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tv   AG Sessions Testifies Before House Judiciary Panel - Part 1  CSPAN  November 14, 2017 8:02pm-12:42am EST

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college. we have a little over 525 authors representing every genre. watch our live coverage of the miami book fair saturday and sunday at 10:30 a.m. eastern on book tv on c-span two. now to the house judiciary committee, where attorney general jeff sessions testified at an oversight hearing this morning. questioning focused on the investigation into russia's role in the 2016 election. this 4.5 hour hearing is chaired by virginia congressman bob goodlatte.
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>> the judiciary committee will come toward her, and without objection, the chair is to -- we welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on oversight of the department of justice. we begin by recognizing myself
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for an opening statement. good morning. today, we welcome jeff sessions, up for the annual department of justice oversight hearing. general, you have a long and distinguished career of service. you continued that service by leading the department of justice, an agency that by its very nature is prone to controversy because of the varied opinions on what it means to obtain justice. however, you clearly understand the department you need must have confidence of the american decisionsn when your are not always well deceived. the first year has not been without difficulty, which is expected at the outset of the new administration. you don't have the improper political engagement under the obama administration. more work must be done to ensure the department is operating to impartially administered justice. our last doj oversight hearing
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was beyond disappointing. attorney general loretta lynch gave the least transparent testimony i can recall in my time in congress. it was plainly a disservice to the american people. respondch failed to substantially. he was held in contempt for his own stonewalling for the reckless operations. i expect mr. attorney general that you will be more willing to candidly answer questions from members on both sides of the aisle. you're going to hear question after question today concerning your knowledge of or involvement with russia and its alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. concerns your work on behalf of now president trump
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during the campaign or your service in the senate, i suspect this theme will be a constant refrain from my friends on the other side of the aisle. your instance retrieves yourself, i believe you as a person of integrity would have inn impartial and fair following the facts wherever they lead. i have chosen as chairman of this committee to let special counsel robert mueller do his job free from undue political influence. at the same time, however, this committee will do its duty and conduct oversight to the department of justice. we send two letters to you. one in july, one in september, calling on you to name a second special counsel to restore the public's confidence. numerous matters remain unresolved. the department has not appointed a second special counsel. this committee had no choice but to open our own joint
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investigation with the house oversight and government reform review doj and fbi's handling of the investigation into former secretary hillary clinton and her mishandling of classified information. as we said earlier this year, it is incumbent on this committee with oversight capacity to ensure the agencies we oversee are above reproach and the justice department in particular remains immune to accusations of politis i station -- zation. you have recused yourself from matters stemming from the election, but there are concerns the partisanship of the fbi and the department has weakened the ability of each to act objectively. i look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and what steps you are taking to remove politics from law enforcement, however, these investigations
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are but a few of the many important issues we need to discuss today. for instance, we just overwhelmingly reported the usa liberty act out of committee last week. this bipartisan legislation would reauthorize section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act. i understand the desire for a clean the authorization of this vital program. believe this stance is a miscalculation that risks further eroding trust in our intelligence apparatus. we hope we can work with you now that the usa liberty act which reauthorizes a law vital to our battle against terrorism while protecting american civil liberties has been reported out of the committee. this is especially important given the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in the united states. as we all know, not two weeks ago, eight people were killed and almost a dozen injured when an isis inspired jihadist drove
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a rented pickup truck into a crowded bicycle path. the threat is real and ongoing. we cannot afford to play politics with national security. i also look forward to continuing to work with you on efforts to reform our nation's criminal justice system. there is bipartisan support to do this in congress, and with your help, we can make changes that crackdown on violent offenders while also doing more to rehabilitate federal prisons and curb abuses in the system as well as excessive punishments. to your credit, since you assumed leadership of the department of justice, there has been a significant increase in the prosecution of firearms offenses in the united states. for years, i have criticized lacks enforcement of the gun laws already on the books. enforcing these laws is the most effective way to combat violent crime in our cities and neighborhoods. under your leadership, the number of defendants charged
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with unlawful possession of a firearm has increased by nearly 25%. the number of defendants charged with armed drug trafficking has increased 10%. i commend you for your focus on these prosecutions, because they will help make our streets safer. there are many other matters on which we share common ground, especially when it comes to rectifying the failures of the obama administration. for example, earlier this year, the house passed legislation to ban settlement payments to non-victim third parties, tolowing your directive shutdown the use of such mandatory donations. these reform initiatives followed a concerted effort by the obama administration to use settlements to benefit its political allies. we commend your efforts to combat illegal immigration, protect our citizens from criminal aliens, and to fight back against so-called century cities. more than two years have passed since kate steinle was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had
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been deported five times. we have addressed this issue head on by moving legislation to combat century cities and find and remove criminal gang members. mr. attorney general, our country is at a crossroads. our constituents are concerned our justice system does not work for them. under your leadership, the justice department has taken strides to mitigate the harms done in the prior administration. i am for you to work with us to continue that trend and i think you sincerely for your appearance here today. i know recognize the ranking member of the committee, the gentleman from michigan, mr. conyers, for his statement. mr. conyers: thank you. top of the morning. in the ordinary course of business, anyone of a dozen topics related to the department of justice would be worthy of its own hearing. and to be clear, i would rather spend our time today discussing
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the upkeep of the criminal justice system, the enforcement of civil rights, and the work we must all do to ensure access to the ballot box. we must spend our time debating the troubles of a wayward administration. mr. conyers: although this is the attorney general's first appearance before the house, he has already made three visits to our colleagues in the senate. at his confirmation hearing, he did not havet he communications with the
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russians. that anth, he testified continuing exchange of information between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government did not happen, at least to my knowledge, and not with me. we now know, of course, that neither of these statements is true. shortly after the attorney general made the first comment, the washington post reported that he met with the russian and twicet are at least during the campaign. in the past month, we have learned the attorney general must have been very much aware of a continuing exchange of information between the trump campaign and the russian government.
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in charging documents unsealed last month, george papadopoulos, a foreign-policy advisor to the admits extensive communications with russian contacts. at a march 31, 2016 meeting of the campaign's national security attendede committee, -- advisory committee, chaired by senator sessions, mr. sumdopoulos stated, in and substance, that he had connections that can help arrange a meeting between then candidate trump and president putin. it does not matter, and has been that the attorney
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general remembers this meeting after the fact. remembers it so vividly, in fact, that two unarmed sources, the senator shot george down. under oath, knowing in advance that he could be asked about this subject, the attorney general give answers that are at best incomplete. the attorney general can provide some clarification on this problem in his remarks today. uslso hope that he can sure assure us that the department's weathering near daily attacks on its independence by president trump. and that no office of the toartment is being used pressure the president's political enemies. in recent months, president trump has attacked the
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beleaguered attorney general and criticized his very weak position on hillary clinton's crimes. the president has talked openly about firing the leadership of the department, including the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the former acting director of the fbi, and special counsel robert mueller. he did fire former fbi director .omey in his own words, "because of that russia thing with trump and russia." as well as acting attorney and all 46ly yates sitting united states attorneys. last year, he denigrated a federal judge because of his
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"mexican heritage." was born inriel indiana, by the way. month, in a radio interview, president trump said he was very unhappy with the .ustice department hours later, he proclaimed the military justice system a complete and total disgrace. the one that six with me is the president's july interview with the new york times. , begins byerview once again attacking the attorney general's credibility. never should have recused himself, the president complains. then, the conversation takes a sinister turn.
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along, out ofe courtesy, the fbi started reporting to the department of justice, but the fbi person really reports directly to the president of the united states. he goes on. i could have ended the flynn investigation just by saying "they say it cannot be obstruction because you can say it has ended, it is over." case, then the president requires some correction. the fbi reports directly to the attorney general. the founding of the bureau, it can be obstruction of justice if the president orders an investigation closed with a corrupt motive.
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what strikes me about these comments is the president's view that the criminal justice system serves him and not the public. believet trump seems to that on a whim, he can bring pressure to bear on his enemies, dismissed charges against his himself andinsulate his family from any consequence. i cannot overemphasize the poses of this perspective to our republic. i have served on this committee long enough to remember another president who shared this view. myself up on richard nixon's enemy list. we worked to hold that administration accountable, our work is not complete.
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remember our common responsibility to prevent that kind of abuse from happening again. look to the attorney general's partnership in this effort, but i have begun to worry about his resolve. last night, in a letter sent from the department to chairman as aatte, without so much copy to the ranking member, by theway, they insisted attorney general seems to hold the door open to appointing a new special counsel to cater to the president's political needs. the fact that this letter was to the majority without the customary and appropriate notice to me indicates that the charge given to the department
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officials to evaluate the issues has political motivation. now, in his own words, the attorney general's recused from any questions involving investigations that involve secretary clinton. cannot refer an investigation to a second counsel if we lack the evidence to predicate a criminal investigation in the first place. virtually, every clinton related that president trump complains about has been well litigated. andfully examined completely debunked. still, to quote former attorney ,eneral michael mukasey "putting political opponents in jail for offenses committed in a political setting is something
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that we do not do here. the thread alone resembles a banana republic -- threat alone resembles a banana. republic" in the -- the now republic." attorney general is generally come to see us within two or three months of taking office. no attorney general in recent memory has taken more than six months before making an appearance here. attorney general sessions has broken that norm. he has had more than 10 months to settle in, making our communications with the department between hearings that much more important. i date, my colleagues and
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sent more than 40 letters to the trump administration asking for information necessary to carry out our oversight responsibilities. we have sent more than a dozen of these letters directly to the attorney general. to date, we have not received a single substantive response. we can disagree on matters of ,olicy, mr. attorney general but you cannot keep us in the dark forever. reasonablee a request, we expect you to reply in a prompt and responsive manner, and i hope you can explain why your department has chosen to ignore these letters. more importantly, i hope that you will be more forthcoming with your answers, both in your
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testimony today, and in the weeks to come, and i look forward to your testimony and mr. chairman, i think you and your back the balance of my time. >> all other members opening statements will be made part of the record. we welcome our distinguished witness. if you will please rise, i will begin by swearing you in. hand. raise your right do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? thank you. the witness answered in the affirmative. mr. jeff sessions was sworn in as the 84th attorney general of the united states on february 9, 2017, from 1996 to his confirmation to lead the department of justice. mr. sessions served as the united eight senator for alabama. served -- mr.zens
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sessions served as the united states attorney for the southern district of alabama. alabama attorney general and captain in the united states army reserve. attorney general sessions is a graduate of huntington college and the university of alabama law school. sessions, yourl entire written statements will be entered into the record. we asked you summarize your testimony in five minutes. the ranking member took a few more minutes than that. feel free to do that as well. veryessions: thank you much. mr. chairman, it is an honor to be before this thing wished committee, having served 20 years as your counterpart in the senate judiciary committee. i must note with regret that your announcement of retirement that our relationship has been good in the past, and i hope it will continue to be good. you have done a fabulous job in leading this committee. on my first day as attorney
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general, i spoke about "the critical role we as a department play in maintaining and strengthening the rule of law, which forms the foundation of our liberty, our safety, and our prosperity. in this rule of law, we are blessed beyond all nations." i truly believe that. at this department, we must you always can to ensure that it is .reserved and advanced such ideals transcend politics. from that day to did a, we at -- have worked to be faithful to that mission. let me share things we have done initially. the president set up an order to reduce crime, not to allow crime to continue to increase. .nd we embrace that mission the violent crime rate has risen, and the homicide rate has risen by more than 20% in just
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two years. years of violent crime. after a careful review, we have established a reinvigorated initiative. it has been proven to get results in the first years of implementation and reduce violent crime by 4.1%. case studies showing reductions in certain areas where it was intensely applied of up to 42%. we are also focusing on criminals with guns. mr. chairman, we have seen a 20% increase in gun prosecutions. i am honored to lead the superb men and women of the fbi, the drug, atf, and the united eight marshals service, who work
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together every day with our state and local partners in this crime-fighting mission that is a responsibility in the department. increasestaggering 61% and the number -- in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. 150 officers were assaulted every single day. these numbers are on. fortunately, the president understands this, and has directed us to back our men and women in blue. we are making it clear that we stand with our law enforcement partners 100%. they are the solution to crime. we also protected the rule of department.wn we prohibited so-called third-party settlements, being used to bankroll professional
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interest groups. we have settled civil cases regarding the affordable care act, birth control mandate that settled the cases of many groups of tax-exempt on groups. the status was wrongfully delayed by the internal revenue service. we also provided legal counsel to this administration in favor of ending several other unlawful policies. this includes president trump's order ending billions in funding for insurance companies that were not appropriated by congress under the affordable care act. lawsuition was filing a against one of the most dramatic erosions of the congressional appropriations power in our history. house members, you are correct to challenge that. you won in the district court. we believed you were correct. we reversed the policy and had that matter withdrawn.
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. we put an end to actions by the previous administration to circumvent congress's duly passed immigration laws on the daca. it gave individuals that were here illegally certificates of lawful status, work permits, and the right to participate in social security. now, the issue is in the hands of congress where it belongs. .e have filed briefs lawful redistricting plans, religious liberty, and free speech on college campuses. mission tot is our restore the american people's confidence in the department of justice by defending the rule of law and enforcing the laws as you have passed them. and it is a mission we are
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honored to undertake in response to letters from this committee and others. i have directed senior federal prosecutors to make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be open, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources or whether any matters under consideration may merit the appointment of a special counsel. and as you all are aware, the departments general has enacted a review of fbi policies and procedures, which were not followed in a number of matters you addressed. mr. chairman, the letter was addressed to you because it was andsponse to your letter, that is how it was sent. we will make such decisions hear me, without regard of politics, ideology, or bias.
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as many of you know, the department has a long-standing policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigation. this policy can be frustrating, i understand, especially when there is great public interest about a matter, but it enhances we act under the law with professionalism and discipline. this policy necessarily precludes any discussion on cases i may be recused from because to do so would confirm the existence of underlying investigations. to the extent a matter comes to thatttention of my office, may warrant consideration of recusal. i review the issue and solve it with the appropriate ethics officials and make my decision as i promised the senate committee when i was confirmed. lastly, i would like to address the false charges made about my previous testimony. my answers have not changed.
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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. to address recent reports regarding meetings during the campaign attended by papadopoulos and carter page among others. frankly, i had no recollection of this meeting until i saw these news reports. i do not 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 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
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my testimony of a few weeks ago, and i would gladly have reported it had i remembered it, because i pushed back against his mayestion that i thought have been improper. as for mr. page, while i do 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 with me as he left the dinner. campaigns,e been in let me just suggest, is that most of you have not participated in a presidential campaign, and none of you in the trump campaign, and 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.
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i was a full-time senator with a very full schedule. 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, in what meeting, and who said what, 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 in a 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 have loved that department. i honor that department and will do my best level -- level best
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to be worthy of your attorney general. story hasbefore, my never changed. i have always told the truth. i answered every question to the best of my recollection and will continue to do so today. with that, mr. chairman, i am honored to take your question. >> thank you, general sessions. we will continue with questions. i recognize myself. under your leadership, the prosecution of firearms offenses have increased over the same period of the previous year. furthermore, the number of defendants charged with using a ofearm is violent crimes drug trafficking rose 10% over the previous year. we have a slide which shows the increase as compared to the obama era numbers. what do these increased prosecutions of firearms offenses indicate about the department of justice's commitment to fighting violent crime, particularly with the use of firearms, in this country.
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? chairman, as ar. formal federal prosecutor who emphasized gun prosecutions, i there is aelieved significant impact in reducing violent crime. professors earlier this year explained that they share this view based on scientific analysis. it will be a high priority of hours. you are correct. if prosecutions fell, one incident that was raised during the texas shooting at the church texas,h sutherland in was the ability of an individual to get a firearm and whether or not they filed correctly their form before you get one. a question about criminal convictions and court-martial's. prosecutions, i noticed,
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have jumped by over 50% in the last three or four years. i think those were the worthy prosecutions. when a criminal is carrying a gun during a criminal act of some other kind, that is a clear presentent -- and danger to the public, and those are important and impact reduction of crime. >> as you are anywhere, i and a majority of the members of this committee have requested a special counsel to investigate her secretary ha hillary clinton smith classifying of information with respectynch to former fbi director comey's decision not to prosecute former secretary clinton. i am in receipt of the trenton's letter from yesterday stating that senior federal prosecutors will review our letters and make recommendations as to whether any matter is not currently under investigation should be opened, require further resources, or marriage a special
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counsel. do i have your assurance these matters will proceed fairly and expeditiously? mr. sessions: yes, you can, mr. chairman. you can be sure that they will be done without political influence, they will be done correctly, and properly. rep. goodlatte: you also reference an ongoing inspector general investigation into many of the matters we have raised. will you ensure that the ig briefs this committee if necessary? mr. sessions: i will do my best to comply with that. the inspector general is able to announce investigations in a way that we do not on a normal side of the department of justice. i assume you would be able to do that. rep. goodlatte: over the past year, we have seen numerous apparent disclosures of unmasked names in intelligence reports during which crimes are violated when these unmasked names are disclosed, for example, to the press?
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how does the department of justice investigate such unauthorized disclosures? mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i could implicate a number of legal prohibitions, and it could clearly be a release of classified information contrary to law. it is a very grave offense and certainly goes against a core policy. government to protect those matters from disclosure. the second part of your question was -- rep. goodlatte: how the department investigates such unauthorized decisions? mr. sessions: we have members of the committee, about nine open investigations of classified leaks in the last three years. we had 27 investigations opened today. we intend to get to the bottom of these leaks. it has reached epidemic proportions. it cannot be allowed to continue, and we will do our
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best effort to ensure that it does not continue. rep. goodlatte: and on april 11, you assured a memorandum -- issued a memorandum saying they would make prosecution a higher priority. to your knowledge, the number of federal prosecutions increased asionwide for offenses such harboring aliens, improper entry, and illegal reentry? mr. sessions: i do not have the statistics on that, but i believe there has been some increases in those cases. one thing we have seen is a reduction of attempts to enter the country illegally. that is good news and should result in some decline in some prosecutions. rep. goodlatte: this committee did a great deal of work to enact legislation last congress. will you continue to work in good faith for me and the members of the committee on both sides of the aisle to craft responsible reforms? mr. sessions: i certainly will, mr. chairman.
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rep. goodlatte: thank you, general sessions. i recognize the ranking member of the committee, mr. conyers, for five minutes. mr. conyers: thank you, mr. chairman. welcome again mr. attorney general. i would like to put a few statements by the president on the screen. 2017.rst from july 24, so why aren't the committee's and investigators, and of course, our beleaguered attorney general, looking into crooked hillary crimes in russia relations? from november 3, everybody is asking why the justice department and the fbi isn't looking at all of the dishonesty going on with crooked hillary and the dems.
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the third. also from november 3. "pocahontas just stated that the the legendary by rigged hillary clinton, the primaries. let's go to the fbi and justice department." i believe he is referring to senator elizabeth warren and that last one. when richard nixon spoke about us that way, at least he had the courtesy to do it behind closed doors. mr. attorney general, a few questions for you. yes or no. democracy -- in a functioning democracy, is it normal for the leader of a country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate
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against his political opponents? mr. sessions: is that a question? mr. conyers: yes, that is a question. mr. sessions: is it proper, is that what you're asking? mr. conyers: you answer to me whether it is yes or no. your response? mr. sessions: i did not quite catch the beginning of the question. mr. conyers: in a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents? mr. sessions: mr. conyers, i would say that the department of totice can never be used retaliate politically against opponents, and that would be wrong. mr. conyers: i interpret that as no. mr. sessions: the answer stands for itself. that would make it
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a little easier if you just responded yes or no, if you can. here is another. should the president of the united states make public comments that might influence a pending criminal investigation? takeonyers: he should great care and know the issues. mr. sessions: could you respond yes or no? mr. conyers: i don't know exactly the facts of what you're raising and what amounts of the concern you have. i would say it is improper to , aluence -- it would be president cannot improperly influence an investigation. mr. conyers: ok. mr. sessions: and i have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced. the president speaks his mind. he is bold and direct about what he says.
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daywe do our duty every based in the laws and facts. mr. conyers: reclaiming my time, i am not impugning these comments as to what you would do in advance. last night, sir, the assistant attorney general sent the chairman a letter suggesting that the attorney general is directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain -- like the sale of uranium in 2010. at your confirmation hearing, you said "i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve and that wereton raised during the campaign or to be otherwise connected to it."
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now, from a yes or no question. are you recused from investigations that involve secretary clinton? mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i ,annot answer that yes or no because under the policies of the department of justice, to announce recusal in any investigation, would repeal the in the existence of that investigation, and the top ethics officials have advised me i should not do so. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from wisconsin for five minutes. >> thank you very much, mr. attorney general. we are debating whether section 702 should be reauthorized. i would like to talk about that issue. poster that my a campaign committee put up by the
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university of whitewater campus in the 2014 election very a debate by the u.s. liberty act. it says the government did what government knows what you did last night. the nsa has grabbed your phone calls, facebook polls, and emailed. sensenbrenner think that is an outrageous violation of your policies. i asked the students to vote for me. it worked. my presented on that campus went up 20 points from the previous election. now, we are talking about many of the same issues in terms of section 702, and the foreign intelligence surveillance act was designed to collect foreign intelligence, not domestic intelligence. in reality, we know that a vast number of americans communications are also collected. the committee took a great cap
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in trying to balance security and privacy last week when we the usa liberty act, which made significant changes to the program. notably, this legislation specifies two ways a government can query the information under either foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime. the usa liberty act injures the government does not abuse 702 by requiring a warrant to be necessary to access content after querying information for evidence of a crime. now, attorney general sessions, you have stated that several occasions that you believe that a warrant requirement would hinder the government's ability to stop terrorists, yet this bill already provides the government the move forward foreigna warrant on intelligence in emergency situations. why can't the usa liberty act be the compromise? can't we allow the intelligence community to stop terrorists
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while protecting the constitutional rights of americans? mr. sessions: we can. the constitutional rights of americans should be protected. actworked on the patriot when it came up with senator hatch, leahy, and others. you are a champion of civil liberties. i would just say that we can do that. the act, as written, as in law today, has been approved by the been found to not be in violation of the law. is first and foremost. i know the committee has decided to put some additional restrictions on the way the act is conducted. we did not think that was lawfully required. congress can make its own decisions, and we will continue to be able to share our thoughts about how the legislation should be crafted. rep. sensenbrenner: mr. attorney general, the day before the committee marked up this bill,
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the justice department was actively lobbying members of the committee to oppose the measure, stating it would dismantle section seven of two -- 702. it expires at the end of the year. we have a very short timeline. i want to ask you, whether yes or no, following my friend from us again, do you want to risk the real possibility this program will expire by insisting upon a clean reauthorization without a sunset? mr. sessions: no, we don't want to commit that risk. rep. sensenbrenner: will you commit to working with congress and not against us to ensure to rise,ion 702 israel either the way you wanted or the way we want it? i almost said mr. chairman. i know you held that office. dispose, tos to give our opinion. i believe the act, as past, that
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has been reauthorized with an even larger vote last time, is constitutional. , and i amit works worried about additional burdens, particularly a warrant requirement, which could be exceedingly damaging to the effectiveness of the act. youre willing to talk to about some of the concerns that exist out there. hopefully, we can work our way and accept the concerns and fix the concerns you have without going too far. rep. sensenbrenner: with all the respect, there is an emergency exemption in the usa liberty act, which is reported from the committee. that should take care of the problem, and yet, people in your department are saying that this was no good. offer at face value, if i will let you know hear members of your department actively lobbying to defeat the bill rather than to work something out. i yield back the balance of my
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time. mr. sessions: i know you will let us know, mr. sensenbrenner. rep. goodlatte: the chair recognizes the gentleman from new york. >> thank you. following up on the questions from mr. conyers, you said "i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to accuse myself." many questions that involve secretary clinton were to be otherwise connected. you stand by that statement, yes or no? mr. sessions: yes. >> thank you. i want to show you of an image of a committee you chaired with than--- then candidate donald trump. the charging papers filed by special counsel bob mueller described the meeting. mr. papadopoulos told the group he had connections and could help arrange a meeting between donald trump and vladimir putin.
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papadopoulos continued to communicate with the government on behalf of the campaign and told officials about it. here is the problem. on october 18th of this year, you said under oath in front of the senate judiciary committee, "a continuing exchange between intermediaries did not happen, at least not to my knowledge." you responded "i am not aware of anyone else that did." one, they hadhat p communications with the russians. two, who seem to have been aware. theor no, did you chair march 31, 2016 meeting of the national security advisory committee? mr. sessions: i did chair that meeting. rep. nadler: is on a, did mr. papadopoulos mention his outreach to the russian government during that meeting?
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mr. sessions: he made some comments to that effect as i remember after having read it in the newspaper. rep. nadler: i asked you yes or no. i don't have time. there are reports you shut george down on the meeting with putin. is this correct, yes or no? mr. sessions: yes, i pushed back. i will say it that way -- rep. nadler: your answer is yes. so you were obviously concerned by mr. papadopoulos's connections and his possibly arrange 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. rep. nadler: ok, so your testimony is that neither donald trump nor anyone else at the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the russian president were any concerns about communications between the campaign and the russians? mr. sessions: i don't recall. rep. nadler: we know from multiple sources, including the papadopoulos guilty plea, part of the interview with the intelligence committee, and donald trump's email's, among
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others, that contrary to your earlier testimony, there were efforts to communicate with the russians on behalf of trump's campaign. we have established the new about some of these efforts, and they cause do such concern that down."ut george i want to know what you did with this information. yes or no, after the meeting, did you take any steps to prevent officials, advisors, or employees from further outreach to the russians? nadler,sions: mr. let me say it this way. i pushed back. i pushed back. i have to be able to answer. i cannot be able to -- rep. nadler: i made -- i only have five minutes. mr. sessions: i am not going to be able to answer it if i cannot answer completely. rep. nadler: you said he pushed back. we accept that. after the meeting, did you take any further steps to prevent trump campaign officials come advisers, or employees from further outreach to the russians
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after he pushed back at that meeting? mr. sessions: you alleged there was some further contacts later. i don't believe i had any knowledge of further contacts, and i was not in radial or contact with mr. papadopoulos. rep. nadler: your answer is no? mr. sessions: i am not aware of it. to askdler: i was going you a question of "did you raise the issue with various people?" but your answer is no. mr. sessions: to the best of my recollection. rep. nadler: your testimony is you communicated with no one in the campaign after the meeting because nothing happened. isr testimony therefore it you committed with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31 meeting. mr. sessions: i don't recall. rep. nadler: at some point, you became aware that the fbi was investigating potential links between the trump campaign manager russian government. of theou became aware investigation, did you ever discuss mr. papadopoulos' effort with anybody at the fbi? mr. sessions: did i discussed the matter with the fbi?
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ask them questions about what they may have found? i have not had any discussions with mr. mueller or his team or the fbi concerning any factors with regards -- rep. nadler: nobody else at the fbi either? mr. sessions: no. rep. nadler: at the department of justice? mr. sessions: no. rep. nadler:?at the white house know. mr. sessions: rep. nadler: any member of congress? mr. sessions: i don't know if the some stations may have come up at some not to obtain the information. with regard to your blog question, i do not recall at this moment, sitting here, any such discussion. it is important for me to -- rep. goodlatte: the time with the gentleman has expired. we have a lot of people waiting to ask questions. mr. shabbat, five minutes. >> thank you. does your recusal from investigations related to the interference by russian 2016 presidential campaign apply to
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any investigations regarding efforts by the democratic national committee and the clinton campaign to secretly fund a scoreless and what -- scu rrilous dossier on president trump? anything that arises in this nature that may be or may not be connected to 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 is how i make my decision. that is what i promised to do when i was confirmed before the senate judiciary committee, and that is what i will do. i am unable to provide information to you as to what decision would -- has been made in this matter. rep. shabbat:
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-- 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
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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 cites 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,
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as the holder policy. which 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.
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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?
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mr. sessions: 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. lofgren, 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
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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
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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 kislyak in november of 2016. did you discuss your meetings kislyak 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. kislyak, and do i not recall and don't believe i communicated any of that information to mr. flynn.
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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 ambassador? mr. session: i do 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 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 --
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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
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recent release. ms. lofgren: you read about it in the newspaper afterwards. after the inauguration, you did not know that the fbi 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 i am not at liberty to discuss the details. ms. lofgren: did you know the turkish government allegedly offered $15 million for mr.
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flynn to kidnap mr. gulan? mr. sessions: absolutely not. you mean -- it -- no. ms. lofgren: on -- >> 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
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-- take persons who were 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. so, 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
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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.
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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. 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
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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 any 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 caught my attention 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. 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. 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
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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 very much. 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
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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
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regarding a meeting between trump and mr. putin had a series of meetings dealing with, as you can see trump, mr. papadopoulos, and you leading that committee. i can't imagine 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 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,
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"i have 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 be able to find the 30,000 emails. do you want to change your testimony that was where you
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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: what i did say in my opening statement, what i explained in october just a few weeks ago when i was asked about
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the matter, did i have any knowledge of anyone who had talked to the russians, i indicated that hi not recalled -- that i had not recalled that buting when that occurred, 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.
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martin luther king, but there seems to be no record with the tiki torch parade in charlottesville. "jews will not replace us. " 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 over incarceration has been the history of criminal justice. we were moving toward criminal justice reform which you oppose as a united states senator. now you intend to return toward discredit law and order policies going to make america great. dollars.taxpayer
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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.
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mr. sessions: congressman issa, you way that but i bet 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, to 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.
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and yet currently there is in the ninth circuit decision that 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, sober 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 necessity 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. these are important issues because a lot of money something spent and some of it's not
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wisely in these areas. mr. issa: a lot is federal dollars being squandered to the benefit of people that are 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 a new assistant attorney for the -- acting, for the environment and natural resources division. after great
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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
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district of columbia shall present to the grand jury the following. and then they played out the criminal charges. the previous 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 -- to 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.
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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 tennessee, mr. cohen. mr. cohen: thank you, sir. mr. attorney general, first i noted you went to the 50th anniversary of the selma, alabama, march. i 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.
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we have 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 voter 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.will you stop e id law cases? the supreme court has approved photo id. a can be done in discriminatory way, which is not proper and should not be approved. it is federal law that, properly handled and written voter id law is lawful. cohen: we have a greater responsibility than anyone else in this country to see to it that african-americans get a chance at the ballot. they were slaves for 200 plus years. they were under jim crow and were not allowed to vote.
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and they are still being discriminated against. i would ask you to look out voter day laws come election day voting, early voting's, and other indices that allowed people to vote that have been stopped. on marijuana, you said you are doing the same as holder alledge -- folder and lynch. -- holder and lynch. will you abide by congressional appropriations limitations on marijuana when it conflicts with sick laws? mr. sessions: i believe -- with state laws? mr. sessions: i believe we are bound on that. your -- replieve cohen: i believe your work on cocaine was good.
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that hearing it to discriminate against the disparity against african-americans and minorities and you ought to look at that. mr. sessions: the net effect of that legislation was to significantly -- cohen: it was good, sir. it may be the better analysis of the 18 to one. it is generally considered a more dangerous drug. cohen: heroine is a much more dangerous drug than marijuana. would you agree? mr. sessions: yes. rep. cohen: 29 states have legalized it for medical
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purposes. brandeis famously said that the states are the laboratories of democracy. i would hope you will look at marijuana and look at states as laboratories of democracy and see how they have helped. in states where they have medical marijuana, they have 28% lower opioid abuse. i would hope you would take a look at that. mr. sessions: we will be looking at some rigorous analysis on the marijuana usage and how it plays out. i'm not as optimistic as you. cohen: you said was a good people don't smoke marijuana. mr. sessions: let me explain. cohen: are any of these not good people?
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mr. sessions: let me tell you how that came about, congressman. the question is what do you do about drug use, the epidemic we are seeing in the country, and how do you reverse it? part of that is a cultural thing . i explain how, when i became united states attorney in 1981 and the drugs are being used widely, over a period of years, it became unfashionable, unpopular, and people were saying -- it was seen assets that good people did not use marijuana. -- subtexte subtests of that statement. rep. cohen: one last question. alabama or auburn? [laughter] did the fbi paid christopher steel. mr. sessions: where i am?
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>> the author of the dossier? mr. sessions: those are matters you will have to direct to may be the special counsel. >> why is that? i am not able to reveal internal investigatory matters that is under the investigation of anybody, but particularly i think -- >> this happened in the summer of 2016. the democratic national committee take to produce a dossier. we know that the author was christopher steel. he was on the payroll of the fbi. i want to know that is the case. mr. sessions: i am not able to provide an answer. >> did the fbi provide the dossier? mr. sessions: i am not able to answer that. >> do you know if the fbi did the established process, protocol command evaluating claims made in the dossier? mr. sessions: i am not able to answer that. comeyn fbi director james
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briefed president-elect trump up in new york about the dossier. shortly thereafter, the fact that that meeting took place in the subject of the meeting was the dossier was late to cnn. do you know who leaked that information? mr. sessions: i do not. >> do you know who leaked that information? mr. sessions: that would be under the powers of the special counsel. >> i appreciate your service in the senate and the justice department. ,rankly, i appreciate yesterday the letter saying you were considering appointing a special counsel, that you sent us.
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my concern is we sent you a letter three and a half months spread -- afor a second special counsel. if you are just now considering it, what will it take to get a special counsel? we know that james comey misled the american people in the summer of 2016 when he called the clinton investigation a matter. we know fbi director was drafting an exoneration letter before the investigation was complete. met withoretta lynch former president bill clinton on the tarmac in phoenix. after that meeting, when she was corresponding with public relations people at the justice department, she was using the name elizabeth carlyle. as i said before, if you're just talking golf and grandkids, you can probably use your real name.
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we know mr. khan they publicized of the investigation and we know he made the final decision on whether to prosecutors or not. and then, when he gets fired, he links a government document through a friend to "the new york times" and what was that all? to create a special counsel. and it cannot be any special counsel. it has to be bob mueller who was his friend and mentor and special counsel -- special counsel. main question is what will it take -- not to mention the dossier information -- what will it take to get a special counsel? mr. sessions: it will take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special -- sen. jordan: is that analysis going on right now? mr. sessions: it is in the manual and the department of justice, what is required. we have only two. the first was the waco, janet
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reno, and mr. mueller. those are factual situations and we will use the proper standards and that is the only thing i can tell you, mr. jordan. butcan have your idea, sometimes we have to studied what the facts are and do -- and evaluate whether the standard requires a special counsel. mr. sessions: connotative clinton campaign and the democratic national committee paid for the dossier. we know that happened. it sure looks like the fbi 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 in opposition research a national quilt enquirer story. that's what it looks like. and i'm asking you doesn't that
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warned, in conditions -- in addition to we know about james comey in 2016 doesn't that warrant a special counsel? mr. sessions: mr. comey is no longer the director of the fbi. we have an excellent man of integrity and ability and i think he will do an outstanding job and i am very happy. sen. jordan: he is not here. and you are. say looksns: i would like it not enough basis to appoint a special counsel. johnson: thank you. general, you have led a remarkable career over the last an attorney in private practice, as the attorney general of alabama, than the u.s. attorney in alabama, later the u.s. senator of alabama, and now the attorney general of the united states of america. you made a professional judgment
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yourself you recused from the investigation of the russian interference in the 2016 election. you have caught a lot of flack for that decision. what i want to know is why did you recused 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 -- rep. johnson:: my question is why did you recuse yourself? mr. sessions: i will get to that. that.uated they showed me something i was not familiar with. the code of federal regulations says, if you participate in a substantial role in a campaign in -- a department of justice employee should not participate in that investigation. i felt that was correct. x not because i had any concern
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about anything i had done previously. nott were to me, if i were bound by that, i don't see how any other people in the department of justice could be expected to follow the rules of the department either. for johnson: you did dissipate in the firing of the fbi director who is leading the investigation of the russian interface and -- russian interference in the 2016 election. for you contacted by the donald trump administration? donald trump himself or any of his political or campaign request tobout their fire jim comey? mr. sessions: i am not able to and cannot reveal conversations with the president of the united states or his top advisers. to. johnson: with regards
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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 doj approved. treatment ofts comcast-nbc-universal, doj has suggested strongly that it will not approve the at&t time warner merger unless time warner sells off cnn's parent company, turner broadcasting. your boss-known that has a great disdain for cnn, which he calls fake news. has i want to know it is the white house or any individual in or on behalf of the trump administration or the trump political team or campaign
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, excluding staff from sec or doj, has anybody contacted you, your office, or your signs 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. your department has not told time warner that -- and at&t -- that they must shed turner broadcasting? mr. sessions: our work is professional. rep. johnson: is that a false report or a true report? mr. sessions: i'm able to accept as accurate news reports that have come out on that. rep. johnson: testifying before the senate judiciary committee, senator sass asked you if the
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department had taken adequate action to prevent election meddling in the future. you stated there was no review underway of the cyber security vulnerabilities. have you requested a review of what laws need to be up dated in order to protect our elections from foreign influence? mr. sessions: we have discussed those matters, but no completion has been done. rep. johnson: are you completing a review at this time? mr. sessions: yes. our team is looking at that. the fbi has real skills in that area. we are not anywhere near where i would like is to be yet. rep. johnson: what individual in your department is leading that inquiry mr. sessions: we would be working with voting rights section, criminal section, ,ational security section probably is the most knowledgeable in the hacking
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area as well as the expertise in the fbi. rep. johnson: thank you. 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 and nothing could be more important to protecting the lives of frankly 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 federal gangs that prey on our communities, to return to robots prosecutions of drug -- robust prosecutions of drug cases, and to safeguard religious liberties enshrined in her constitution. i would like to go to sanctuary cities. i have an waiting for 20 years
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for a president and an administration that will enforce current immigration laws. thatroduced a bill in 1996 outlawed sanctuary cities. the law is there and i want to thank you for you -- are being willing to enforce the law to save lives. like toerally, i would ask you if you feel that there are any immigration laws, and if so, which ones, that need to be better enforced? mr. sessions: they're absolutely improved. even some i know you worked on that and the chairman has worked on that with some excellent legislation. that isy believe professional legislation. it would be tremendously helpful. we have to deal with numbers. when you create a mechanism by people ine had 5000
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fearwho claimed a credible . last year, it was 95,000. this is creating hearings and backlogs that were never intended to be part of the system. it did not happen before. there are so many things out there that burn our law enforcement officers, make it more difficult, more expensive, more lengthy to complete these things. we just got to make up our mind. we have to make up your mind. do we want a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest. or do we want open borders and we are not going to enforce it? thank you for your leadership, mr. smith. i know you will be leaving this body also and i have enjoyed so much the honor of working with you. i will end with
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that. >>. we will take a break the committee will stand in recess for 10 minutes. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]
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>> the committee will reconvene. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida, mr. george, for five minutes. general sessions, who do you work for?
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to you or for the american people are for the president of the united states? mr. sessions: i am a member of themr. sessions: executive branch and i work for the american people. i want to ask you questions about that. on february 14, the president asked fbi director about the flynn investigation and said "i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go." on may 9, the president fired comey. on may 11, he went on television and announced he fired, a because "the russia thing with trump and russia." general sessions, do you think it would be reasonable for the members of this committee to byclude that the president, first interfering in one investigation and then
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interfaced -- interfering into an investigation into himself committed obstruction of justice? mr. sessions: i don't believe that is a fair conclusion. matter that would be the special counsel. deutch: communication that endeavors to instructor impede the due administration of justice, that is exactly what the president did in both of those cases. counseln to the special brought on -- this committee refused to take action to make sure that bob mueller is protected. do you believe the president has fire specialht to
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counsel mueller? mr. sessions: i am not at liberty to answer that. thatdeutch: do you think the president should be able to block investigations into his own campaign? mr. sessions: investigations need to be conducted by appropriate law enforcement officers without fear or bias. without fear of being dismissed by the president because that would appear to represent obstruction of justice. and when you fail to acknowledge likelyt is essentially that the president will go ahead and do that. i would like to talk about the special counsel investigation. there are indictments and a guilty plea. in your opinion, does the president have the power to pardon george papadopoulos? mr. sessions: that would be premature for me to comment on that, i believe.
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the president has the power to pardon. there is no doubt about that. deutch: does he have the power to pardon paul manafort and rick gates before trial? mr. sessions: i am not able to comment on that. it may be settled law. rep. deutch: what do you think the settled law is? mr. sessions: i don't know. rep. deutch: does the president have the power to pardon his own family members? would he be able to pardon donald trump junior for being in contact with wikileaks regarding these emails? can he make those pardons today before there is anything further that comes from that special counsel investigation? mr. sessions: i would not be able to answer that at this moment with any authority. rep. deutch: you started by telling us that you are the american people's lawyer. you are not recused from giving these.ers on
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you're not comfortable giving us answers on these. but here's the problem that we have. you said when he asserted your testimony that there is nothing more important than advancing law.ule of and when you answer the way you have, it suggests that the rule of law is wobbling at our feet. you took a north -- is crumbling at our feet. you took an oath to uphold the law. we took an oath to uphold the constitution. and when we abdicate our responsibility in these important matters, you cannot -- and the interference, what you told us today in just of this exchange, what we should all be concerned about is another saturday night massacre if you can't tell us if the president can fire the special counsel and everyone who works for him? we should be worried if you are telling us that the president may be able to pardon in advance all of those who are being investigated. we should be worried about the pursuit of the rule of law.
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general sessions, we may, in this committee -- >> the time of the gentleman has expired. briefly, one just of the things them if you respect the rule of law, the attorney general should not be giving legal opinions from the seat of his britches. that is what i am saying to you today. rep. johnson:: i do appreciate that, general sessions. side. over here on the if one person is a foreign agent and the other person is an american citizen, is the release of the information regarding who the american citizen is and/or the conversation of the american citizen a violation of federal
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law? mr. sessions: i believe it is. hypothetical. someone releases the name of that person or the information contained by that person, that is a federal offense. mr. sessions: unacceptable and could be a federal offense. sen. poe: has anybody been prosecuted under your regime for doing that, whether it has been in the white house or some other government agency, where we hear leaks about classified information? are you prosecuting anybody for that? mr. sessions: for? release of fisa information? sen. poe: release of the information of who the person is or the classified information. that's classified information. is your department. prosecuting anybody for that? sen. poe: i cannot confirm -- and went mr. sessions: no one is under indictment.
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we will continue to press those cases. sen. poe: good. i want to talk about the foreign intelligence surveillance act. secret courts issuing secret wa get information from terrorists overseas, that is fisa law and fisa court. mr. sessions: that is not a perfect summarymr. sessions: but that is substance to it. we can trustknow the nsa. that thepper testified u.s. was not testifying -- was not spying on americans. and then snowden comes along.
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part of the foreign intelligence surveillance act gives the nsa authority to seize information, like emails, text messages, guys,ications of these foreign agents or terrorists, overseas, to collect their information, to make sure america is safe. during the process, as you know, andrmation on americans, they are and what those conversations may be is also seized. incidental information. it's my understanding the justice department is opposed to the usa liberty act, which would require that, therefore government goes into that information on americans when they are not the target -- the targets are terrorists -- that information on americans, that there has to be a warrant signed by a real judge that states
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probable cause before that information can be seized. my understanding is the justice department, under your leadership, is opposed to that warrant requirement. is that correct? mr. sessions: that is absolutely correct. you don't think probable cause and a warrant requirement is required to go to that information that is -- first of all, the seizure is -- by government without government without a warrant. so it is seized already. you also don't. believe a warrant should be record by any court to go to that information? i agree with the courts, not you, congressman.
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i am reclaiming my time. you agree with the courts, not me. but let me tell you something. it is the responsibility of the congress to set the privacy standard for america. i think the constitutional supports my opinion. before government can go in and sees something i do searches on an american citizen that is incidental to searches on the target, a war it must be gotten. we know we cannot -- a warrant must be obtained. we cannot trust the nsa. is that data ever destroyed, or is it kept forever? mr. sessions: i believe it has a limited time span, i think it is five years. your time has expired.
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before i begin, i think i have a solution that would allow the committee to move on to other matters. your side wants an investigation of hillary clinton. my solution would save taxpayers grief and money by simply going to the president and former secretary of state and ask them both to resign. donald trump, you can go to hillary clinton, and then we can move on as a nation from this thing that never seems to end. sure what you're going to get clinton to resign from, since she does not seem to be in charge of everything. last time i checked, she got 3 million more votes than trop but
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still lost. i do not know why we do not just move on. in campaigns, candidates make promises. do you think they should fulfill the promises they make during campaigns? mr. sessions: people make a lot of promises. member of the cabinet of president trump, do you feel an obligation to fill campaign promises? do you think you should fulfill them? mr. sessions: i believe the attorney general should enforce the law. >> i understand. but you're helping him on the muslim band, the immigration issue. if it is lawful.
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>> ok. you have said it was a remarkable and brilliant campaign. he said during the second debate go if heng to -- he is wins he is going to get a federal prosecutor to look into the situation because there have never been so many lies, so many -- so much deception. because youied, would be in jail. are you going to fulfill that campaign promise? promised to put her in jail. are you going to keep that campaign promise? i will fulfill my responsibility. yes or no. it is a promise that your boss
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said he would hire you. he has reminded you a few times that that is what he wants you to do. mr. sessions: i will fulfill my duty as attorney general. youo you love campaign but are not going to fulfill his campaign promises. i had of hope you don't. general, i would like to go back to the beginning of the hearing and get you to answer this question. are you aware that you are under oath and that your answers must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? mr. sessions: yes. >> good. you will forgive me if they put a little bit of doubt into that answer. just a reminder that i might
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need this salt shaker. this answer from mother jones magazine three times that jeff stations -- jeff sessions lied under oath. i do not want to hear in a few days or a few weeks that your answer has changed based on newly uncovered evidence that what you told us before was in ort false, misleading, something other than the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. under oath, in the senate, you ord as a surrogate a time two for the trump campaign you did not have communication with russians, but in march it was revealed you did. did you have campaign communications with the russians? because it appears that you have had them. i would like to
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respond to that. i thought i had the paper right here. here it is. senator franken asked me this question. ok. story, just published a i am telling you about a news story that has just been published. i am not expecting you to know if it is true or not, but cnn just published a story alleging that the intelligence community documents. provided to the president-elect last week that included information that claimrussian operatives
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to have compromising personal and financial information about mr. trump. the documents also allegedly say there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates an intermediary is for the russian government. he goes on to say that this is coming out, so if it is true it is extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that there is anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicate with the russian government, what would you do? i was taken aback by this. this.never heard this happened while i was testifying, i suppose. i am not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a cut -- a time or two during the campaign, i did not have
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communication with the russians, and i am unable to comment on it. my answer was responsive to his continuing -- this is really important. my focus was on responding to the concern that i, as a surrogate, was debating in a continuing series of meetings with intermediaries for the russian government. i certainly did not mean i had never met a russian in the history of my life. it wasd not think responsive. my response was the way i had heard the question. i hope you will treat me fairly when you evaluate that. >> the chair recognizes the
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gentleman from pennsylvania for five minutes. >> thank you for being here. i'm going to ask you some questions because i am the an antitrust subcommittee on judiciary. issue more than it ever has been in the past. the justice department's role is very critical in determining whether there is an antitrust violation. i understand that the justice at&ttment position on the merger will require a divestment of some assets. behavioral conditions have been used in vertical mergers because they pose less of a danger than horizontal competitions --
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horizontal mergers. mr. sessions: antitrust policy is important. i have never been an expert at it. it was one subcommittee of the judiciary i never chose to be a part of. we have an experienced team in the doj and try to handle each case professionally. the good chief now of the i am not division, able to announce any new policy at this time. >> will there be a discussion concerning vertical and horizontal mergers when it comes so-called behavioral conditions where to companies that are merging may have to divest?
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could there be future discussion as to when this condition would be implemented? mr. sessions: the vertical horizontal issue is something that has always been part of the discussion. i do not think it is dispositive of any final decision but i am not able at this time to comment on anything that would be part of an ongoing matter. i appreciate you giving me the opportunity to not attempt to answer that. >> i am going to switch to human trafficking. when i was a u.s. attorney we heartbreaking situations concerning human trafficking. i know you understand like i understand, the challenges involved.
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can you tell me what the doj has prosecutionsng the and investigations for anti-trafficking? mr. sessions: we believe strongly that we can do even more. it has been our priority for a number of years. there was a major international case in minnesota and i was surprised how much money was involved. of our a recent report with ameeting transportation group. i have empowered rachel brand to be engaged in advancing efforts in this regard. she has enthusiastically responded. >> if i might make a suggestion. several it years ago, we in
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pennsylvania prosecuted one of the biggest sex trafficking cases on the east coast obviously for the most part involving women and very young girls. , people wenton away for 30 or 40 years. but one of the areas that we have to help more with the victims is the protection side of things. during investigation and during the trial, but subsequent to the convictions. children are not forgotten and protection set up to keep people from doing things that were done in the past. thank you. mr. sessions: thank you for your service.
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between 1956 and 1971 the fbi ran a counterintelligence program initiated by hoover. they mainly targeted civil rights leaders and it is understood that this was an abuse of surveillance power. ask to enterto this report into the record, which is black identity extremist likely motivated to target law enforcement officers. i believe you said you were not familiar with this report. mr. sessions: i have not read it. so you are somewhat familiar with it. who and your department had the power to order a report like this? mr. sessions: i'm not sure how
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the report got ordered. i am not sure i directed it. >> so you have not necessarily read the report and you're familiar with the term black identity extremist? can you tell me what the term means to you? do you believe there is a movement of african-americans that identify them as lack identity extremist, and what does that movement do? interested toi be see the conclusion of the report. i am aware that there are groups that do have an extraordinary commitment to their racial identity and some have transformed themselves into violent activists. >> are you aware of white organizations that do this as well? researchednted, well movements like the white supremacists? is there a term or report on
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white identity extremists? yes.essions: and it is not coming to me at this moment. >> not coming to you? certainly a group like the ku klux klan. there are racially identified white movements that have by and identified, sure. are you aware of a group called the sovereign citizens? they are primarily a white organization that absolutely has targeted and killed police officers. you're not aware of that? mr. sessions: i am not aware of all of their crimes, but i know that they are a group that is known to have violent tendencies. >> can you name an african american organization that is committed violent acts towards
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police officer's? report, pete -- in this they name several from 50 years ago. can you name one from today? mr. sessions: i believe i could, but i would want to confirm that and submit it to in writing. in the last year or so we had four police officers killed by a group that somehow described as extremists. >> so what has happened is that there have been a couple of incidences in which african americans killed police officers were not associated with a black organization. one report in baton rouge was associated with sovereign citizens, which is a white extremist group. so there's concern in the community, by the way, would you consider black lives matter a black identity extremist group? mr. sessions: i have not so
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declared it. know that a lot of activists across the country are very concerned that we are getting ready to repeat a very sad chapter of our history, where people who are rightfully protesting what they consider to be an injustice in their community, which is their relationship with police officers, are now being targeted and labeled as extremist and are going through times of surveillance and harassment. so i would like to know, what is your department going to do to protect the rights of average citizens to protest if they have a concern about police officers? this department will not unlawfully target people. >> if that is the case, i would ask that you review this report, black identity extremists likely motivated to target law enforcement. because i do not believe any type of organization such as this exists. the organizations referred to in
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this report are from decades ago. i would like to know, what will you do to essentially roll back what is listed in this report? because it is not accurate. mr. sessions: we will look at the report. i would be interested in reading it. ,ut they usually do and let fair job in those types of reports. >> the time has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from south carolina. >> thank you. i want to cover a couple of areas. i want to start with something that is very important to me and -- goodf good conscious conscience. the independence of the department of justice. in my judgment, 2016 and 2017 have been challenging years for the doj. the decision to charge someone carries with it multiple layers
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of review. there is the grand jury, the motions,ge, posttrial courts of habeas corpus, the media, congress. but the decision to not charge someone does not carry with it the same corresponding layers of review. it is everyances, bit as important why law enforcement did not do something and why prosecutors did not do something. i am not interested in relitigating the fbi's decision not to charge secretary clinton. the decision has been made and not interestedm in relitigating it. but i am interested in reviewing 2016 and 2017 with respect to the doj. there was a time when my colleagues on the other side of the aisle were interested in having some of these questions answered. it was not even a year ago when some of my democrat friends wanted jim comey prosecuted.
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that was 12 months ago. it was absurd then and now. but what is not absurd is when my democrat colleagues asked why you decided to publicize one investigation but not the other? why did you decide to appropriate a decision away from the justice department, which is very unusual for the head of the fbi to serve as investigator and decision-maker. just like republicans wanted to know if mr. comey reached his conclusions before the end of his investigation? did he make decisions to charge or not to charge before interviewing all of the witnesses? these are questions to me that go to the core of whether or not the department can be respected, aside from politics. i get that certain departments are inherently political. that the department of justice should not be.
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front that i will be looking into the decisions made in 2016 and 2017. i can say that i know my motivation is a love for that department and a love for the .oncept of blind justice to the extent that there were decisions made, including the decision to write a public letter in october of last year and follow it up with another public letter in november. those are legitimate questions and i hope the department will cooperate in making witnesses available and with respect to documents so congress can better understand the decisions that were made and not made and restore some modicum of trust that all people, whether they degree with -- whether they agree with the decisions are
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not, can understand why they were made. mr. conyers asked to if it was appropriate for the president -- mr. sessions: i just want to respond briefly. your familiar with the inspector general, they made public their investigation. in several the matters that perhaps underi your roles of disclosure, can decry how that is ongoing. but i am unable to give the details to you at this time. and in myrious matter response to the chairman yesterday. >> i did not intend to ask you to respond to that, mr. horowitz is looking into it. you are right, at some point he will let congress know what he
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found. but that does not absolve us to our responsibility to look into it. or conyers asked you whether not it was appropriate for the president to weigh in on an ongoing investigation. and of course the answer is no. it is not appropriate. it was not appropriate when president obama did it. it is never appropriate for a president to tell a department of justice what outcome it should reach. i just wish my friends on the other side had the same outrage when president obama did it as they do now. this will be my last question. you are nominated by a president. you are approved by senate. and yet you work for a virtue. you work for a blindfolded woman holding scales. how do you restore people's trust, republicans and
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democrats, confidence in the department of justice, when it seems like different roles apply depending on who is in power? mr. sessions: that is a good question. worktend to do our according to the established principles of the department of justice. we will not be infected by politics. we will make only decisions we believe our right and just and we are not going to use the department to unlawfully advance a political agenda. we are going to enforce the laws of the country effectively as congress has passed them. i am determined that when the years go by, people will say, this department of justice did not crumble. it stayed firm and true to the great principles that i was taught in the 15 years i taught in the department of justice, 12
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as u.s. attorney and looking up to the attorney general so far removed for me that it was beyond recognition. now i am in that position. i think i understand the gravity of it. i think i understand the importance of responding to your question. we will do our best. the chair recognizes the gentleman from louisiana for five minutes. general, i have the honor of serving as the chair of the congressional black caucus. i testified against your nomination. i did so because i was afraid that we would go back to a time where dissemination was rampant and diversity was not appreciated and the right to vote for minorities and --ican-americans would be
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more obstacles would be set up. i listened to your opening statement and your remarks since then. you talked about voter id. case, which in texas ruled that the texas voter identification law has discriminatory portions against african-americans, the district , and thend that way you with true from the case after two courts ruled that it was discriminatory. how does that mash, and then you are good on the side of texas. how does that mesh with the right to make sure that african-americans have unfettered access to the voting polls? mr. sessions: texas had passed a voter id law that the courts did not approve but struck down. the election was coming up i
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believe. the court approved a voter id approved.that they it was found to be unconstitutional or proper. that is the one that the court approved. so we felt that the voter id voter id approved a law that is constitutional. that's why thes position was changed. nominating af justice to the bench, our information tells us that out of all of the judges that have been 91% have been white males. does that foster diversity?
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mr. sessions: i am not aware of the numbers, but we should look for quality candidates. i think diversity is a matter that has significance. associationnal bar has recommended a number of african americans and other minority attorneys that are qualified. so if you do not know the answer to this, just let me know that you will get me the information. we african-americans do you have on your staff? >> i do not have any. this're talking about administration. of all the u.s. attorneys that have been nominated or confirmed, how many have been african american?
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>> one in alabama that i recommended that i knew. i believe it is only that one. i have of the special agents in charge of -- >> out of all of these special agents in charge, how many are african-american? eggs i do not know. guides would you get that information -- >> i do not know. >> would you get that information for me? >> yes. rep. richmond: we're losing over 100 people a day. the decision goes back to tough on crime -- i think you specifically said you want u.s. go for -- but with
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opioids, we are treating it as a mental health crisis. our answer to crack cocaine was mandatory minimum sentences. the question is, how does an outside observer reconcile how , which led tock mass incarceration, which now in the epidemic we are losing thousands and thousands of people year and a it with hugs and kisses and treatments as opposed to tough on crime, luck them up. how do i reconcile that and not conclude the only differences race and income? mr. sessions: the federal court serious offenders, not users. cartels, networks, gangs, ms-13. we focus aggressively on that.
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invigoratedn new, more and iy focus is have been convinced of this, on leading criminals in the nimrod. the federal government will not seek mass incarceration so much as we will focus on identifying the people who really are the driving force. young people into crime who would not offend out they would've not had this leadership on this drive. it has worked in new york, it has worked in other agencies, that the double work here. congressman, the average three orin the last four years has dropped 19% and the federal prison population is down 14 percent. we are beginning to see a spike in homicides, the likes of which we have not seen since 1960.
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>> the gentleman's time is expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas. >> thank you for being here. i was a computer consultant before congress, so i sometimes dive into the nerdier and of things. were back at the news recently. can you tell us of anyone at the doj, fbi, or any other federal law enforcement agency has been able to take a look and forensically determine whether it was the russians, an inside job, or anybody else? the dnc?ons: you said i not able to comment on that ongoing investigation. >> i appreciate that. we also talked a little bit about 702 and surveillance. one of the things i do not think
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has been completely answered is, why does the doj think it is so programmatic to -- problematic to require a -- before disseminating the content of communications not related to foreign intelligence that deal with american citizens? mr. sessions: maybe i should explain that. when you have awarded or have -- or surveillance on individuals connected with terrorism or any individuals, you listen. if they call an american, and you have a terrorist on the phone in syria, you want to know who that american's. >> the u.s. celebrity act includes exceptions for those engaged in international terrorism for furthering their goals.
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there is an exception for dealing with emergencies and people believed to be terrorists. mr. sessions: all right. so, if we get a lawful intercept from me federal judge of a mafia person in new york, he is not likely to be talking to many people not in the united states. in we are listening to the conversation of the people he talks to, the american citizen. it they talk about a crime, you can use that evidence against them and you do not have to have a separate warrant to access. in 702.alking about think with me now. so, you lawfully obtain this information. you can do it by hand in the old days, but now with computers they do much of the workforce, so you know the names of the people that may be involved in this activity and you can access
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those records just like you can access bank records. >> could there be any other way a warrant? it mr. sessions: the problem would be war and is let's say this, from you have information an airport that somebody wants to learn how to fly a plane but does not want to learn how to land at a plane, as we saw one time. that does not give a probable cause to search or tap that person's phone. >> i have another question. i appreciate your answer on this. i wanted to talk, in the last congress we enacted into law the save act. it makes it a criminal offense to advertise for commercial sex. the doj, has it use this to prosecute online sex traffickers and the websites they use and of not, why not?
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mr. sessions: i'm not sure about that. i have to maybe affect you to on that. >> i would appreciate that, thank you. i have a couple more here. i want to kind of take a step back and look at the big picture. i am a lawyer, went to law's goal. i have considered the attorney general to be the people's attorney. i feel like over the past few years, under previous attorney generals, the attorney general has been more the president's of attorney rather than the people's attorney. can you tell me what you are doing in office to restore the confidence in the american thele both in the office of attorney general and agencies like the fbi, which most people used to have a very high respect for but i believe that level of respect and trust has dropped dramatically in recent times. mr. sessions: these are serious questions. you get tohat as
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know the new fbi director chris ray, you will find him to be a man of high intelligence, great integrity, great character, and great capability. clearly one of the nation's great players on private practice and many years in the department of justice as a prosecutor working with the fbi. that is one thing we've got. i can tell you i've great confidence in him. my deputy, 27 years of professional experience that i chose to be my primary deputy. my associate attorney general, likewise is a woman of the highest character and academic excellence and experience in the department. we are setting a tone of professionalism every day and what we do. i think that is something we need to do. there are some matters that do need to be completed. inspector general is doing an investigation of some significance. i believe you received a copy of
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my letter, involving the fbi and the allegations are. we intend to make sure that no agency of the government, not just the fbi, is not following the kind of discipline send practices they should follow. youi guess i would say to watch what we do. we are not going to be driven by politics. we're going to try to do the right thing and i believe time will show that to be true. >> i see my time is expired. thank you. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from new york. >> mr. sessions, i have a transcript of your testimony before the senate judiciary committee and october. you stated under oath, "i don't ," in some form or fashion 29 times. is that true? >> i don't recall.
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>> i have a copy of your testimony before the senate committee. you stated you did not recall approximately 36 times, is a correct? >> i don't know. >> in your testimony today, you " at stated "i don't recall least 20 times. is that correct? >> i don't know. withring a tv interview lou dobbs, you criticized hillary clinton for telling fbi investigators, "i can't remember" approximately 35 times. you also stated during that lou dobbs interview that the intentional failure to remember can constitute perjury. mr. attorney general, do you still believe that the intentional failure to remember can constitute a criminal act? mr. sessions: yes. >> you testified in january that you had no contacts with russian accomplices during the cap
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campaign. earlier today, you testified that your story has "never changed." is that correct? earlier your testimony today, the story has never change? correct? mr. sessions: i believe that it's fair to say, but we might could -- we added things i did not recall at the time. so my statement at the time was my best recollection of the circumstances and as things are brought up -- >> i understand. meeting with ambassador kissling act at the republican convention, you remember that, correct? mr. sessions: i made a speech, he came up to me afterwards. i was standing in front of the speaker pro tem and i did chat with him. it was not a meeting. >> you also met with the 2016sador and december
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that you have acknowledged, correct? mr. sessions: yes. i had to senior staffers, both full criminals in the u.s. army retired. >> you testified in june before the senate intelligence committee that you had not even whisper about possible involvement in the trump campaign, yet we understand you attended the march 31 meeting when george papadopoulos talked about potential communications with russian operatives. also, according to your third youter 2016 sec filing, campaign dinner meeting at the capitol hill club, zac correct? i just. >> the senate reelection committee take for that campaign, zac correct. mr. sessions: i think that might be so. >> and carter page and george papadopoulos both attended, zac correct? mr. sessions: that have been recorded. >> at that meeting, mr. paige
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told you he was going to moscow in a few days, zac correct? >> yes. it was a brief meeting as he was walking out the door. i do not recall that conversation but i'm not able to dispute. >> understood. mr. sessions: does that establish some sort of improper ?ontact >> you understand, sir, i get to as questions and you provide inches. in this capacity, you are no longer in the u.s. senate. you voted to remove bill clinton from office on charges of perjury, correct? mr. sessions: that is correct. there were other charges. >> simple questions. to remove him actually, impeachment and house. in connection with that vote to remove president clinton from the office, you get the speech on the senate floor on february
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29, 1999 and in it, you servingdged that while as u.s. attorney you once prosecuted a young police officer who live in a deposition. and not speech, you decided to prosecute that young police officer even though he corrected his testimony. you testified under oath before the senate judiciary committee in january. you subsequently corrected that testimony in a march 6 written submission and have been forced repeatedly to come back to the senate and now the house to clarify. when explaining your vote on the senate floor to remove bill clinton from office, you stated that you refuse to hold a president accountable to a different standard than a young police officer who you prosecuted. let me be clear -- the attorney general of the united states of america should not be held to a
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different standard than the young police officer whose life you ruined by prosecuting him for perjury. i yield back. the gentleman may respond if he so chooses. mr. sessions: nobody, nobody, not you or anybody else should me or accusednot of perjury for answering a question the way i did in this hearing. i've always tried to answer questions fairly and accurately but to us, did you ever do something, did you ever meet with russians and deal with the campaign, you are saying mr. carter page, who left that meeting according to the press reports and i guess is deposition or interview has been saying --s seeing -- "i am going to russia," i made no response, and you are
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accusing me of lying? i say that is not fair, mr. jeffries. fair,d say that it's not colleagues. that is not any indication that way participating in anything wrong at the same with mr. papadopoulos. he talked about, it is reported that the paper and he said something about going to russia and dealing with russians and i pushed back and said, you should not do it. so i do not think i am -- it is right to accuse me of doing something wrong. i had no participation in any wrongdoing with regards to influence in this campaign improperly. florida.man from >> thank you mr. attorney general. you did not do anything wrong in that testimony. the question is not giving you any benefit of the doubt at all. i hear what you are saying. you did not do anything wrong
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or. i want to talk to you about your recusal from the russian case. -- saying you were involved with the campaign and that triggered recusal. however, that regulation only accuses -- applies to criminal investigations. when you recuse yourself under james comey's admission that was in it counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation. so why did you cite that regulation to recuse from a counterintelligence investigation when it was a criminal investigation? mr. sessions: i am not sure that was expressed to me when i was those advice about it in terms. it could likely be interpreted --both and so >> he said he was authorized to say there was a counter
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intelligence investigation. that is what he said. i think that may have been missed applied. -- misapplied. but i see what you're saying. i know you talked about, you cannot confirm or deny investigations. allowed tobing confirm that investigation on march 20 which invited all kinds of irresponsible speculation? -- why was james comey allowed to confirm that investigation on march 20 which invited all kinds of her responsible speculation? mr. sessions: this march 20 talking about, i am not -- i don't recall exactly how that occurred. but i do agree with you, congressman, that mr. comey talked more than he should and power, right, or justification in announcing the conclusion of an investigation. he was the investigator not the
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-- >> i don't want to interrupt but i have a limited time. i agree with you. let me move on. the uranium one case. past, did the fbi or doj and form either president obama, secretary clinton, or any cabinet secretary that it had uncovered evidence that adam -- was involved in kickbacks or they laundering before obama administration approved the uranium one sale in 2010? mr. sessions: that matter was prosecuted in maryland. >> the fbi had evidence of bribery, kickbacks, and money-laundering. with that information conveyed to any of the relatively involved. clinton, cabinet secretary is, or was it given to the president?
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sessions: the way i understand that matter is that the case in which he was convicted was not connected to occurredoblems which 2-3 years before. unitede case came to the states attorney's office, mr. rosenstein's office in maryland, sify is had already been approved. >> there was an fbi enforcement -- and formant starting in 2009. mr. sessions: i have not talked to him but i understand the department of justice has approved providing information to the congress and i understand it will be set up in a few days and you will be able to hear from him direct. >> you should, too, because from everything i have been proffered he has proof of illegal conduct in 2009, 2010, before this deal was agreed to.
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it was all connected. i think that is something we need to do. let me move on. you mentioned you cannot confirm or deny the existence of the leaks used lyrically against the administration. let me ask you this. since the president was elected, has anybody been held accountable criminally or legislatively for leaking administration with a political motive? >> i think the individual injured joe had a motive -- in georgia had a motive. 27 ongoing investigations. some of those about leaks before president trump took office and after. them before that it was only three per year. only nine. more than the entire three years eve for being investigated. >> can you tell us whether or
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not the expended resources to give money to christopher steel. we have oversight over your opponent. was taxpayer dollars used to give to christopher steel? yes or no? mr. sessions: i cannot say for several reasons, it is an ongoing matter and it may involve classified information. >> thank you mr. attorney general. we recognize the gentleman from rhode island for five minutes. >> thank you. i will try to get through questions quickly. reports revealed last week the justice department may require -- among other requirements for its proposed acquisition of time warner. rupert murdoch, the chairman of 21st century fox has twice contacted at&t in an effort to buy cnn. this is very disturbing because they are responsible for
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oversight of these issues. my first question, has any white house employee or official contacted the justice department regarding the at&t-time warner transaction or any other transaction? sessions: i'm not authorized to comment on communications involving the department of justice at the white house. >> i ask -- you are invoking the fifth amendment or executive privilege, you just cannot to kind to answer because it is uncomfortable. i asked that the witness be directed to answer my question. >> the witness can answer the question in the fashion he has determined. quite reserving my right mr. chairman. mr. sessions, you're not going to answer the question? houser any white officials have attempted to interfere? mr. sessions: a long-standing department of justice policy is not to reveal privileged
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conversations. >> reclaiming my time. moving on. for nature and -- the foreign law, are you familiar? mr. sessions: i think it is a in law. >> have any other top advisers or campaign officials lobbied for foreign governments without disclosing it under the four and agents registration? mr. sessions: i'm not authorized to answer that. >> why not? mr. sessions: repeat the question, perhaps i misunderstood. have any lobbied for foreign governments without disclosing under the foreign agents registration or? mr. sessions: that question mueller, asked of mr. i believe. >> a 25-page memo with all federal agencies reporting to guidance on religious liberty protections under federal law.
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in the guidance, you indicate an exemption for accommodations for religious organizations for it i discrimination law might be required, even where congress exemptedxpressly religious organizations. you remember that, right? visit sessions: yes. >> ok. so they could refuse to provide disaster assistance to an unmarried couple aced on the religious belief that the couple should not cohabitate before marriage? mr. sessions: i don't believe it can be interpreted that way. i'd thank you. sessions: i'd like to answer. housead could refuse to an unmarried pregnant woman based on the believe that sex outside of marriage is a sin? yes or no? mr. sessions: first, i do not think so. .nder the guidance also, under the guidance it does
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not repeal established law. the guidancen, law, to clarify the established -- >> thank you. i appreciate. returning to the pop it up was issue, in your october 18 testimony, you purport to a bygotten the conversation youpapadopoulos, you said are not being dishonest. you simply forgot. do you remember that testimony? mr. sessions: something like that. >> ok. when did you remember the remarks of mr. top it off the list? when did that memory come back to you -- mr. papadopoulos? when did that memory come back to you? mr. sessions: i would recall , it my october statements was a broad question. >> i understand. reclaiming my time. mr. sessions: it was over 18
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months before. >> did you ever stage any emails, text messages, or any other communications about ?ussia or any other subject mr. sessions: repeat that category? >> exchange any emails, text messages, or any communication to or from mr. puppet up less -- ?r. papadopoulos mr. sessions: i do not believe so. >> did anybody forward any communication or communication to you about mr. abbott obelisks -- mr. papadopoulos? mr. sessions: i cannot say there was any communication after this event. i do not have a specific recollection, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman, i would ask to make a unanimous consent request to insert the following materials into the record.
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a letter from me and ranking members mr. conyers on the antitrust members for the justice department's. klobuchar,om amy dianne feinstein, and others urging the justice department to post any attempt by the white house to interfere with antitrust laws for political reasons. in july and called the new york times reported senior white house advisers discussed using the at&t-time warner merger as a point of leverage with cnn. nine letters as far back as february official or from various members of the judiciary committee seeking information on a wide range of subjects that have been ignored. we've received no responses. >> without objection. the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. mr. attorney general, the dizzying. if fbi director chris ruddy held
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a press conference tomorrow without your knowledge to announce a charging in a major federal investigation, would you consider that an inappropriate departure from long-standing department of justice and fbi policies? mr. sessions: under the situation today, under the letter that deputy attorney general rosenstein wrote with , i think it. comey auld be eight terminator -- open qualifying event. we do not need people to take access outside their realm. maybe sometimes people make an honest mistake, but that would make a dramatic thing that he would never do. >> i will take that as a dramatic yes. are there prosecutors in your office pre-determining cases prior to the interviewing of key witnesses to include the subjects or targets of those investigations? mr. sessions: i
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do not believe so. practice init a your department of justice to allow immunized witnesses >> is it a practice in your department of justice to allow immunized witnesses to sit in on investigations? mr. sessions: not would not be a normal practice for sure. few of the anomalies that have taken place and how the department of justice and fbi have handled these investigations and prosecutions prior to 2016 and now apparently a departure from how you are handling them. these irregularities have shaken the faith and trust of people in our department of justice. i'm of the opinion that for the last eight years we have survived the last presidency in my lifetime my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have spent their time trying to make
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us think it is our current president. ,lected officials come and go but right now, where we are, what our history will not tell us is what happens if i were people lose all faith and trust in the department of justice and fbi to fairly investigate and prosecute violations of the role of law? every time you and i have held the same position in the department of justice. -- as were you. you have obviously been promoted. if public opinion tells us anything, it signals i have been demoted. but my time as u.s. attorney taught me something you said in your opening, which is the department of justice always commands politics to uphold the rule of law. i think more than anything else, american people want to hear from you that is in fact the case. gowdy said in his
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line of questioning, lady justice is supposed to be holding a set of scales wearing a blindfold. she is not supposed to have her finger on the scales. i think the american people of every reason to question whether or not that is where we are right now so more than anything else, and i am asking from you, is to hear from you that you are prepared -- no, that you are committed to go wherever the facts and evidence lead you regardless of the political consequences for any political party or any person, donald trump or hillary clinton, or yourself. mr. sessions: yes, r.i.m. the department of justice is. you will soon have director ray coming before your committee. i hope you will ask him these questions. i think you will be impressed with his commitment in that regard as united states
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attorneys. we were raised in that idea. i have never forgotten. i am glad i did my 15 years at the department of justice before he came to congress. you get your values shaped at eight younger age. i think i understand the role i have. the responsibility we have. i would say this, that in the i want the respect of this body, both sides of the aisle i have got to follow the rules. it may frustrate you that i cannot answer questions or confirm you or other members on this site. it may frustrate people on the side. if i'm not prepared to do that than i do not think i will ever restore the department of justice. our goal would be i hope it is not as bad as you
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say. but i think there is danger out there. >> mr. attorney general, thank you for your continued service. i yield back. >> there were about 8.5 minutes remaining. the gentleman from california has persuaded me that we will permit him to proceed. we will reconvene immediately following the vote. thank you for appearing. please express my gratitude to the men and women who serve for the department of justice. you stated in your opening statements "my story has never changed," but mr. attorney three timeschanged today. we heard the third admission when you told us that you do now recall mr. papadopoulos mentioning he had contacts in russia. so i have a slide i would like to display. it is an exchange with senator franken where he asks about
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campaign communication with russia and you stated "senator franken, i'm not aware of any of hese activities." if you were asked that question today, recalling you are now of what mr.sed -- puppet op lists said, how would you answer? mr. sessions: all i would say it's, if you fairly treat the exchange i had with mr. franken, i think you can understand where when i answered the question i felt like i was answering it properly. >> but you agree today you would he answered differently if it was asked in the same form today, considering your recollection you just gave? yousessions: i believe that are asking the today, explicitly, did you meet with any other russians i am prepared to say i did. i met with him back in my office. patriots,respective retired in the army.
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occurred atoper all. >> once and for all, can we answer the question? andsessions: not young once for all answering the question, mr. congressman. i do not understand why you will not take my answer. >> during the campaign, did any person on earth state that they were communicating with russians, traveling to russia, or ask the campaign to meet with russia? do your recollection? today, to your knowledge, did any person on the campaign tell you they were going to russia? mr. sessions: i am prepared to answer the question but i just will not answer in a way to suggest that i am anyway intentionally misleading anyone when i answered the question. >> please answer the question, mr. attorney general. mr. sessions: the answer is i met with the ambassador in my office for less than an hour, i believe.
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in t came up to me after a speech at the convention when it muchaised to me that this later. nobody said immediately it was an error. i immediately told them the meetings i had. >> with respect to carter page, he told you he was going to russia. he was also on the national security team. this is the second person within about three months now that is bringing up russian contact and you did not tell him to not go to russia. inside correct? "chuckling -- [chuckling] -- no. was i supposed to tell him not to take a trip? >> no. the campaign, you are the chairman of the national -- rity team,
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mr. sessions: if i read what has been said about the george papadopoulos meeting, i did say, you do not represent -- something to that -- i pushed back at his trip and was concerned that he not go off intending to represent the trump campaign. you know authority for that. this man did not have any authority to go off representing the campaign. page, andne is carter he says from what i say in his testimony, interviews, he said he -- after the meeting was ever, he goes out and -- >> moving on -- >> he goes out, says he is going to russia, i made no response. people --rican >> mr. -- thate cia director judge
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wikileaks is a wholesale russian intelligence agency. do agree with that? mr. sessions: i'm not able to disagree with that. >> candidate trump said throughout the campaign "i love wikileaks." do you love wikileaks, mr. attorney general? mr. sessions: i am not a fan of wikileaks. >> do think it is proper that donald trump, junior, associated with wikileaks turn the campaign? mr. sessions: -- >> session will resume after the vote. ] avel pounds
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>> the committee will reconvene. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida, mr. gates, for five minutes. mr. gates: on how many investigations have you recused yourself? thesessions: i do not have number. --does not mean >> have you recused yourself on more than one investigation since you have been attorney general? mr. sessions: yes.
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than 10? mr. sessions: could be that. rosenstein also recused? >> i am not aware. >> if there was such a circumstance, would you be aware of it? >> probably. >> you are aware of the july 27 the 20 members of the committee sent demanding a special counsel? mr. sessions: yes. >> and you are aware of the evening byte last the assistant attorney general sessions: yes. asked you direct mr. boyd to drop. response? direct mr. boyd to draft that response? was it just you or anyone else question mark mr. sessions: i think it would've been a direction from me. >> did you review the letter before it was sent? yes.essions:
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i'd you agree with what was laid out? so.sessions: i think >> and the third paragraph it says, the attorney general has directed federal prosecutors to address certain situations raised in the letter. the senior prosecutors will report directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. when you say the deputy attorney general, you referring to mr. rosenstein? >> yes. >> so you contemplate the senior prosecutors are doing the analysis and then reporting back, do you contemplate by using the conjunction "and mr. rosenstein would be briefed simultaneously? mr. sessions: i would think so. >> who is the final decision-maker? you are mr. rosenstein on these matters? mr. sessions: i would make the final decision i would assume unless it implicates an issue that i am not -- that i am recused in or would be improper
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for me to be involved with. >> echoes to the base of i question. trying to find out on the very issues referenced in this response, it is stated in this response that it is the attorney general and deputy attorney general that make a decision. so you're are saying it is the attorney general decision on those matters? >> yes. under conflict, i would make a decision, yes. >> do you see such a conflict as we sit here now? mr. sessions: some of the matters could implicate matters that mr. miller has, for example, that i have recused myself from. >> other than the matters that mr. mueller is dealing with, are there any other matters that you would see a circumstance where andissue has been rated chairman goodlatte's letter where you would anticipate a recusal on your part?
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mr. sessions: i do not anticipate that but it is possible. appoint a special counsel to investigate the uranium one matter? crexendo leave i do. christ you have the authority to appoint a special counsel to mediate the fusion gps matter? mr. sessions: i do not believe that i should be talking about and evaluating cases here today. >> i'm not asking you to evaluate. i am asking you to evaluate your authority to appoint special counsel. i don't want to know anything about the investigations, even if they are happening are not happening. mr. sessions: if i am not recused, i have the authority and responsibility to make that decision. >> as it relates to loretta lynch using the pseudonym elizabeth carlyle, are you recused on that matter?
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are you recused on the fusion gps matter? mr. sessions: i don't think so. i am not going to comment about that but i would say in defense of attorney general lynch, i have a pseudonym also. i understand all caps and officials do. maybe some sub-cabinet officials do. they probably have been following the advice of the department of justice. i am just saying, we have to be careful. thatjust want to be clear as it relates to the uranium one matter, you do believe you have the authority to appoint a special counsel and you do not believe the authority you have is subject to any recusal at this time? >> i cannot say that. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california for five minutes. >> donald trump has asked various individuals to pledge a
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loath of loyalty to him. has he asked you? mr. sessions: no. i of donald trump were to ask --, would you do so question >> if donald trump were to ask you to pledge a loath of loyalty to him, would you do so? mr. sessions: we all owe loyalty to bosses and supervisors. i have always done that. so you know, people are expected to be loyal to their executive branch had. but an improper loyalty oath the goes beyond a commitment -- >> thank you mr. sessions. i reclaim my time. let's talk about your contacts with a foreign power. lester, how many interactions did you have with russian government officials question -- last year, how many interactions did you have with russian government officials? did you interactions
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have with russian ambassador sergey i. kislyak? mr. sessions: i came up the platform, we chatted, had an encounter. couple months later, believe in september, he asked for a meeting and i provided that. i met with approximately 25 ambassadors last year and i had that same day -- >> thank you. as attorney general you have a clearance, correct? to get that clearance, you form, correct? i submitted such a form when i served in active duty in the u.s. air force. the form requires you to certify under penalty of perjury was true,n submitted and complete, to the best of your knowledge.
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>> that is correct. >> did it show you a question from that form? any contact with a foreign government such as embassy, reserves, representatives inside or outside that u.s.? the answer you gave was "no." oathyou just told us under is exactly the opposite. were you lying then when you filled out the form? mr. sessions: what i was told by my executive assistant when we did this former earlier and then again when i was nominated for attorney general, that the fbi authority said members of congress and a effectively government officials meeting
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people on an official basis, you are not required to list all contacts. >> nothing says you good to answer any differently because you are a u.s. rather than, say, young police officer question mark is that right? thatessions: i would say nobody liked the fbi or any other place to my knowledge said that. surely you have met with some foreign officials in the last several years. i've not had any private business dealings nor anything of that nature. my contacts would be in the normal course of doing business. >> let me ask. >> i thought that was reasonable. crid yu said under a today you had meetings with ambassador kislyak under one hour. said under oath today that you had meetings with
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ambassador kislyak under one hour. and -- >> -- >> let me ask you to simple questions. i just we did talk about ukraine, we had an argument about ukraine because the day before the ukrainian ambassador was in my office making his case against russia and i raised those issues with mr. kislyak and he was, as i refer to it i think, the classic "we did nothing wrong." simpleme ask you to questions. you did have communications with the rest of pleasure, is that right? mr. sessions: repeat that. >> you did have communications with the russian last year, is that right? mr. sessions: i did have a meeting with the russian ambassador, yes. >> either you are lying to us or you are lying to the house of
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representatives. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the witness can explain further if you so chooses. mr. sessions, hope the congressman is and i hope all of you know that my answer to that -- mr. sessions: i hope the congressman knows and i hope all of you know that my answer to not question was that i was meeting on a continuing basis with russian officials and the implication was doing impact the campaign and some sort of nefarious way. all i did was me in my office with the ambassador, which we did not even discuss anything like that. so i just want to say i congressman.e response, i'm sorry that -- that is my response. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from louisiana, mr.
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johnson, for five minutes. >> thank you for being here today. the aggressive agenda of hostile foreign actors to undermine our democratic process. the american people are concerned about the subversive -- at leastuse it that is the agenda somehow. it has been a muslim the years before the congress enacted the foreign agents act. disclosing forl anyone working on their behalf said their activities can be evaluated. general sessions come the question today is, as you know the current special counsel investigation has revealed several high-profile washington elites on both sides of the outcome of for example mr. podesta, mr. manafort, who have violated the foreign agents registration act. would you agree without that, these cases would likely have not become public? mr. sessions: perhaps.
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say i do not to have privy to the information and it would be inappropriate really for me to express and opinion. >> except that. the point is that a lot of these things have stayed under the radar because there have not been appropriate attention and focus on it and the special investigation has brought that end in the view of many of us is long overdue. there is historical evidence going back as far as the administration of your j h w bush about the lawn this area despite repeated recommendations to develop a strategy with the dlg -- doj national security efforts. there has been no substantive action and there has been a sharp decline in compliance of the last two decades. clearly everybody can agree much has changed in the world since a lot was first and acted in 1938. the question is, would you agree
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to work with us to correct these very serious problem so that we can update our disclosure laws so the american people can see what is going on? mr. sessions: i would. i believe our professional staff has been at this for some time. i've communicated with some senators and probably have communicated with you. i would be glad to continue that. it's we appreciated. mr. sessions: i think there is only seven cases and what, years, decades? brought, in one case russian tv, some part of that. it is a matter worth serious consideration. at that.ou for giving >> senator grassley and i have companion bills to clear up the ambiguity should. we appreciate your attention. on september 5, we wrote a with 17 other members
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from louisiana and texas, requesting a serious --estigation of plant parent planned parenthood investigations with fetal tissue. i would ask that b entered into the record. specifically we requested your office look into the congressional findings and along investigative him infant lies. the panel stated this is just one of 15 criminal and regulatory referrals made to various agencies, four of which were referred to the justice department's of the question is, do you have any updates on those issues today or on our request, and if not, can we get when of those soon? mr. sessions: i will review the letter. i do not have it at the top of my head i am sorry to say. and i will look at it. i would the congress, mr. chairman, and members here, are entitled to a prompt response from the attorney general and department of justice. we have already reduced the law that some 400 letters i half and
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when the dust settles on our time here, think you will see we are far more responsive than you have had in the past. because i was in your shoes and as chairman grassley reminded me, letters i had pending for a long time not answered. so -- >> fair enough. i know you have been busy. october 12, you made remarks for the second of office for immigration review and stated how the immigration court system is being gamed in many ways. today you mention about the credible fear standard. if we do that, what impact would it have on claims filed in immigration courts? >> it could have a very significant impact. we have about 90% of the people make those claims are referred for some sort of hearing. any of those are quickly determined not to be substantial.
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i remember when the bill passed. i remember an experienced senator, like the senator from arizona who said, this is a huge thing. you do not know how big this is going to turn out to be. it took a number of years but it certainly proved to be correct. we did not need to do that then and we ought to -- we need to curtail it. proposalodlatte's fixed some of that. >> chairman goodlatte's proposal fixed some of that. >> thank you. chair.k you mr. mr. attorney general, president trump has told the press that -- has called the press the enemy of the people. although we thought the free press was the people's best friend. when you commit not to investigate -- not to incriminate investigative journalists for not submitting -- source of their
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mr. sessions: we have not had a conflict in my term of office is with the press, but there something tsipras seems to think they have an absolute right to presshey do -- that the seems to think they have an absolute right to that they do not have an obsolete right to. -- an absolute right to. >> the longest possible sentences, extended to defendants who are turned by special counsel more like gates, papadopoulos, so one. mr. sessions: i would think so. i've not given it that much thought. it simply calls for charging the crime,the most serious
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with the highest minimum sentence for that most serious crime. i was confused about one thing that came up in the various questioning about the meeting with mr. papadopoulos. i heard you say you told him essentially, no, don't go. you tried to shut him down. and at another point, i thought i heard you say, don't represent yourself as speaking for i'm just wondering whether you could clarify that. were you telling him not to go, or not to speak for the campaign? >> i remember the pushback. i remember he suggested an ability to negotiate with russians or others, and i or itt he had no ability would not be appropriate for him to do so, and i was pretty clear that he shouldn't be pretending
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to represent -- >> were you equally clear with mr. gates, not to go to russia and not to represent the campaign? >> let me tell you what he says. i don't recall it. he says he was in the dinner, and as he walked out, he told me i'm going to russia and i made no response whatsoever. wentid it looked like it in one ear and out the other and he did nothing improper when he went to russia. i don't know what he did and have no knowledge of it. -- report to me and as far as i noted not act for the campaign. challenge president trump's continuing receipt of foreign government payments, the
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trump golf courses and so on, the attorney general, what is the appropriate remedy for president who collects four and emoluments without obtaining congressional permission to do so, what is the appropriate remedy? >> i would have to take a look at that. i'm not prepared to give you an answer. >> you taken the position that we don't have any standing to raise it in court. positionn taking that that we don't have standing to raise it, what is the appropriate constitutional remedy? they did not want the president compromise -- what do we do? >> the mighty mitts klaus has not been a subject of a great deal of litigation. the department of justice has long-standing rules about
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standing against congress, against private parties, against pretty wellh established law, i will have to get you information. >> you said you would be defender of voting rights of the people. we have millions of people who are disenfranchised in puerto rico and the other territories. we have people in washington dc who have no voting representation in congress. ourave warnings from intelligence community that there will be further attempts at cyber sabotage of our elections. what you consider the most serious threat to our voting rights and what are you doing about it? will not. sessions: we accept suppression and illegal activities against voters. if you have any, i would appreciate you sending it to me. we will make sure it is investigated by career attorneys
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in her civil rights division. >> and on the cyber security site, what are you doing to protect us from another -- to avoid political sabotage? atty. gen. sessions: i believe this is a danger. i believe investigations have been ongoing and it is being considered, but i have to say i'm not up to date on the latest of that, and i will be pleased to try to get you something in writing as to what we need to do , or least what we are doing and what we may need to do to protect the integrity of our elections. recognizes the gentleman from arizona for five minutes.
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>> i'm going to try over -- to go over some ground without going too much deeper. what is rod rosen scenes role in the department right now? the. gen. sessions: department of justice has a number of key positions. the deputy attorney general has supervisory responsibility for all of our investigative agencies, it basically, the entire department. the associate handles part of that, and the deputy and associate reports through the deputy to the attorney general the fbideputy, director, for example, reports through an to the deputy, not directly to the attorney general. is andrew mccabe's responsibility and role? atty. gen. sessions: i think he
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is classified as the number two guy at the fbi. >> in a position, for instance, mr. comey's position was terminated. mr. mccabe was acting director for a time until a new director was nominated. and mr. rosenstein has been serving with you and had served previously. was anything done to question or that any potential jewel -- potential conflicts they might've had with things like the mueller investigation, the russian investigation, or anything like that? atty. gen. sessions: it's a responsibility i guess of a person involved in an investigation to be sure that is a conflict of interest or that should require recusal. that is aniate that
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individual responsibility. i guess nothing formally or from the department was done to say we've got this going on, there is potential questions, particularly with regard to mr. and the roles back to the fusion one investigations and continuing on for those 10 years. if i understand you correctly, there was nothing done there to formally vet them. atty. gen. sessions: i think i understand you correctly, and i think that is correct. >> i know you have answered this, so i will go quickly with regard to the fusion gps dossier, and has been reported widely in the media that the fbi at least paper some portion or expenses of that document. do you know whether that is accurate or not? atty. gen. sessions: i do not. >> it has also been widely reported in the media that the act i at some point review that
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dossier, particularly on mr. comey. do you know if that ever occurred? i am not. sessions: able to comment on that. >> when you say you're not able to comment, that means -- you may not know, or -- atty. gen. sessions: i have not been involved in any investigation, and i don't even read the newspapers that closely. x it for you, i must say. we had an exchange earlier today with you and the representative from ohio, mr. jordan. he said it seems like this, it seems like that. at the end of that, you made a comment, and i can only paraphrase, because i did not write down to exact comment. it seems like you were saying on cannot base a case something that seems like something. notionessence, the very of probable cause indicates that something seems like something and it seems like that person
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probably committed that act, which seems like it is in violation of the law. i am trying to get clarification of that. atty. gen. sessions: this congress has a right to ask for information. you have the right to express his opinion about whether becial counsel should appointed. it's my responsibility to evaluate it, and i would have to feel, or in some cases the deputy would have to feel that the kind of circumstances that would justify, and we just have to know, and i want you all to know, if special counsel is required, i or i'm sure anyone else in the department that has a responsibility would name one. if not, is not required. i would say that our department
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and our team at the department of justice, i feel like we can do work, but there are some cases that get so significant and ask -- at such a level, it becomes a public interest question that has to be evaluated. i have no prejudgment. i did not mean to suggest i was taking a side one way or the other on that subject. i was simply responding that we would have to have full and effective and detailed factually valuation before we make a decision on whether or not a special counsel is required. i have made no prejudgment. >> what i'm getting at, is that mr. rosenstein
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would be in line to make that decision on special counsel? has a not aware that he problem in that regard, but if so, we have senior councils in the department who would give advice on that. and we all have to be sure we are not crossing that line. >> the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from washington for five minutes. being with us.r i would like to go back to some of your testimony on contacts with russia. at the beginning in your opening statement, you said my testimony has not changed. later in response to some questions, you said i do now recall. due respect, it's difficult to take your assurances under oath when you seem to change her testimony emerges, new evidence and specifically, you denied contact with the russian senator
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during her confirmation hearings. that was revealed to be untrue, given multiple meetings with an ambassador. on campaignsponse related matters but you denied that campaign surrogates communicate with russian agents. that was revealed to be untrue given the sworn statement offered by george papadopoulos. you later refined or statement saying you did not remember george papadopoulos -- but you then remember telling him to seize those conversations. he saved cannot be expected to remember the details of what happened a year ago, but you are in fact a very seasoned prosecutor and a 20 or member of the united states senate, united states congress who is presumably capable of mind and memory. so a prosecutor accepted defense of lack of recall? >> absolutely, people have a lack of recall.
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in the environment we were operating in with so much happening and meetings occurring, you assume a lot of matters that are not accurate. >> would you instruct the attorney to work for you at the department of justice to take at face value a defensive i don't recall? >> if a person says they don't recall it has a justified reason for it, i certainly do. >> and that was not the case in the situation of the police officer that mr. jeffries referred to. let me move on to another matter. on november 11, president trump not only trusted the word of vladimir putin over the brave men and women who served in our intelligence committee. he proceeded to trash the reputations of its leaders, and i quote her, he said, give me a break, they are political hacks. the president went on to say that he believes vladimir putin when he said he absolutely did not metal in our election.
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mr. sessions, do you consider the leaders of our intelligence community, past and present, as political hacks? atty. gen. sessions: i would say to you, the president speaks his mind as he chooses. >> i'm not giving you a yes or no, i'm giving you my answer. >> so you have no opinion on whether they are hacks or not. i'm saying i respect and value our intelligence community. >> that is great to hear. when president trump said he believes vladimir putin when he says he absolutely did not metal myour election, help refresh memory. in january of this your, was it the unanimous opinion of our intelligence committee that the russian government did in fact metal in our election? atty. gen. sessions: i believe an opinion was expressed. >> that was a yes? atty. gen. sessions: i'm not
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aware of any dissent from that. >> in your knowledge in the month since has the intelligence community in any way changed its opinion? atty. gen. sessions: i'm not aware of it. >> senator ceci ask you if the department had taken adequate action to prevent election meddling in the future, you said in response to some questions, that you believe this was a danger. have you requested a review of what laws need to be updated to protect our elections from foreign influence? atty. gen. sessions: i have not, and would be pleased to work with you to deal with the deficiencies we have. the congress would have to deal with that. but you would want to point as -- appoint a special counsel on that issue? ity. gen. sessions: maybe misunderstood the question. i thought you were asking if we should have new laws. >> i'm asking is going to investigate what has happened
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with the meddling in our elections. i'm notn. sessions: participating in that. let me move on to mr. miller, because i just have a few seconds here. considering your prominent role in the trump campaign, did you work closely and communicate with stephen miller when he worked on the campaign? workeden. sessions: i with him. he had worked with me previously. >> did mr. miller tell you he was working on a letter the president trump which detailed the president's reasons for firing then fbi director call me? mr. miller is a high government official close to the president of the united states, and i'm not at liberty to reveal the nature of any conversations we may have had. eggs are you claiming executive privilege? i'm notn. sessions: claiming executive privilege. i'm following the long-established policies of the department of justice.
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>> the president has not invoked executive privilege. >> the time of the general one has expired. >> is their authority in this committee to permit a witness to refuse to answer question without properly invoking a privilege? and if not, what is the appropriate response from the chairman to enforce the committee's ability to do proper oversight? recognizes that senior officials from both administrations current and past and long-standing before that abilityg stated their to not answer questions regarding questions at the highs level of our government. >> i do not believe there's any such privilege or any right to assert a refusal to answer --stion, simply because
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>> you're going to prevent us from getting answers to the question. then i would ask that the witness be directed to enter the gentlelady from washington's question. >> the gentlewoman from georgia is recognized for five minutes. you, and i wanted they -- sayeth special thank you to mr. sessions for being here and for frankly your patience and commitment through the many chapters of the general sessions this english career, so thank you. i wanted to ask a pretty direct question, because there has been so much said here today about russia and what you testify to and not testify to and a great deal of parsing of words, along with what i would call not so areed comments that frankly an attempt to impugn your candor, your integrity, and your reputation, so as very bluntly, have you ever deliberately lied
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or sought to deliberately mislead the united states senate or this body here today? atty. gen. sessions: no, i have not. >> thank you, let the record show it was a direct yes or no on that, and it was an emphatic no. i would ask about civil forager .- civil forfeiture you started some additional practices there. in march, the inspector general had a report and offered several different suggestions that might be put in place, recommendations put in place for the program. can you give an update on that? or if you don't have it today, you can send it to me. atty. gen. sessions: i can. we spent considerable time evaluating the program. we recognize the concerns expressed in congress, and i have been well aware of that, having seen it come up in judiciary committees. so we work hard to produce a
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reproduce, i guess, the policy that had been in place for as much as 40 years. that only recently, in the last two or three years, has been reversed. the law enforcement community was very concerned about the reversal of the sharing and the partnership that we have established, every federal agency and every u.s. attorney has to work closely every day with our state and local law enforcement. 85% of all law enforcement in america is state and local. this has been one of the blues that holds that team together. glues that hole that team together. also, when we reinstated it, i pointed, directed the appointment which will occur, of an individual to be an accountability officer for the whole forfeiture process, to
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receive any complaints we get from congress or judges or lawyers or victims that claim victimhood, and make sure we are doing it in the right way. we have added, we shortened the time for the government to respond. we have said that we won't part with any local law enforcement agency if they don't undergo to ensure they know how to handle forfeitures. i have cautioned against seizing of homes and real estate unless evil no, have clear proof. >> thank you. moving to a different topic, as you probably know, there was a recent media firestorm around what was a bipartisan peas of legislation, ensuring patient access and the enforcement -- drug enforcement act that had great bipartisanship. it raised the standard for dea to issue immediate suspension orders against pharmacies and prescription drug distribution, who might've contributed to the
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opioid epidemic. however, viewpoint, what have been the actual effects on prosecution and administration of -- administrative actions, and has the dea been negatively impacted by that particular law? atty. gen. sessions: we will use the laws we have aggressively, and in pharmacies distribution companies for big pharma, and we will hold them to account. congress will establish the law. both dea andt with department of justice acknowledgment or acquiescence. i am not sure to what extent it may have had a negative impact. i would have to get back with you and make sure i am accurate in my statements. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i yield back.
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>> the chair recognizes the gentleman from illinois for five minutes. thank you to attorney general sessions for coming here today. i appreciate your patience and giving us all the opportunity to speak. as i sat listening to the hearings today, there are number of things i was looking to hear or better understand. first, believe it was an opportunity for you to set the record straight on trump contacts between russia and the united states. we continue to learn you evidence that demonstrates previous answers have been at best incomplete and it works, inaccurate. i think there are still some questions about that. second, looking to see what steps congress is taking to protect from foreign interference in the future. 2016 was not the first and won't be the last time that russians and others will try to interfere in our elections, and we have to take steps to ensure the
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integrity of our elections remain solid. entities to undermine our elections. onrd, looking for answers policies pursued by this department of justice that i believe are taking aim at the rights of americans in undermining voting rights, restricting odb dq rights, to targeting immigrants. we talked about a lot of things. i would like to turn my attention to the idea of ensuring the integrity of our elections and protecting them from foreign influence. you have been asked a couple of times today what steps you have taken since you have spoken a couple of weeks ago in the senate judiciary committee what you're doing. you were asked if the department is doing enough to prevent foreign interference in our elections. just to repeat what you said, and i will quote, probably not. we are not. the matter is so complex, that for most of us, we are not able to grasp the technical dangers
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that are out there. these are real dangers to our elections that are the foundation of our democracy. you said several weeks ago that it wires a real review. stay you said there is no review taking place. -- today you said there is no review taking place. concerned, with the 2018 elections less than one euro way, and given your knowledge meant that this is a realex matter requirement review, specifically what steps have you taken to protect our election next year? atty. gen. sessions: you raise a good point. i have not followed through to see where we are on that and i will personally take action to do so. there are a lot of things that happened happening. we are working on a lot of great agenda items, but this one is important, and i acknowledge that, and i should be able to give you better information today than i am. >> i would hazard to state
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nothing more important to our democracy than the integrity of our elections. as the head of the department of justice, it is important that as a nation, that justice remain blind, carrying the balance scale without a finger on the scale. protecting our elections is important. what steps does the department need to do to protect our elections? atty. gen. sessions: our states need to review their own vulnerabilities. i would say our fbi has extraordinary capabilities when it comes to hacking and those kinds of issues. we probably need to work on that with them. they should have a very important role. they are highly sophisticated in that. and our intelligence communities, also. to the extent that this has driven some foreign power, that
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we're dealing with international attention -- involvement. all of those agencies need to be involved, i would think. legislation, it will take some aggressive push, at least through the senate. earlier that the intelligence community said russia did try to interfere in our elections in 2016. do you feel that is still a statement of truth, or is it open for question? atty. gen. sessions: i have no basis to dispute that. i do think that said they don't think votes were changed. >> will jump to the end, to what you were just touching on. to i ask for your commitment provide a briefing to those of us on this community that are interested in addressing this problem, making sure
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irrespective of whether the democratic or republican state or community that we have safe, sound elections with integrity? would you meet with us? atty. gen. sessions: i would be glad to. i think that would be valuable. >> attorney general sessions, thank you for appearing before a commute today. it's always great to have the opportunity to communicate. ofa foundational principle our constitution, religious liberty ought to be protected at every turn in our nation's history and under every administration. last month, you issued a memo which focused on ensuring first amendment protections for religious groups and individuals. the last two congresses, we introduced a first amendment defense act, which were -- which you were a cosponsor up. the federal government from denying or excluding a person from
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receiving a federal grant, contract, loan, license, accreditation, or other similar position or status based on their religious believe in marriage. atty. gen. sessions: i have cared about this for a long time and a lot of work has been done. i have health there have been some abuses that occurred, pretty clearly. we have had to settle some lawsuits because federal government overreach. i would say what we need to understand at the most fundamental level is the first amendment allows the free exercise of religion. it doesn't just allow you to think what you want to think come and meet in a closet somewhere and never express yourself. andllows the free exercise,
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the degree to which we have not respected that in recent years, and our opinion is based on the law. it is a guidance to ensure that the agents of our countrymen know what the principles are when they incite people for wrongdoing. senator labrador: what more can congress do to protect religious liberty? you.sessions: thank we have religious liberty, and also in the first amendment is speech. it is time for us to take seriously the erosion of the fundamental respect for differing views. we have seen that on college campuses. believe free speech is a civil right, and the department of justice will not stand idly by if constitutional rights are being constructed by unwise
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activities limiting speech. senator labrador: just as important to me as the first amendment is the fifth prohibits thech government from depriving people of property without due process. i'm concerned civil asset forfeiture is threatening right under the fifth amendment guaranteed to every american. while forfeiture can be important for law enforcement, it has been abused. in idaho and around the country, a number of cases where civil asset forfeiture has been used to deprive individuals of their homes, cash, and property. i supported several pieces of legislation and for amendments that make reforms to the civil asset forfeiture. in light of the mounting evidence civil asset forfeiture is being used improperly, how do you think we can strike the proper balance between justice
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and making sure criminal laws are being followed and preventing harm to innocent americans? a.g. sessions: i know you care about that. other members of congress have expressed concerns to me. i do not take them lightly. i truly believe if there is probable cause to believe that an item of value -- often for police officers it is a stash of cash in an automobile -- if there is probable cause to believe it is connected to a enterprise, they have a right to seize it, we have to give the person who claims it a fair hearing. you can arrest a person on probable cause and put them in jail. enterprise, they have a i think it is appropriate to hold proceeds of a drug deal. >> i think it is appropriate to hold them, but i don't think it
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is appropriate to take them until there has been a guilty finding. justice thomas recently criticized forfeiture laws. i hope we can have a longer conversation about this. i think this is an important issue. i have always found you to be very fair in our communication. i think we have to reform civil asset forfeiture laws. the fifth amendment to me is just as important as every other amendment of the constitution. we should work together to strengthen it. a.g. sessions: some of the complaints you have read about are state and local forfeitures, and not federal. we believe our people are operating at a high standard. i will have an accountability office on these cases. we will not accept abuse of the law. >> the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from alabama for five minutes. this is so great to have you
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here today. we are excited to have attorney general sessions. this is so and now your contind work for our nation as attorney general. i have known you for a very long time. you served our thank you for yos of service to the state of alabama, state for a very long time. the people of alabama know you well. we have heard a lot about russia today. things you maywell. have heard, that somehow you are guilty of collusion with russia. i have two questions for you. have you ever worked with russians to influence an election? a.g. sessions: no. rep. roby: have you ever in any capacity -- personally, politically -- done anything to harm the national security of the united states of america? a.g. sessions: i don't believe i
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have. i have tried to protect the national security of our country. rep. roby: thank you. i want to move on to a different subject. i was pleased to see your first official act after being sworn in as attorney general was to present president trump an executive order to strengthen the enforcement of federal law on transnational criminal organizations. an important initiative to curtail the international trafficking of drugs, weapons, and human beings, often victims of sex trafficking, including young women. one of the reasons i was eager when asked to join the judiciary community earlier in this congress was to work on making a difference on this issue. we have worked with a department on some veryready
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important see on some very important see changes, particularly to our criminal code to that effect. both the house andcommunity ears senate judiciary committees have held hearings regarding specifically the legal liability of websites hosting advertisements for thetitution, to include prostitution and abuse of children. section 230 of the communications decency act shields websites such as craigslist, facebook, and many others from legalcommunicationsm content posted by their users. we had a hearing recently on this. i am interested in finding the right balance between protecting the freedom of expression and protecting the rights of these young children who are victims, who are being abused, without impacting the innovation of the internet. i appreciate your thoughts on this issue.
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think this is very important for us to get this right,and do so working together. at the end of the day, we have to find a solution. we want to do everything we can to protect these children from these horrible abuses. a.g. sessions: thank you very much. that is a valuable thing for us to address. in recent days, i have talked about it with my staff. we have not formed a clear picture of where we will go, but the extent to which we can work with you on that, i would be pleased to. rep. roby: i would like to on that. i think the most important thing is that we get this right and strike that balance. again as a member of this committee, to have this thoseunity to fight for
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who are unable to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves is a tremendous privilege, and i appreciate the ship with the department getting this right. thank you for your service. a.g. sessions: thank you for your excellent service to the state of alabama. no doubt. and the united states. mr.he chair recognizes goldmark -- gohmert for 5 minutes. >> end of a short hearing, looks like, unless someone else comes in. seems to me you got mistreated a little bit. there were questions about your answer, senator franken's question. i've got a copy of what he said. his question -- if there is evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the course
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of this campaign, what would you do? you even had someone offer into the record that mother jones basically said you lied. i would submit this committee doesn't need mother jones to inaccurately describe or tell us when we can look at the conversation and see ourselves. let me ask you -- was your meeting with the russian -- was that in the course and scope of your obligations with the campaign, or in the course and scope of your obligations as united states senator? a.g. sessions: they were mostly official business as u.s. senator. i did speak at the republican convention. the conversations out on the floor after i finished my remarks were brief. with regard to the meeting in my
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office, it was substantively about foreign relations between the united states -- rep. gohmert: what you are talking about with them there at the convention, it was not about the presidential campaign of donald trump, it was as your capacity as united states senator, correct? a.g. sessions: you could say i was invited for other reasons. had gohmert: when you talked before that you had consulted with career people about whether or not to recuse yourself. can you tell us whether or not one of those people you consulted with was rod rosenstein? a.g. sessions: yes, i could say how that occurred. rep. gohmert: i'm just asking if it did. a.g. sessions: i am just wondering if that is the kind of consultant relationship.
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rep. gohmert: i am not asking him to-- a.g. sessions: i talked to another senior official in the department of justice who holds the position. he also consult others in the department where he makes opinions. rep. gohmert: were you aware when you recused yourself of the investigation by the justice department into this female account -- this email account? are you aware of those, the criminal complaint? a.g. sessions: no. --. gohmert: where you aware and i have a motion to seal -- a.g. sessions: i don't think so. rep. gohmert: well, this was an investigation with russia trying
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to corner the market into u.s. uranium. there is a motion tos seal. i am sure you have filed them many times as he was attorney. j.s is signed, rod. rosenstein, he was attorney, asking judge william connolly to investigation into the russian effort to corner our market, to seal those records. you were not aware that rosenstein had this prior dealing with russian uranium before you recused yourself, had you? a.g. sessions: my recusal that we made public was for them your investigation. muellerhe
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investigation. rep. gohmert: mueller was appointed, but you were not aware he was central to the investigation before jim comey took over the fbi september 2015. you were not aware of the investigation into russian uranium before you recused yourself? a.g. sessions: [laughter] i don't think so. no, i was not. i was in the department of justice. rep. gohmert: we have a chart that shows just how integral the relationship with mr. rosenstein, mr. mueller, into this uranium one thing. i don't think they should be involved in investigating. i sure appreciate your service. a.g. sessions: i appreciate your service. mr. chairman, i would just note
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the matter that was prosecuted was two yearsnium after the investigation that mr. rosenstein handled. it didn't hit his office until two years afterwards, and is unrelated to the allegations about uranium one as i understand it. >> the chair man from florida is recognized for 5 minutes. >> mr. attorney general, thank you very much for your service and your time here today. i will try to make this as short as i can. representing and speaking for sheriffs across the country and well,chiefs of polices as
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one of the issues i know they have great concern about is, through your grant process, if you can look at how nonrelevant criteria are applied to grants to meet some performance criteria. one i was familiar with was national incident management system complaints. it had nothing to do with the grant. they put that on as criteria for the grant application. is takes away home rule from local law enforcement. i know several sheriffs and chiefs are concerned about that. have you had any issues about that that you are aware of? a.g. sessions: the grant programs allows the department
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of justice to put special conditions on grants. s inone we placed that deal the future with sanctuary cities does -- is minimal, it simply requires a cooperative relationship where federal officials can go to the jail, and people at the jail can communicate with federal law enforcement officers. it does not require the state to arrest people or hold them us and. -- or hold them passive. we think it is a reasonable thing. there may be conditions on those grants from previous administrations. i think that is the one we have added to it. rep. rutherford: i can tell you that is not the one i am concerned about. the sheriffs and chiefs support that wholeheartedly. a.g. sessions: thank you. i would be glad to look at that. rep. rutherford: if they can
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force you to be compliant, they can force you to carry revolvers versus semi automatics. it goes down a slippery slope. more important than that, i want to talk to you briefly about the viper program under csa, an intermodal provisional response teams that work surface transportation, some around our rail, buses, subways, those sorts of things. there was a move by tsa at one time to move viper operations out onto public roads and highways. there was a lot of pushback with local law enforcement on those issues as well. have you looked into that, the legality of it? those suspicionless searches that you go through. every air traveler in america
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has gone through that. those suspicionless searches at the airport. it is based on special needs out of a supreme court decision that suspends the fourth amendment. havespecial need is if you a significant threat, a verifiable threat to public safety. none of that exists on those public roads. threat, was a specific i don't think anyone would have issue with that. however, that has never been the case. i was told they wanted to do that for training purposes within tsa. that, i think, should be unacceptable. a.g. sessions: i have not looked at that. they are not in the department of justice. we may have legal opinions that could be relevant to that. i have not engaged on the issue.
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rep. rutherford: that is why i bring it up here today. to see, what is your legal opinion of those suspicionless searches by tsa without the special needs concern out of the supreme court decision about significant risk in the verifiable public safety threat? if you could look into that, i would appreciate it. a.g. sessions: i will ask about it, i sure will. rep. rutherford: i yield back. >> i now recognize the gentleman from new york. >> i ask unanimous consent to place into the record an article from the washington post "has jeff sessions got the world's worst memory or what?" >> i understand the gentlelady from texas has something into the record. >> inquiry -- i want to put in the record january 10, 2017,
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senate judiciary hearing on the nomination of the attorney general and october 18, 2017, hearing onciary oversight of the justice department. parliamentary inquiry -- the gentleman said a number of things i hope we can work together on. hearing on parliamentary inquiry to require an answer to the creation of a task force on sexual crimes against children. >> without objection. >> if i could put it in the record please. inquiry isiamentary that we will have opportunity for questions to be put in the record. >> the gentlelady can submit questions for the record. >> i thank the gentleman for his kindness. i yield back. >> i know recognize myself for five minutes. general sessions, you have to
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know that i hold you in tremendously high regard. buthave had a bumpy ride, there are some of us who appreciate who you are. as the justice department know, the house and senate have conducted investigations into the illegal sale of body parts of babies by some planned parenthood executives. has made clear from undercover videos surfaced two years ago. the fbi sought documents the senate obtained from proportion of otters into the illegal sale of these body parts. if the fbi has requested what is now several thousand pages of theirmony, through investigation of planned parenthood, that means they could be readying indictment against those sales of body parts. are findingsaking,
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investigationnate sufficient evidence for the justice department to bring charges up on any party guilty of violating federal law? a.g. sessions: investigation sufficient it depends on the substance of those federal finding. they certainly can provide a starting an investigation starting an investigation verifying the findings of congress, and could provide a basis for charges. i think that is appropriate away for us to relate one another. -- way for us to relate to one another. i hope congress will look at the information dissented is providing to the fbi. your refusal i hope congress wie appearance of impartiality, i believe that mr. mueller should recuse himself based on your standard from investigating russian collusion a long time
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ago. i have suggested many times the existing russian trump investigation is a snipe hunt. as many members of this committee has indicated, there does seem to be damning evidence relating to the russia and hillary clinton state department. if there was as much evidence against the president as we have against the obama administration he mrs. clinton, i'm afraid would be burned at the stake right now. court documents detail an extensive coordinated scheme of kickbacks, bribery, and general wrongdoing related to the acquisition of uranium trucking a russianium one, by giant. of russianss account
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officials routing millions of dollars to the clinton foundation. despite this evidence, rather than bring charges in 2010 -- not on your watch -- the fbi continue the investigation four more years and allowed the acquisition of 20% of our strategic uranium supply without informing congress. the head of the fbi at the time was robert mueller. one for the was record. i think the committee is about to close up. what do you think the justice department can do to close this seemingly lack of reversal of priority? how can we look at the evidence and the facts for what they are and do what appears to be the right thing? a.g. sessions: we have much going on in the department of justice.
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nt to 15 or more members of this committee a response to a request you made some time ago that we would bring independent prosecutors the review of a host of matters so i can look you in the eye and tell you we have done the right thing, and an objective evaluation of matters that have been raised by this committee. therelly we can decide if are some matters that need to be investigated, some may need to be closed, some may need more money and agents. i believe that is my responsibility. i don't believe that is giving into politics. i believe i should evaluate your request on its merits. you raise some matters that i think i am duty-bound to respond to. rep. frank: general sessions, i
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-- that it like this sounds pretty good to me. thank you for appearing before the committee today. any other questions before we show up for dinner? >> i was going to ask unanimous -- there has been talk about senators meeting or not meeting with russians, i would ask unanimous consent to have this part of the record, an article from march 3, 2017, a list of democrats who also met with the russian ambassador. also this article from june 26 regarding senator mccaskill's tweet that she got no call or meeting with russian ambassador ever, then it turns out she met with the russian ambassador at his home. i would like those in the
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record. rep. franks: without objection. the gentleman from georgia is recognized for five minutes. >> i have been in on the other thing we have with tax reform. attorney general sessions, thank you for being here. i will say i am from georgia. there was something said earlier in this hearing that i was just going to pass by, i was just but the let it go, sound of fingernails on a chalk but the sound of fingernails on a chalk board, especially this week, when i heard war eagle. >> [laughter] >> congratulations. you all did well and we didn't. thank you for coming. i have listened to your questions. i appreciate your honesty. even if we disagree. i have talked to previous attorney generals and they could not admit that 65 in a 55 was against the law.
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i do believe your work in the senate shows we can come together and there is compromised. one area important to this community is criminal justice reform. one of the problems we have is gravitate toward the sticking points, instead of assigning areas where we can work together. wouldn't you say an approach where we can start finding solutions would help us get to this point where we have sticking points? yes, i think: there are things that are definitely doable that we all could agree need to be fixed. rep. collins: i think some. from a liberal or conservative perspective, it doesn't matter. are valuedur people
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-- are we doing what we can to redeem the folks that are in there, and give them an ability to have a better life when they get out? we have a bipartisan bill called the redemption act. it is taking those once they get in the federal system, starting them early, and making sure they have a path to lowering the recidivism rate. what we have run into, there seems to be this knee-jerk -- we will package it together with tinkerbell. -- with a bigger bill. if we could get a bill that does not deal with sentencing, time off, work release, to give them a tenable goals, so that when they come out the recidivism rate is lower. bigwig in work that in the house and get back to the president who has been supportive of this summer you believe that is a workable solution?
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youet so stuck on things cannot do, wouldn't it be good if we started something we could do. >> i believe that prerelease program can be effective, most of the time, in my experience. they do not achieve huge results, but if it's 10 or 20 or 15%, that is up value. what i have learned and perhaps he would like to examine it is, the inspector general at the his viewt of justice, of their prerelease programs is that some of them are not very effective and some of them are. not enough attention hasn't put on it, and maybe enough money could be better and more effectively spent. we have a new president commissioner of the viewer of prisons and he is open to this. i am hopeful that we can improve that and fundamentally, we do need to make sure that anything that is done with regards to
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these reentry programs, that we have studied the best ones and try to make sure our money is going to the better programs as opposed to send that may not be as efficient. >> thank you for the rousing endorsement of the bill. and get people from the minute they start in, puts them on a plan while they are in prison. we are not taking about getting -- mouseclick, it is about it is not about getting them out of the prison break, it is making sure that they have skill sets when they leave that the recidivism rate is down. it is an evidence-based approach. this is an approach that we are seeing work in places like georgia, kentucky and others. i appreciate your commitment to law and order. letter is a georgia state trooper, for 31 years. he fought the law, and i would understand law enforcement's role but also understand that
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after they get there and pay for their crime, what we can do as a society. how we can look at these folks and say, how can we give you a chance, and it is up to you. i think it is something we can move forward on both in the house in the house and the senate and give the department of justice and the residence has been to build up on as a work on sentencing reform. i appreciate you being here today, and what you are the president our working on has been appreciated. thank you all. >> i yield back. >> thank you very much, i want to thank benjamin from georgia -- for ending on a high note. sessionsy that general and all of us look forward to working with you and others in the administration on criminal justice reform and i think you'll find the approach year to be very. bipartisan. saw the issues that have come here today, you will see that
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you read want to thank you for your time, thank you for the careful manner in which you have listened to questions and concerns here in the committee for the better part of 5.5 hours. i truly believe that this is been a very good hearing. some of the members asked you which answers have already provided, apparently they have forgotten that those andtions were asked, answered all of them here today, and the manner that fits you -- in a manner that visits you just -- in a manner that fits you as a member of the date. the hearing is adjourned. [gavel bang]
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announcer: the c-span bass is traveling across the country on our 50 capitals tour. topeka,tly stopped in kansas asking folks about the most important issue in their state. >> our economic policies. we have seen a great experiment here in kansas, with the tax policies which have gutted state services and done horrible things to education.
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teachers are leaving the state and young people as well because economic opportunities are not here anymore. these are on the things that run brownback's economic adviser who is now trumps economic advisor which is not havehing i would like to an economic special like to see done on a national level. >> education. the last five years, you have seen cuts to education every single year, and every single budget proposed. the legislative house has been doing a great job recently with the supreme court ruling trying to cut down that tax breaks back to the 2012. it takes people like ordinary dust ordinary people like me speaking out. toan issue that i think the be worked on is maybe a little bit more community things, accepting a lot of things, getting rid of stereotypes definitely. again-related or
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lgbt community or anything like that, i think it is very important and we need to come together, because i've seen what we can do and i think it needs to happen a lot more, not just here in kansas all over the world, definitely. >> i believe that -- i wish that lawmakers would realize that the time for change in washington is now, in terms of term limits, as well as neutrality. [indiscernible] we need to a net article five and let the states decide what they want to do about the representative. may need to lead by example. >> i think the most important issue along with the budget crisis here in kansas is medicaid expansion.
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a lot of states are dealing with the issue, the decision from the supreme court to make medicaid expansion optional for state. more hospitals are closing as the result because of money being left on the table for medicaid expansion not happening in kansas. people aren't for your waiting list to be eligible for services under the program and a lot of people may not know this, but kansas is one of the most restricted dates for eligibility in that program. no matter how much money people they make -- the matter how much money people make, they been find themselves not eligible, so it was out to situations where they may not be economically mobile or not be able to provide for their families due to health care. i think health care is a right in general, not a privilege that some a be able to get and not others. that is an issue that is most important to me right now. >> voices from the states, from c-span. ♪
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announcer: we are live on capitol hill tomorrow from the senate finance committee. members are reviewing the republican tax reform from the senate line by line and will have live coverage from that when it starts at 10 a.m. eastern on his band three, online at the span.org and streaming on the free c-span radio app. this afternoon, speaker paul ryan made headlines when he announced the sexual harassment policy, making training mandatory for members of congress and their staffs. reporter's notes that it comes in the heels of the house administration committee hearing were two female lawmakers accused other lawmakers of sexual harassment and misconduct. including allegations that a male lawmaker exposed his genitals to a female staffer. will see that hearing in its entirety, next. it runs about one hour and 40 minutes. >> i n

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