson lee: let me move to a document.
the gentleman keeps saying can he not recall. he cannot recall. >> the gentlewoman will suspend. the witness wants to answer the question she asked him. ms. jackson lee: i should be given extra time. do i not have extra time. >> the gentlewoman will suspend. the witness will answer the question. ms. jackson lee: yes or no. does he want to change his testimony in the intelligence committee? mr. sessions: i would say this. i stand by this testimony at the intelligence committee. i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with the campaign or election in the united states. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations. by anyone connected to the trump campaign. ms. jackson lee: thank you very much for that. mr. sessions: whatdy say in my opening statement, i explained that -- what i did say in my opening statement, what i explained in october just a few weeks ago when i was asked about the matter, did i have any knowledge of anyone who had
talked to the russians, i indicated that hi not recalled that meeting when that occurred. i would have been pleased to have responded and explained it if i recalled it. i have tried to be honest about that. give you my best response. and did throughout all the testimony i have given. ms. jackson lee: you stand by your testimony. thank you very much. are you familiar with the names eric garner, walter scott, tamir rice? my question is as i hold up the poster dealing with the report under your jurisdiction, black identity extremists, it is interesting to me that you are opposing individuals who are posing lethal force, similar to the attack on reverend dr. martin luther king, but there seems to be no record with the tiki torch parade in charlottesville. why is there an attack on black
activists versus any reports dealing with the alt right and white nationalists? answer that question quickly. is anyone investigating that? mr. sessions: when was that report completed? ms. jackson lee: august of 2017. mr. sessions: i have not studied that report. ms. jackson lee: i ask you to because it's an attack on individual who are simply trying to get grievances. we have found mandatory minimums and overincarceration has been the history of criminal justice. we were moving toward criminal justice reform which you oppose as a united states senator. ow you intend to return toward discredit law and order policies going to make america great. do you have any interest in rehabilitating those incarcerated, recognizing that mandatory minimums created the opportunity for over incarceration rather than telling your prosecutors to prosecute on every single crime? is there any opportunity to work with your office to deal with
progressive ways of dealing with criminal justice reform at this time? yes or no. mr. sessions: yes. i would just respond and cite senator durbin and i worked together to reduce the crack cocaine penalties some years ago. it probably -- ms. jackson lee: would you -- >> the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the witness is allowed to answer the last question. the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california, mr. issa, for five minutes. mr. issa: thank you, mr. chairman. general sessions, it's good to see you again. i don't speak russian and i don't meet with the russians and i don't really want to ask about those questions today. but i do have some very important questions. mr. sessions: you have met with some russians. and if you in your lifetime, and taking those words at face value, somebody might accuse you of not being honest. that's what they have done to
me. mr. issa: you are absolutely right. that is the challenge as a member of the foreign affairs committee i meet with lots of ambassadors. i don't want to try to remember everyone and everything that was discussed in what i thought was a pro forma meeting. there were a couple of areas left over from previous administration i would like to talk to you about. one is we sent loretta lynch, general lynch, a letter related to sober homes. a predicament. the predicament is straightforward. if -- her answer, to be honest torques chairman goodlatte and the rest of us, was not satisfactory. we have given your staff a copy of it. essentially sober living homes are nothing but boarding houses. they are required to provide no care whatsoever to the alcoholic or recovering drug abuser because that has to be done somewhere else. they don't qualify as sober homes. and yet currently there is in the ninth circuit decision that is cause cities to be unable to
regulate them in a way that would prevent people from simply buying houses in a row in a very prestigious neighborhood and turning them into these, if you will, social living homes, which are again boarding houses with 15 or more people. would you agree to work with us to try to find and appropriate way to align your enforcement of the americans with disability act, and your enforcement of the fair housing act with the necessaryity for cities to be able to, essentially, regulate how many people live in a home? mr. sessions: yes, i would be pleased to do that. the issue is because a lot of money something spent and some of it's not wisely in these areas. mr. issa: a lot is federal dollars being squandered to the benefit of people that are sec lating. the -- speculating. the second one is the army corps of engineers case, are you familiar with it? mr. sessions: i'm not. mr. icy: i'd like you to become
familiar. during your administration an assistant u.s. attorney on your behalf argued that the waters of the u.s., which is not a valid regulation delivered to congress and eligible under c.r.a. to be considered or rejected, continued to argue that that was law. would you agree that your attorneys on your behalf should not argue regulations have i which have not been delivered to congress and as a result are not eligible for c.r.a. review? mr. sessions: mr. issa, i now recall the case. i didn't recall it by name. that matter was intensely reviewed by new assistant attorney for the -- acting, for the environment and natural resources division. after great consideration, we felt -- it was advised to me and i approved going forward with that position in court. i will take responsibility for
it. but i got to tell you we did look at it very hard. mr. issa: in general, you would agree if a regulation is created or some other words of the executive branch, they don't have the weight of law unless they are delivered to congress so we have an opportunity to review them under the congressional review act. mr. sessions: that would sound correct. mr. issa: my last question is less of a softball. neither one of these are softballs, very important to california. but in a previous congress the ways and means committee of the united states house voted for and referred criminal charges against lois lerner. i also was involved in investigating her wrongful activity. they referred criminal charges and they did so under a statute, that says, i'll paraphrase it, that the u.s. attorney for the district of columbia shall present to the grand jury the following. and then they played out the criminal charges. the previous toveragee -- attorney general ordered the
u.s. attorney or u.s. attorney and district made a decision not to enforce that. now, the statute as we understand it is not a statute that says you will look at this and decide independently. it actually says it shall be presented to the grand jury. will you commit to review that and if you agree with us as to what the statute says, we think it's pretty plain english, order a u.s. attorney to present you a grand jury. and if they no bill it, fine. but present it consistent with congressional and statutory law? mr. sessions: i will review that more personally. but the department of justice view has been it takes a full vote of the house to accomplish that act. and i'm not sure where that leaves us. i will give it a personal review which i have not done. mr. issa: if you can stop the clock for one second. if the entire house voted to the
time -- >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from temperaturetown, mr.on, for five minutes. mr. cohen: thank you, sir. mr. attorney general, first i noted you went to the 50th anniversary of the selma, alabama march. commend you for that. you were a sponsor of the gold medal for the folks that marched. having done that, i would like to ask you what have you done as attorney general to see to it that fringes and others who have been discriminated for years in voting have more access to the ballot box? mr. sessions: we will absolutely, resolutely defend the right of all americans to vote. including our african-american brothers and sisters. it cannot -- never be suggested that people are blocked from voting. we have got a number -- done a number of things in the department of justice -- mr. cohen: let me ask you this, mr. attorney general. it's a fact, there have been studies that show that votor i.d. is more discriminatory in
its effect on african-americans and latinos than anything else. will you stop defending voter i.d. law cases? mr. sessions: no. the supreme court has approved voter i.d. if properly done. other courts have, too. it can be done in a discriminatory way, which is not proper and should not be approved. i believe it's settled law that a properly handled and written voter i.d. law is flaul. mr. cohen: will all due respect we come from a similar region. i think we have greater responsibility than anybody else in this country to see to it that african-americans get a chance at the ballot when they were discriminated against, they were slaves for 200-plus years, under jim crow, they weren't allowed to convenient still being secretary of stated against. i would submit to you and ask you to look at voter i.d. laws. election day voting. early voting. and other indication that is
allow people to vote that have been stopped. secondly, on marijuana you said that you are basically doing the same as holder and lynch. i believe general hold earn general lynch abided by congressional appropriations that limited the justice department in enforcing marijuana laws where states had passed laws on medical marijuana and others. will you abide by congressional appropriations, limitations on marijuana when it conflicts with state laws? mr. sessions: i believe we're bound by that. mr. cohen: thank you, sir. what you did on crack cocaine was good. it wasn't as good as it could have been. your proposal was a 20 to one rasheor. mr. durbin's was 10 to 1. you decided on 18 to 1. mr. durbin took what he could get t should have been one to one. you admitted in that hearing it could discriminate against the disparity against african-americans and minorities .
mr. sessions: i would just say the net effect that have legislation was to significantly -- mr. cohen: it was good, sir. mr. sessions: reduce the penalty one is subjected to for dealing with crack cocaine. mr. cohen: yes, sir. that was good. mr. sessions: there may be a better analysis of the 18 to one. generally considered a more dangerous drug. mr. cohen: marijuana is not as dangerous as heroin, would you agree? mr. sessions: i think that's correct. mr. cohen: i would hope in your enforcement you would look at the limitations you got. there's always an opportunity cost. and put your opportunity cost, your enforcement, on crack, on cocaine, on meth, on opioids, and on heroin. marijuana is the least bother some of all. 28 states or 29 states and the district of columbia have legalized it for medical purposes. eight states anti-district of columbia for recreational purposes. justice brandeis famously said the states are the laboratories of democracy. i would hope you would look at marijuana and look at the states
as laboratories of democracy and see how they have helped. in states where they have got medical marijuana, they have 25% less opioid use. it gives people a way to relieve pain without using opioids which inevitably leads to death and crime. so i would hope you take a look at that. mr. sessions: we'll look at it and we'll look at rigorous analysis of the marijuana usage and how it plays out. i'm not as optimistic as you. mr. cohen: you said one time good people don't smoke marijuana. which of these people would you say -- mr. sessions: let me explain how that occurred. mr.on: quickly. george pataki, rick santorum, ewt gingrich, arnold schwarzenegger. which are not good people? mr. sessions: let me tell you how that came about? the question was what do you do about drug use? the epidemic we're seeing in the
country. and how you reverse it. part of that is a cultural thing. i explained how when i became united states attorney in 1981 and the drugs were being used widely, over a period of years, it became unfashionable, unpopular, and people were seen, and it was seen as such that good people didn't use marijuana. that was the context of that statement. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from ohio -- mr. cohen: alabama or auburn. >> the gentleman's time has expired. mr. jordan, for five minutes. mr. jordan: mr. attorney general, did the f.b.i. pay christopher steele? the author of the dossier? mr. sessions: that was a matter you'll have to direct to the i
think the special counsel. mr. jordan: why is that? mr. sessions: i'm not able to reveal internal investigateor matters that's under the investigation of anybody, but particularly -- mr. jordan: this happened in the summer of 2016. the democratic national committee paid to produce the dossier. chris steele reported he was on the payroll of the f.b.i. i want to know if that's the case? mr. sessions: i'm not able to provide an answer. mr. jordan: the f.b.i. present the dossier to the fisa court? mr. sessions: i'm not able to answer that. mr. jordan: do you know the f.b.i. did the established process, protocol, evaluating claims made in the dossier? mr. sessions: i'm not able to answer that. mr. jordan: on january 6, then f.b.i. director james comey, briefed president-elect trump up in new york about the dossier.
shortly thereafter, that -- the fact that meeting took place and the subject of the meeting was the dossier was leaked to cnn. do you know who leaked that information mr. sessions: i do not. mr. jordan: are you investigating who leaked that information? mr. sessions: that would be a matter within the investigateor -- investigatory powers of the general counsel. mr. jordan: is that likely one of the he leaks are you investigating? mr. sessions: eam not able to reveal the existence of investigations or not. mr. jordan: mr. attorney general, i appreciate your service in the senate. i appreciate your service at the justice department. consider you a friend. and frankly i appreciate yesterday's letter saying you were considering appointing a special counsel. that you sent us. but my concern is, we sent you a letter 3 1/2 months ago asking for a second special counsel. and if you're now just
considering it, i -- what's it going to take to get special counsel? we know that former f.b.i. director james comey misled the american people in the summer of 2016 when he called the clinton administration a matter. obviously investigation. we know f.b.i. director comey was drafting an exoneration letter before the investigation was complete. we know loretta lynch, one day before the benghazi report came out. five days before clinton was setskeledled to be interviewed with the f.b.i. met with former president christianton in phoenix. we know at that meeting the justice department, she was using the name elizabeth carlyle. as i said before seems to me if you are talking golf and grandkids, you can probably use your real name. we know that mr. comey publicized the investigation and we know he made the final decision on whether to prosecute or not. and then when he gets fired, he leaks a government document through a friend to the "new
york times." what was his goal? to create momentum for a special counsel. it can't just be any special counsel, it's got to be bob mueller, his best friend, predecessor. same bob mueller involved in this whole investigation with the informant regarding russian businesses wanting to do business here in the united states regarding the iranian deal. i guess my main question is what's it going to take if all that, not to mention the dossier information, what's it going to take to get a special counsel? mr. sessions: it would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel. mr. jordan: is that analysis going on right now? mr. sessions: it's in the manual of the department of justice about what's required. we have overwhelm had two. rst one was the waco janet reno, senator danforth took over that investigation as special counsel. and mr. mueller. each of those are pretty special, factual situations.
and we will use the proper standards. that's what -- only thing i can tell you, mr. jordan. you can have your idea, sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it needs to stand -- meets the standard -- mr. jordan: we know one fact. we know the clinton campaign, the democrat national committee, paid for, through the law firm, paid for the dossier. we know that happened. it sure looks like the f.b.i. was paying the author of that document. and it sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government to then turn an opposition research document that quoted some "national enquirer" story into an intelligence document, take that take that to the fisa court. that's what it looks like. i'm asking you doesn't that warrant in addition to all the things we know about james comey in 2016, doesn't that warrant a second special counsel? as 20 members of this committee wrote you 3 1/2 months ago
asking you to do. mr. sessions: mr. comey is no longer the director of the f.b.i. we have an excellent man of integrity and ability in chris ray, and i think he's going to do an outstanding job. mr. jordan: he's not here today, mr. attorney general. i'm asking for a special counsel. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. mr. sessions: it looks like there's not enough basis to appoint a special counsel. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from georgia, mr. johnson, for five minutes. mr. johnson: thank you, general. you have led a remarkable and notable career over the last 42 years as an attorney in private practice, as the attorney general of alabama, then the u.s. attorney in alabama, later the u.s. senator of alabama and now the attorney general of the united states of america. and you have made a professional judgment call when you recused yourself from the investigation of the russian interference in the 2016 elections.
you have caught a lot of flak for that decision. what i want to know is why did you recuse yourself? mr. sessions: thank you very much. i told the senate judiciary committee when i was confirmed that i would evaluate those matters. i would seek the counsel of the senior ethics advisor -- mr. johnson: my question is why did you recuse -- mr. sessions: i'll get to that. i evaluated that. they showed me something i was not familiar with. code of federal regulations. said if you participate in a substantial role in a campaign, department of justice employee should not participate in investigating that campaign. i felt that was correct. it was not because i had -- mr. johnson: i agree. mr. sessions: not concerned about anything i had done previously. it was to me if i were not bound by that, i don't see how other people in the department of justice could be expected to
follow the rules of the department, either. mr. johnson: thank you, sir. after you recused yourself you did participate in the firing of the f.b.i. director who was leading the investigation into the russian interference with the 2016 elections. prior to jim comey's termination, were you contacted by the donald trump administration, anyone in that administration, donald trump himself or any of his political r campaign officials about their quest to fire jim comey? mr. sessions: i am not able to and cannot reveal conversations with the president of the united states or his top advisors. mr. johnson: let me ask you this question. with regards to the at&t proposed acquisition of time-warner which owns cnn, it appears to be a vertical merger
much like the comcast-nbc-universal merger that d.o.j. approved. but unlike its treatment of comcast-nbc universal, d.o.j. has suggested strongly that it will not approve the at&t time-warner merger unless time-warner cells off cnn's parent company -- sells off cnn's parent company, turner broadcasting. it's well-known that your boss, president trump, has great disdain for cnn, which he calls fake news. what i want to know is has the white house or any individual in or on behalf of the trump administration or the trump political team or campaign excluding staff from f.c.c. or d.o.j., has anybody contacted you, your office, or your ssigns regarding that at&t
-time-warner acquisition? mr. sessions: first i would say that i don't accept and cannot accept the accuracy of that news report. we have a professional -- mr. johnson: your department has time-warner that and at&t that they must shed turper broadcasting? mr. sessions: will i work. they do meet -- mr. johnson: is that false report or true report? mr. sessions: i tell you i don't think i'm able to accept as accurate a news report. mr. johnson: let me ask you this question. on october 18 when testifying before the senate judiciary committee senator asked you if the department had taken adequate action to prevent election meddling in the future. you stated there was no review under way of the cybersecurity
vulnerabilities. have you requested a review of what laws need to be updated to protect our elections from foreign influence? mr. sessions: we have discussed those matters, but no completion has been done. mr. johnson: are you conducting a review at this time? mr. sessions: yes. our team is looking at that. the f.b.i. has real skills in that area. i think we're not anywhere near where i would like us to be yet. mr. johnson: let me ask you this question. what individual with your department is leading that inquiry? mr. sessions: we would be working with our voting rights section. our criminal section. national security section. probably is the most knowledgeable in the hacking and -- area. as well as the expert tees in the f.b.i. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas, mr. smith,
for five minutes. mr. smith: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. attorney general, first of all i want to thank you for all your efforts to restore the rule of law. nothing could be more important to our justice system. nothing could be more important to protect the lives of americans. and frankly not just protecting the lives but keeping all americans safe. in particular, many of us appreciate your efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities that blatantly ignore federal immigration laws, to combat criminal gangs that prey on our communities, to return to robust prosecutions of drug cases. to protect children from dangerous child predators, and to safeguard religious liberties that are enshrined in our constitution. to like go back for a second sanctuary cities. i have been waiting for 20 years for a president and administration that would enforce current administration laws. i introduced a bill in 1996 that
among other things outlawed sanctuary cities. the law is there. i want to thank you for being willing to enforce that law which will protect many innocent americans from harm and perhaps save their lives. more generally, i'd like to ask you if you feel that there are any immigration laws, if so which ones, that need to be better enforced? mr. sessions: there absolutely are. maybe even some improved. i know you have worked on that and the chairman has worked on that with some excellent legislation. totally believe that professional legislation, i note the chairman has worked on, and you have worked on, would be tremendously helpful. we have a deal with numbers. so when you create a mechanism by which whole -- we had 5,000 and in 2005 who claimed
credible fear. last year it was 95,000. this is creating hearings and backlogs that were never intended to be part of the system. did not happen before. and so there's so many things out there that burden our law enforcement officers, make it more difficult, more spentionive, more lengthy to complete these things. we just got to make up our mind. we have to make up our mind do we want a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest? or do we want open borders and we're not going to ep force it. thank you for your leadership, mr. smith. i know you'll be leaving this body also and i have enjoyed so much the honor of working with you. mr. smith: thank you, mr. attorney general. i'm not going to ask any questions. i'm going to end with that, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> the chair thanks the gentleman. we're going to take a break, attorney general sessions. the committee stands in recess
two bills in the house under consideration. one dealing with 2018 defense programs and policies. and another dealing with the national flood insurance program. if you do want to continue following this hearing, just go online, c-span.org. in the house on thursday, members rex spected to take up the house republican tax reform plan. wool take a look back at some of the hearing from earlier this morning. mr. sessions: my answers have not changed. i have always told the truth. and i have answered every question as i understood them to the best of my recollection as i will continue to do today. i would like to address recent news reports regarding meetings during the campaign attended by george papadopoulos and carter page, among others. frankly i had no recollection of this meeting until i saw these news reports. i do now recall that the march,
2016 meeting at the trump hotel that mr. papadopoulos attended, but i have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. after reading his account and to the best of my recollection, i believe that i wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the russian government or any other foreign government for that matter. but i did not recall this event which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago. and i would gladly have reported it had i remembered it because i pushed back against his suggestion that i thought may have been improper. as for mr. page, while do i not challenge his recollection, i have no memory of his presence at a dinner at the capitol hill club or any passing conversation he may have had as he left the
dinner. all you have been in campaigns. let me just suggest, most of you have not participated in a presidential campaign. and none of you had a part in the trump campaign. it was a brilliant campaign, i think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one. we traveled sometimes to several places in one day. sleep was in short supply. i was still a full-time senator with a very full schedule. during this year, i spent close to 20 hours testifying before congress. before today. i have been asked to remember details from a year ago such as who i saw on what day and what meeting and who said what to when. and all of my testimony, i can only do my best to answer your questions as i understand them
and to the best of my memory. but i will not accept and reject accusations that i have ever lied. that is a lie. let me be clear, i have at all times conducted myself honorably and manner consistent with the high standards and responsibilities of the office of attorney general which i revere. i spent 15 years in that department. i love that department. i honor that department. and will do my dead level best to be worthy of your attorney general. >> we now know one of the campaign had communication was the russians through mr. papadopoulos, and two you seem to be aware of the fact at the time. yes or no, did you chair the march 31, 2016 meeting of the national security advise hery committee? mr. sessions:dy chair that meeting. mr. nadler: yes or no.
did mr. papadopoulos mention his outreach to the russian government during that meeting? mr. sessions: he made some comment to that effect as i remember. after having read it in the newspaper. mr. nadler: yes or no. i don't have time. there are reports you shut george down when he proposed that meeting with putin, is this correct? mr. sessions: yes. i pushed back. i will just say it that way. mr. nadler: your answer is yes. you were obviously concerned by mr. papadopoulos' connections and possibly arranging a meeting with putin. yes or no. did anyone else at that meeting, including then candidate trump, react in any way to what mr. papadopoulos had presented? mr. sessions: i don't recall. mr. nadler: your testimony is neither donald trump or anyone else at the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the russian president or concerns about communications between the campaign and the russians? mr. sessions: i don't recall. mr. nadler: we know from multiple source, including the papadopoulos guilty plea, carter
page's interview, and donald trump jr.'s emails and others, contrary to your earlier testimony there were continued efforts to communicate with the russians on behalf of the trump campaign. you have established you knew about some these efforts. they cause the you such concern you quote, george down. what did do you with this information. yes or no, after the march 31 neating, did you take any steps to prevents advisors or employees from further outreach to the russians? mr. sessions: mr. nadler, let me just say it this way. i pushed back at that. you made statements that he did in fact at the meeting, i pushed back. mr. nadler: i know that. did you -- mr. sessions: i have to be able to answer. the i can't be able to -- mr. nadler: i'm in a position -- mr. sessions: i'm not going to be able to answer if i can't answer completely. mr. nadler: you said you pushed back. we accept that. after meeting did you take any further steps to prevent trump
campaign officials or employees from further outreach to the russians after you stopped it or pushed back? mr. sessions: what i want the to say to you is you allege there were further contacts later. i don't believe hi any knowledge of any further contacts. i weighs not in regular contact with mr. papadopoulos. mr. nadler: your answer is know because you don't think there were such contacts. mr. sessions: i'm not aware. mr. nadler: did you raise the question with various people? mr. sessions: to the best of my recollection. mr. nadler: you communicated with nobody in the campaign in this matter after the meeting because nothing happened. mr. sessions: repeat that. mr. nadler: you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31 meeting. mr. sessions: i don't recall it. >> attorney general jeff sessions testifying earlier before the house investigation into russia and possible ties to the trump presidential campaign. "usa today" calling the hearing a crucial test for the attorney
general. can you continue watching live coverage online at c-span.org when the hearing resumes. the house about to gavel back in to work on defense programs and policies and the national flood insurance program. the speaker: the house will be in order. the prayer will be offered by reverend doctor anthony k.r. gibson, african methodist episcopal church, indianapolis, indiana. reverend dr. gibson: on this day before this august body, we acknowledge your presence in this place as the living god. there is none like you, your dominion will never recess and your mr. williams: never end. on this day, saturate your place with your presence and fill this house with your