tv Americas Newsroom With Bill Hemmer and Martha Mac Callum FOX News January 10, 2017 6:00am-8:01am PST
the one million dollar winner. >> can we be part of it, too? split with us? >> sure. >> if they don't get their million dollars it will be bret baier, chris christie, breakfast with friends in mobile, alabama. >> bill: so it begins, a marathon week of hearings that shape the next cabinet for the trump white house. first up only minutes away is senator jeff sessions, the nominee to be the next attorney general of the united states of america. it's a big week on this tuesday starting today. i'm bill hemmer, welcome live at "america's newsroom." >> martha: good morning, everybody. i'm martha maccallum. this is the first of two big confirmation hearings we'll watch today. alabama senator jeff sessions the pick for attorney general. he will go before the judiciary committee about a half hour from now and then you have the homeland security nominee john kelly on the hill this afternoon. >> bill: senator sessions will
face tough questions by democrats about his record on civil rights and face questions from republicans on illegal immigration and how does he view the justice department of the last eight years. mr. trump saying he is not concerned about confirmation. >> they're going great. confirmation is going great. i think they'll all pass. i think every nomination will be -- they're all at the highest level. >> do you have concerns about jeff sessions in particular? >> no, i think he will do great. a high-quality man. >> martha: john cornen will join us in a if you minutes and peter doocy standing by at trump tower and here is mike emmanuel leading the coverage this morning. >> you can feel the electricity
in the room. jeff sessions of alabama is going to face the first day of questioning in the confirmation process to be the next attorney general. we expect senator sessions to tell his senate colleagues and the american people today quote, i deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our african-american brothers and sisters. i've witnessed. he will also tell the committee quote, i know it's essential for police and the communities they serve to have mutual respect. new jersey senator corey booker, a democrat in an unprecedented move is expected to testify against sessions, a fellow senator, tomorrow. booker says the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the quote deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience. the senate's top democrat has also expressed concerns about sessions. >> as one of the leaders of
immigration reform, i -- you know, i go to the gym, we're on the bikes together with senator sessions and very friendly. he has been more anti-immigration than just about any other single member of congress. >> this afternoon general john kelly the nominee to be the leader of the department of homeland security, the secretary of that agency, will start his confirmation process. that is a department with more than 240,000 employees and a 40 billion dollar budget. serious questions ahead. >> martha: big job. >> bill: senator sessions was denied by the senate for a job 30 years ago. he suggests it will be different this time. among the hardball questioning on this committee chuck grassley. lindsey graham and ted cruz and feinstein and durbin. also committee member john
cornan. help us understand jeff sessions. >> he is the best known member of president-elect trump's cabinet selections. he served alongside the same committee members who will be questioning him for up to 20 years. so there is really no secrets here. a lot of this is obviously for posturing and for show. democrats have said they want to slow down president-elect trump's cabinet nominees but they have every right to ask the hard questions of senator sessions. he has a good record on prosecuting the ku klux klan, voting for the voting rights act. prosecuting voter fraud when minority communities have been denied their right to vote. so i think it will be a good hearing. i believe he will be confirmed. >> bill: the trump team wants him to emerge unscathed. is that likely? >> they will throw everything they have at him.
and i think the facts trump the narrative so to speak. the fact is jeff sessions does have a good record on civil rights. he has been an outstanding member of the senate jude i -- judiciary committee. the department of justice has been more about politics than enforcing the rule of law. jeff sessions will change that and that strikes fear in the hearts of many of our friends on the other side of the aisle. >> bill: he is a deep-rooted conservative going back to a young age growing up in a very poor county in alabama especially during the civil rights era. he has quite a history. orrin hatch is saying they're not giving him a shake. are they being unfair or not? is this just the way washington is? >> well, unfortunately this is still the politics carrying over after an election that our democratic friends thought they
would win. they are still in denial. they have evolved to anger. they aren't yet an acceptance of the fact that president-elect trump won the election an that he is going to have his own choice of cabinet. on the first day that president obama was sworn into office in 2009, there were seven cabinet confirmations. i would hope and expect our democratic colleagues would extend the same courtesy and recognize the president won the election and he is entitled to his team to help govern the country. >> bill: when you reflect on the last eight years of congressional oversight, the obama administration and attorney general eric holder and the president, were you satisfied with that relationship? as you reflect on that, how much concern would you have with senator sessions and donald trump in that same relationship? >> i think senator sessions as attorney general will be able
to tell president trump know when he has to based on the law of the land. eric holder wasn't able to tell barack obama no. indeed, he was a co-conspirator so to speak in some of the political schemes to evade the law. whether it's the fast and furious gun running program, whether it's the illegal recess appointments, whether it's the deferred action, illegal amnesty is granted circumventing the authority given only to the congress eric holder was a co-conspirator in that effort. i think that's why it's so important to drain the swamp at the department of justice, jeff sessions is exactly the right person to do that and will go for the rule of law, something the american people have a right to demand. >> bill: we await the testimony there on the hill. john cornin with me now. thank you. >> martha: as the confirmation hearings get underway donald trump is making other news as well. he named his son-in-law jared
kushner, a face we've seen throughout the process of the campaign and the nomination. he will be a senior white house advisor to the president. and it has brought some allegations of neptism into the mix. peter doocy live outside trump tower with more on this. this is the question that will be wrestled with. is there any ethical problem that transition officials are worried about in terms of slowing down jared kushner's start at the white house? >> transition officials don't think it is a close question whether or not neptism laws or ethics concerns should keep kushner out of the trump administration. these officials say that kushner, married to trump's daughter won't take a salary. he plans to remove himself from all companies he has had roles in. divest common stocks he owns as well as investments in foreign companies and in companies owned by relatives like his
brother and since a lot of assets will go into a trust there are plans as well in place for kushner to recuse himself from any future decisions facing a president trump that he has had any sort of tie to in the past. now trump insiders are talking about what they think he will bring to the 45th president's west wing as senior advisor. >> he helped negotiate the meeting with the president of mexico which people thought never could be done. i was part of that with him. he has terrific negotiating skills. and has been enormously successful at a young age. >> his wife also claims to remove hers from all the companies she is part of even though she isn't taking an official white house position yet. >> martha: fascinating to watch all this. in terms of what the president-elect is watching today as this confirmation process gets underway what's on his mind? >> you heard him off the top of the show. no concern about session senators because he thinks he is a high-quality man and
thinks all the people he nominated to join his cabinet are going to pass. right now there are no plans to do anything differently. he will sit back and watch. >> martha: like the rest of us. thank you very much. >> bill: while we bring you the majority of the hearing today we'll take a break around the noon hour to bring you a special edition of outnumbered. it's noon eastern time. check out sean with the ladies on the couch there. one thing that is important what we understand about the relationship that jeff sessions has with donald trump. two years ago he sent out a five-point questionnaire to all 17 candidates for the republican nomination. one filled out the questionnaire and returned it to senator sessions. that was donald trump. that was the beginning of this relationship that has led us to this point today. very, very interesting how these two men have come together on issues like immigration, etc., etc., etc. today is the day.
>> martha: you think about build the wall being one of the first mottos of the trump campaign and they saw eye-to-eye on that for day one and bonded on. we'll watch interesting moments on capitol hill this morning along with you. a big show ahead. we await the first confirmation hearing. the cabinet picks are starting to roll through the process here and one of the big questions that senator jeff sessions will face as attorney general nominee, will he let the president-elect influence decisions at the justice department which he would be head of? former attorney general john ashcroft joins us live with his insight. >> bill: another contentious hearing expected tomorrow, the confirmation of secretary of state nominee rex tillerson. he is said to face intense scrutiny. reaction from bob corker on tillerson's relationship in moscow. he is chairman of the senate foreign relations committee is our guest live in a matter of minutes.
jeff sessions is donald trump's nominee for attorney general. the first of president-elect trump's cabinet picks to face lawmakers. tomorrow we expect an even more contentious hearing for rex tillerson, the former ceo of exxon mobile who has ties with russia and iran and iraq through his business. according to a new report a european subsidiary of exxon mobile once made deals with iraq and syria. that happened under rex tillerson's watch. let's bring in the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. good to see you this morning. give me your outlook for what you think jeff sessions' toughest questions will be here? >> probably past actions. i happen to think a lot of him and support him. i'm not on the judiciary committee but look, there is
something -- martha, somebody drank water on november 8th -- these are big positions and people have a right and responsibility to ask tough questions. my sense is that jeff sessions will come through this just fine. he is a very likable person and like all of us throughout the years has evolved and i think he will be a great attorney general. >> martha: we're clearly getting signals from some democrats that he will be pushed on things he said in the past about race. he has tried to clarify many of those comments. we'll see whether or not that goes, you know, the distance that it needs to go for him. he also opposed the 2030 bipartisan bill on immigration that many believed would be a step in the right direction because he felt the path to citizenship was something he couldn't live with.
corey booker will testify against him. what do you think about that? >> again, martha, i'm so focused on tillerson tomorrow and what we're doing on healthcare i haven't really seen what it is that cory is planning to do. it's a very contentious time up here right now and people are having difficulty adjusting to the outcome of the election and the fact if you remember that they did away with the nuclear option. they put in place the nuclear option which now is coming back to bite them. look, this is -- part of it is theater. part of it is real. it's the responsibility on both sides of the aisle to make sure the nominees go through an appropriate vetting process and have appropriate questions. i have a sense sessions will be fine. >> martha: sessions is somebody they all know and worked with him a lot. schumer said they ride bikes next to each other in the gym. rex tillerson comes from the
outside. the story this morning that exxon mobile did business with sudan and iran and iraq at the time the u.s. had sanctions against all three countries and trying to choke them off by eliminating the amount of business they were able to do. >> yeah. obviously he will be rid of all his shares in exxon by the time he becomes secretary of state if confirmed. i think he will be. all of those business ties will be totally cut. as a matter of fact his financial disclosure likely will be one of the cleanest ever and net worth is in exxon stock being sold. as it relates to doing business with these countries, there was a loophole in the legislation that existed. it was closed in 2012. i don't think that any violations took place in that regard. these are legitimate questions and i'm sure he is going to be very prepared to answer those along with questions about his
relationship with putin and russia and the south china sea and north korea. it will be the one to prepare him for service. >> martha: what do you want to know about his attitude towards vladimir putin, how much he trusts him and whether or not he thinks an alliance with russia is healthy for this country? >> he does have a relationship. he has known putin for 19 years. so the question is, is that a good or bad thing? what direction does he want to take our relationship with russia? i've talked with him at lengths on the phone and met with him privately for a long time. i don't think his views on russia are out of the mainstream. he understands how nefarious they have been and the problems they've created in ukraine,
crimea and supporting assad. he is aware of all those things and he can answer for himself tomorrow. he is already thinking about how he is going to push back against putin knowing well how putin operates and how he responds to pressure of different kinds. so i think he will come through it well but look, it is up to him. he is a grown-up and i think he will act like one tomorrow. >> martha: he will have to show there is a big difference between being a ceo with responsibility to shareholders that everybody gets and being secretary of state with responsibility to the country. thank you so much, always good to see you. >> bill: what happens when you are the attorney general, the president asks you to do something and that something is what you do not agree with? how do you say no and when? former attorney general ashcroft is up next on that. don't move. to show you how big a day this is president obama makes his
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>> touchdown! >> martha: what a moment that was, only six seconds left on the clock. the clemson tigers are college football champions. they came back from behind. i think everybody thought it was over midway through. watson and company pulled off the upset. the head coach summed up how this one feels for the program and it was a long time coming.
>> at the end of the day we left no doubt tonight. eight years ago our goal was to work our tails off and get clemson on top. that's a reality. there is only one lid left on the program and that was to win the whole thing. >> martha: they won the whole thing. here is the scene on campus. students taking to the streets. everyone so happy. they won't forget this moment as long as they life. the first football title in 31 years. you love, love college football. so much fun to watch these teams pull together and when the coaches just lay down on top of each other when they win. >> bill: i made it to halftime. what about you? >> martha: i was here last night. i was surprised at the outcome. >> both teams great years and fantastic finale. fox news alert. the a.g. nominee jeff sessions going before the senate today
is what is the biggest day of his political life. first confirmation hearing for the trump administration and one of the many issues today whether or not a jeff sessions justice department would be free from white house influence. critics have argued president obama and eric holder were too close and others suggest they may have crossed the line at times. john ashcroft from columbia, missouri today. thank you for coming back today on this all-important day. and good morning to you. tell us in a general sense what is he up against today? >> well, first of all he is a high-quality individual. i have known him for decades. he served as a u.s. attorney, familiar with the culture of the justice department and dedicated to the rule of law. it means he is interested expressed in the authority of the constitution wouldn't abuse
it based on power that one might have on another. i think we get in trouble when our politicians work on the bases of power rather than the rule of law. i expect him -- that's what we want out of an attorney general. someone who respects the law and doesn't put personal relationships for political considerations above his understanding of and the clear statement of the law in the constitution as it has been interpreted by the supreme court. >> bill: we're watching now the room and jeff sessions was just led in there and i believe based on the background chants i hear there are protestors present. and in this case the protestors are wearing ku klux klan outfits in the background of that hearing room. we'll see how they address that. this is how jeff sessions in 2011 addressed the relationship between a president and attorney general on screen. here is what he said.
you have to be prepared to say no. and if you do, politicians normally come around. you don't have to do it publicly, you just tell him mr. president, you cannot do that. this relationship between donald trump and jeff sessions is all of two years young. how do you say no? what's the pressure like, sir? >> well, first of all a good president wants the attorney general to tell him no when he is doing the wrong thing. the sort of idea that the politics and desire of a president should trump the long-term interests of the president and the culture is a bad idea. and any good person, whether they are in business or whether they are in government, wants the attorney to tell them no when they're moving in the wrong direction. jeff sessions takes that seriously. he understands that the rule of law is the friend of the president as well as the friend of the people of the united states. the rule of law defines the
limits that safeguard the freedom of the american people and he would not think of abusing that. it is one of the reasons that he will be welcomed at the justice department. the people of the justice department are really eager to have a person as attorney general who respects the rule of law, which is what people have given their lives to at the justice department. what they have studied for. what they work hard to do. they do not want someone to pervert the rule of law in favor of a political agenda. that is the kind of thing that people are sick and tired of. the american people have expressed their strong emotion against. and jeff sessions will be a rule of law tern -- attorney general. >> bill: sir, thank you for your time. the hearing, chuck grassley, the chairman of that committee, will gavel to order in a moment. he will express the importance of congressional oversight when
it comes to watching the department of justice but clearly, martha, based on the process that have already erupted inside that hearing room the left is out to target jeff sessions at the beginning of this morning's hearing. >> martha: looks like it could get -- he is a long-time colleague of so many of these people. we saw john cornyn sitting there and lindsey graham to be with him as he starts this entire process. let's bring in fox news bret baier, host of special report. a big moment for jeff sessions. one of the first to back donald trump and stuck his neck on the line to do so. >> it's the first of the confirmation hearings and we're likely to see a very aggressive push against senator sessions by the left. but also for the first time it's unprecedented that a senator will speak out against him. testify against him.
senator cory booker from new jersey will testify against him. it gives you a different perspective and just how divided this country is, how divided congress is on these nominees. usually when you are in the family, if you will, when you are in the senate, you don't speak out directly testifying against one of your colleagues. >> martha: cory booker has made it clear he intends to vote against this nomination. he is obviously the senator from new jersey. john lewis is also expected to vote against as the democrat from louisiana and leader of the black caucus. it appears that, you know, this is a racial divide based on the comments that he made in the past, bret, that he has said do not represent how he feels. >> that's right. i think you will see a vigorous defense in this hearing of those statements. i think you'll see a vigorous
defense of what is happening. if we want to listen in to senator chuck grassler as he starts. >> it is important you do what you said you were going to do. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i appreciate the courtesy, the senate judiciary committee convenes for the first time with the 115th congress. historic moment. last week senator feinstein was named the committee ranking member, the first time in american history a woman has served in this capacity. having been either chairman or ranking member for the past 20 years, i can't think of anybody better. striking that 352 members that served on the committee and only five of those happen to be democrats have been women. three of those five women are serving on this important committee today.
senator feinstein, senator klobuchar, after my 20 years i welcome senator feinstein. we grapple with some of the most pressing issues facing our country. we can be proud she is here and i applaud you for this. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator leahy. good morning. i welcome everyone to this very important hearing to consider the nomination of our colleague, senator sessions, to serve as the 84th attorney general of the united states. first, i want to set out a couple ground rules. i want to handle this hearing the same way that i handled the hearing for attorney general lynch's nomination and it is also the same way that chairman leahy handled previous hearings.
i want everyone to be able to watch the hearing without obstruction. if people stand up and block the views of those behind them or speak out of turn, it's simply not fair. it is simply not considerate to others, so officers will immediately remove those individuals. now before my opening statement, let me explain how we will proceed. senators feinstein and i will give our opening remarks. then senator shelby and collins with introduce the nominee. following senator session's opening remarks, we'll begin our first round of questions. each senator will have an initial 10-minute rounds for questions. after the first round, we're going to do eight-minute rounds of questions. i want everyone to know that i
am prepared to stay here as long as members have questions that they would like to ask. again, that's the way i handled attorney general lynch's nomination. i think that's the most fair way to proceed for both members, as well as our distinguished nominee. i welcome our new members to this committee. i look forward to working with all of the new members, as well as the ones that are repeating serving on this committee. i would also like to recognize and welcome a number of important audience members, former attorney general meece and mctasey and our former colleague senator kyle, a former member of this committee and i see the attorney general for ohio is here also, a former colleague of ours. finally before my opening remarks i congratulate senator
feinstein on her appointment to the -- and the decision to take over the ranking membership. we've also had a good working relationship through several things we've done both legislatively and as leaders of the drug caucus and i appreciate very much the opportunity to work with you. thank you. with that i will now start my opening comments. our hearing today hardly introduces senator sessions to the committee. no, we're here today to review the character and the qualifications of a colleague who has served alongside us in the senate for 20 years. that includes his time as the ranking member of this committee. we know him well. we know the policy positions he has taken as a legislator. i've been on both sides of
debates with this distinguished senator sessions. having served with him for so long, we pretty well know whether he supports your policy positions or opposes them. he tells us so with his usual thoughtfulness, humility, and more importantly respect. as a former chairman of this committee has put it. senator sessions is quote, unquote, wonderful to work with. we know him to be as another senior democrat on this committee described him, quote, unquote, a man of his word. as a third senior colleague put it, a democrat as well, he is always a gentleman. he is straight forward and fair. most of all, the members of this committee know him to be a leader who has served the people of alabama and all
americans with integrity, with dedication, and with courage. that describes how i know the nominee for the 20 years i've served with him. as former chairman leahy observed the last time a new president took office it is, quote, important that the justice department have a senior leadership in place without delay. we need the justice department to be at its best, end of quote. perhaps my good friend senator schumer said it best when he observed that we should, quote, move to a vote hopefully sooner rather than later, end of quote. and when we do as he said, we, quote, won't be voting for or against the president's
policies. we'll be voting -- or in summary senator schumer said, we'll be voting for a colleague with a first-rate legal mind whose record proves his commitment to just law enforcement and very qualified to lead the department of justice. i've been encouraged by the initial support many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have expressed for senator sessions' nomination. i look forward to hearing from senator sessions and moving to his appointment without delay. senator sessions' record is a life of public service. and so we know his story. he was raised in a small town of alabama where his father owned and ran a small country store. he then studied at huntington college and the university of alabama before practicing law in russellville and mobile. senator sessions has always been an active member of his
community. he taught school before attending law school and taught sunday school attashland place methodist church and served our nation in the army reserve attaining the rank of captain. after his time in private practice, senator sessions served as an assistant u.s. attorney in the southern district of alabama. he then headed that office after the senate confirmed him for u.s. attorney, a post he held for a dozen years. so all totaled, this senator, colleague of ours, has served 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the department that he will soon head. it was during that time that he oversaw the investigation of clansman francis hays for the murder of michael donald. he made sure that case was brought to state court where the defendant was eligible for and received the punishment that he justly deserved, the
death penalty. his office then successfully prosecuted murders in federal court. based on his prosecutorial record the people of alabama elected him ey general and then their senator. he has served with us since 1997. and as our former chairman observed, this committee has relied on him for his prosecutorial experience during the course of his senate service. throughout his public service both within the department, outside of the department, he has raised his hand and served when called upon. he has done his duty, enforced the law fairly, and let the chips fall where they may. reflecting on this record of service, it's no surprise then that senator sessions was also an eagle scout. other members of this committee know, as i do, that the scout's
motto, be prepared, sits on his desk in his senate office. senator sessions' entire life of dedicated public service has prepared him for this day. if he is confirmed -- and i expect that he will be -- senator sessions will shed his role as a legislator who writes law and he will take on the task of enforcing the laws congress has written. he has made this transition before when the people of alabama elected him their senator based on his record of service as u.s. attorney and alabama attorney general. as one member of this committee observed about a lawyer's transition into the role of a judge, quote, there are turning points in a person's life when they put away things of the past and move into new responsibilities, end of quote. serving as our nation's attorney general will mark
another such turningpoint in senator sessions' distinguished career. everyone on this committee knows from experience that senator sessions will be a leader for law and order administered without regard to person. leadership to that end is exactly what the department now needs. it should go without saying that the department is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing our laws, all of our laws, in a dispassionate and even handed way. we write the laws, the executive he can forces them faithfully. it is simple but a very foundational principle. unfortunately for the last several years the department has declined to enforce some laws the executive branch found obnoxious.
it is run from criminal law to the newly enacted immigration laws. it is true that each branch of government has an independent duty to address the constitutionality of the laws it writes. it administers and adjudicates. the executive has a constitutional ability to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. i know our colleague, this senator sessions, respects the legislative process and the prerogative of congress to write the law. as he said during john ashcroft's nomination to serve as attorney general quote, the attorney general is a law enforcer. there is a big difference between a politician and a senator where we vote on policy and executing that policy, end of quote. i look forward to hearing from senator sessions on how he will
transition from voting on policy matters to enforcing the laws he has labored so long to improve and to sustain. just as he respects congress's duly-enacted law, senator sessions knows and respects the importance of an independent attorney general at the department's helm. when he has questioned other candidates for the office of attorney general, he has made plain the priorities of an attorney general's independence. he sought assurances during the confirmation for eric holder, a nominee we both supported despite policy disagreements with eric holder. senator sessions asked at that time, quote, you are not threatening and not guaranteeing you are going to
prosecute people until you fairly evaluate all the facts and the evidence and the law they thought they were dealing with at the time, end of quote. during this committee's hearing on the confirmation of another attorney general, senator sessions reflected on the obligations of the people as he knew them from his service in alabama. quote, you speak for the legal interests of the state, end of quote. as a result, he said, quoting again, there are times when the attorney general represents the state. he has an obligation and a duty regardless of what the parties to a litigation may say, including when one of those parties is the government, to ensure that it is fair for all the people of the state. this firm grasp of the separation of powers equips this senator sessions to provide the department with
independent leadership of the highest priority. he knows the department's obligations well, not only because he knows the department, but because he has seen those obligations observed in the breach from his seat beside us in the senate. to this legislator, the department's failure in the just enforcement of our laws isn't just a policy disappointment on a particular issue, it's an affront to the separation of powers and the voice of the people that warrants our votes. senator session may have thoughts on that question as well and i hope to hear those points. on this committee we don't always agree on the right way to handle the complex policy issues we consider and when you have served on the senate as long as senator sessions and i have, you are bound to find at least a few points of disagreement with even the most like-minded colleagues.
but senator sessions two decades of service beside me testify without question to this: he is a man of honor and integrity, dedicated to the faithful and fair enforcement of the law who knows well and deeply respects the department of justice and its constitutional role. i look forward to hearing from him about this vision and plans for the department and now it is senator feinstein's turn for her words. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i would like to thank senator leahy also for his words. if i may, i would like to begin by just quickly introducing some californians in the audience. congresswoman maxine waters from los angeles, congresswoman barbara lee from the bay area. also denise rojas, a dreamer
who has been enormously successful. i had the privilege of writing an article about her, and also the reverend dr. amos brown who i've known for 40 years and the reverend dr. frederick hanes. they are part of the ministerial delegation here today. the senator before us this morning is someone that many of us on this committee have worked with for some 20 years. and that makes this very difficult for me. i committed to senator sessions in our private meeting and i'll say it again here, the process is going to be fair and thorough. but today we're not being asked to evaluate him as a senator. we're being asked to evaluate him for the attorney general of the united states. the chief law enforcement for the largest and best democracy in the world. as attorney general, his job will not be to advocate for his beliefs. rather, the job of the attorney
general is to enforce federal law. even if he voted against the law, even if he spoke against it before it passed, even if he disagrees with the precedent saying that the law is constitutional, most importantly his job will be to enforce federal law equally -- equally for all americans. and this job requires service to the people and the law, not to the president. the president-elect said to his opponent during a debate -- and i quote, if i win, i'm going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look at your situation. end quote. mr. chairman, that's not what an attorney general does. an attorney general does not investigate or prosecute at the direction of the president.
nor do attorney generals wear two hats, one as the president's lawyer, and one as the president's -- as the people's lawyer. that model has failed. rather, the attorney general must put aside loyalty to the president. he must ensure that the law and the constitution come first and foremost, period. president lincoln's attorney general, edward ba*its, i think said it best when he said this and i quote. the office i hold is not properly political but strictly legal. and it is my duty above all other ministers of state to uphold the law and to resist all encroachments from whatever quarter, end quote. that is the job of the attorney general. if confirmed, senator sessions will be the top official
charged with faithfully and impartially enforcing all federal law and protecting our fundamental right to vote from all incursions whether they be foreign or domestic. his duty will be to enforce and protect our civil rights and constitutional freedoms, including a woman's right to choose. he will run the department that ensures those who commit hate crimes are held accountable. and he will be charged with protesting consumers and taxpayers from fraud. and making sure that corrupt public officials are held accountable. he will prosecute polluters based on federal law. and it is the attorney general who must ensure that this government follows the law, does not ever torture again. this is an awesome
responsibility and an enormous job. what we must do now in these hearings is determine what type of attorney general senator sessions will be if confirmed. and let me express a deep concern. there is so much fear in this country. i see it, i hear it, particularly in the african-american community from preachers, from politicians, from everyday americans. as mrs. evelyn turner of the marion three said in her passionate letter to this committee, and i quote, i am very troubled by his stance against civil rights in the more recent past. as a u.s. senator, he supported no laws or causes which suggest that he has changed, end quote. throughout his senate career, senator sessions has advocated an extremely conservative agenda. for example, he voted no and
spoke for nearly 30 minutes in this committee against the leahy amendment two years ago that expressed the sense of the senate that the united states would not bar people from entering this country based on their religion. he voted against each of three bipartisan comprehensive immigration bills in 2006, 2007, 2013. twice he voted against the dream act, the bill for undocumented youth known as dreamers who were brought here as children, through no choice of their own, calling it a, quote, reckless proposal for mass amnesty, end quote. he voted against efforts to prohibit the use of water boarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. calling them lawful and praising attorney general
mccasey in 2008 for refusing to rule out the use of water boarding in the future. these interrogation techniques are and were at the time illegal. and thanks to a provision, senator mccain placed in the defense authorization bill this past year, they are now prohibited from use. in addition, senator sessions voted against the matthew sheppard and james byrd hate crimes act which among other things expanded the hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. arguing against the hate crimes law in 2009, he said this. today i am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. i just don't see it, end quote. well, this senator regretfully
sees it. hate crimes are happening. the department of justice must see it, must investigate it, and prosecute it appropriately. those are votes that are deeply concerning. they are recent, they are important, and they clearly show this senator's point of view. now, for all these reasons, this hearing must determine clearly whether this senator will enforce laws he voted against. we the american people want to know how he intends to use this awesome power of the attorney general if he is confirmed. will he use it fairly? will he use it in a way that respects law and the constitution? will he use it in a way that eases tensions among our communities and our law enforcement officers? will he be independent of the white house? will he tell the president no
when necessary? and faithfully enforce ethic laws and constitutional restrictions? so we will ask questions and we will press for answers. ultimately, we must determine whether senator sessions can be the attorney general for all of our people. mr. chairman, i would like to conclude with one final point. we cannot ignore that there are deep concerns and anxieties throughout america. there is a deep fear about what a trump administration will bring in many places. and this is the context in which we must consider senator sessions' record and nomination to become the chief law enforcement of america. communities across this country are concerned about whether they will be able to rely on the department of justice to protect their rights and freedoms.
these freedoms are so cherished. they are what make us unique among nations. there have been sit-ins, protests and writings. the committee has received letters of opposition from 400 different civil rights organizations. 1400 law professors. 1,000 law students. a broad task force of organizations that oppose domestic violence. 70 reproductive health organizations. and many, many others. all these letters express deep anxiety about the direction of this country and whether this nominee will enforce the law fairly, evenly, without personal bias. so i hope today's questions are probing and the answers are full some. ladies and gentlemen, this is the only way we have to know
whether this man can dispatch himself from the president and from his record and vote in full according to the laws of the united states of america. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator feinstein. before i turn to other senators, i note the committee received a letter from former secretary of state condoleezza rice indicating she had to join introducing senator sessions. she strongly supports his nomination. it is a powerful letter and i hope my colleagues will take time to read it. i would like to have it entered in the record at this point. now to senator shelby and collins in that order. proceed. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this historic hearing today. although my friend and colleague jeff sessions is
well-known to the members of this committee, it is my distinct privilege to introduce him as president-elect donald trump's nominee to serve as our next united states attorney general. before joining the senate, jeff sessions began his distinguished career as a practicing attorney and then served as the united states attorney for alabama's southern district before ultimately becoming the attorney general of the state of alabama. during the past 20 years here in the u.s. senate, that i have served with jeff sessions, i have had the opportunity to know him well not just as a skilled attorney with an accomplished record as a prosecutor and as a legislator, but as a man of extraordinary character. i have the highest regard not only for his intellect but for his integrity. unfortunately, since the announcement of his nomination, jeff's political opponents have
attacked his character with baseless and tired allegations. but in reality, jeff sessions' extensive record of treating all americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented. throughout his decades of public service, including his impressive tenure on this committee, jeff's commitment to upheeleding -- upholding the rule of law is unparalleled. the humility and gravity that he will approach the office of attorney general of the united states is unquestionable. i have no doubt, mr. chairman, that he will apply the law with impartiality that's required of the job. i'm also confident that this committee will report favorably and expeditiously jeff sessions' nomination to be the next attorney general of the united states.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, senator feinstein, members of this distinguished committee, i am pleased to join senators shelby in presenting my friend and colleague, senator jeff sessions, and to offer my support for his nomination to be our next attorney general. jeff sessions and i were first sworn into the united states senate on the very same day. in the 20 years since, we have worked closely on some issues and on opposite sides on others. in fact, it would be fair to say that we have had our share
of vigorous debates and policy disagreements. through these experiences, i have come to know senator sessions professionally as a trusted colleague and personally as a good friend. i can vouch confidently for the fact that jeff sessions is a person of integrity, a principled leader and a dedicated public servant. as a senator, jeff sessions has worked across the aisle to lead important legislative reforms. he has worked with senator dick durbin to pass the fair sentencing act, a law that addressed the unfair racial disparity in crack cocaine sentencing. he worked with senator ted kennedy to pass the prison rape elimination act. and with senator chris kaounz
on the reauthorization of the victimless child abuse act. we have worked together in opposing unfair trade agreements and practices that hurt american workers. what i want this committee and the american people to know is that jeff sessions is the same genuine, fair-minded person in the unguarded private moments as he is in the halls of the senate. we first came to know each other during dinners with other members of our senate class, where we discussed everything from our politics to our families. i have never witnessed anything to suggest that senator sessions is anyone other than a dedicated public servant and a decent man. in 1980, long before he ran for
the senate or even dreamed of being attorney general, jeff sessions sponsored the first african-american member of the mobile lions club. as u.s. attorney he provided leadership in the successful convictions of two klan members who had murdered an african-american teenager. as ranking member of the senate judiciary committee in 2000 he appointed the first african-american to serve as chief counsel to the republican members. my friends, these are not the actions of an individual who is motivated by racial -- he have has had to withstand some very
painful attacks on his character both years ago and again today. with little or no acknowledgement of his accomplishments and actions or the responses he has made to the accusations levied against him. as this committee debates this nomination, i would draw your attention to an important epilogue to jeff sessions' nomination 31 years ago to be a federal judge. the late senator arlin specter of pennsylvania was a member of the judiciary committee when the sessions nomination was considered in 1986. senator specter, then a republican, voted against jeff sessions. years later, in 2009, senator
specter had switched parties. he was asked by a reporter if he regretted any of the more than 10,000 votes he had cast. out of all of those votes, then democratic senator specter cited just one. it was his vote against confirming jeff sessions as a federal judge. when asked why senator specter replied, quote, because i have since found that senator sessions is a galatarian. once he served with jeff sessions and had the opportunity to get to know him, he changed his mind. i hope that you will keep arlin specter's reflections in mind as this committee evaluates
senator sessions' public service, his character, and his fidelity to the rule of law. the members of this committee have an advantage that senator specter did not. the vast majority of you have already served with senator sessions and you know him well. if this committee places its trust in him, i have every confidence that jeff sessions will execute the office of attorney general honestly, faithfully and fully in the pursuit of justice. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you ranking member feinstein and members of this committee. >> thank both of our colleagues for your powerful statement. appreciate it very much. and you are free to go and we'll call the nominee at this point.
this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god. >> i do. >> thank you and please be seated. senator sessions, it is our normal process, if you desire to introduce people that are with you, including your family, i'm sure you are very proud of. you are free to do that and go immediately to your opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. [no audio]
>> they are now stationed in the pacific coast. they have two children. and they wish me well this morning. my daughter, ruth, ruth, if you would stand up and her husband, john. john is an attorney with the department of homeland security and they have four children, as you see before you today. grace, hannah, and joanna and phoebe. phoebe and joanna are twins and we're so proud of them. my son, sam, is a graduate of auburn and alabama law school. sorry, sam, about the game last night. lindsey, congratulations, wherever he is. sam is an attorney in birmingham and they have four
children. 10 grandchildren, the oldest is nine and you can imagine the week we had at the beach this summer in alabama. finally, i want to express how humbled i am to have received such overwhelming support and encouragement from our nation's law enforcement community. many are here today. mr. chairman, with your permission i would like to ask those present please to stand and be recognized. the law enforcement members that are here today. would you please stand? every major law enforcement organization in america has endorsed my candidacy. i feel the weight of the confidence they have placed in me and gentlemen and ladies, i will do my best to be worthy of that. if i may, mr. chairman, yesterday with law enforcement officer appreciation day, sadly on that day we lost two of our brave officers, orlando police department master sergeant
debra clayton. one of the first officers to respond to the orlando nightclub shooting in june, was shot and killed while confronting a subject wanted for murder. sergeant clayton, a 17-year-old veteran of the force was march aoefd with two children. while assisting in the search for that assailant sheriff normal lewis was killed in a traffic accident on his motorcycle. he was an 11-year veteran of the sheriff's office. these honorable and dedicated -- they have dedicated their lives to keeping their community safe and we should remember their service and keep them and their families in our prayers. chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, distinguished members of the committee, i'm honored to appear before you today. i thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions as
generous introductions. it was very moving and touching for me. it is hard to believe really that the three of us have served together in this body for almost 20 years. when i arrived in the senate in 1997 i wouldn't anticipated coming so close with a colleague from maine, two people from the northern-most part of our country and the southern-most part of our country. [disturbance from the audience] it took us a while to perhaps understand our accents but once we did we became fast friends. of course, richard shelby and i never had an accent problem.
he has been a steadfast friend and i think we've been a pretty good team representing the interests of alabama and the united states. i want to thank president-elect donald trump for the confidence and trust he has shown in me by nominating me to serve as the attorney general of the united states. i feel the weight of an honor greater than i aspired to. if i'm confirmed i will commit to you and to the american people to be worthy of the office and the special trust that comes with it. so i come before you today as a colleague who has worked with you for years and some of you 20 years. you know who i am. you know what i believe in. you know that i'm a man of my word. and can be trusted to do what i say i will do. you know that i revere the constitution. that i am committed to the rule of law. and you know that i believe in fairness and impartialty and
equal justice under the law. you've heard me say many times i love the department of justice. the office of attorney general of the united states is not a normal political office. and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the constitution of the united states. he or she must be committed to following the law. he or she must be willing to tell the president or other top official no if he or they overreach. he or she cannot be a mere rubber stamp. he or she must set the example for the employees of the department to do the right thing and ensure that when they do the they know the attorney general will back them up no matter what politician might call or what powerful special interest, influential contributor or friend might try to intervene. the message must be clear, everyone is expected to do their duty. that is the way i was expected
to perform as an assistant united states attorney working for attorney general meece and that is the way i trained my assistance when i became united states attorney. and if confirmed, that is the way i will lead the department of justice. in my over 14 years in the department of justice, i tried cases personally of every kind. drug trafficking, very large international smuggling cases, many firearms cases, other violent crimes, a series of public corruption cases of quite significance. financial wrongdoing and environmental violations. our office supported historic civil rights cases and major civil cases protecting the people of this country from crime and especially from violent crime is a high calling of the men and women of the department of justice. today i'm afraid it has become more important than ever.
since the early 1980s, good policeing and prosecution over the period of years have been a strong force in reducing crime, making our communities safer. drug use and murders are half what they were in 1980 when i became a united states attorney. so i'm very concerned that the recent jump in violent crime and murder rates are not anomalies but the beginning of a dangerous trend that could reverse those hard-won gains that have made america a safer and more prosperous place. the latest f.b.i. statistics show that all crime increased nearly 4% from 2014 to 2015. the largest increase since 1991, with murders increasing nearly 11%, the single largest increase since 1971. in 2016 there were 4,368 shooting victims in chicago and baltimore homicides reached the
second highest per capita rate ever. the country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic with overdoes deaths tripling. tripling, nearly 50,000 people a year die from drug overdose. meanwhile, illegal drugs flood across our southern border and into every city and town in the country bringing violence, addiction, and misery. we must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics. we must always remember these crimes have been committed against real people, real victims. it's important that they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations and to ensure that their rights are protected. so these trends cannot continue. it is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and your community. if i'm confirmed, we'll systematically prosecute
criminals who use guns in committing crimes. as united states attorney my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions nearly every year. we will partner with state and local law enforcement to take down these major drug trafficking cartels and dismantle criminal gangs. we will prosecute those who repeatedly violate our borders. it will be my priority to confront these crimes vigorously, effectively, and immediately. approximately 90% of all law enforcement officers are not federal but they are state and local. they are the ones on the front lines. they are better educated, trained and equipped than ever before. they are the ones who we rely on to keep our neighborhoods and playgrounds and schools safe. but in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable actions of a few of their bad actors. they believe the political
leadership in the country has abandoned them. they felt they have become targets, morale has suffered and last year while under intense public criticism, a number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased by 10% over 2015. and firearms deaths of police officers are up 68%. so this is a wake-up call, colleagues. it cannot continue. if we're to be more effective in dealing with rising crime, we will have to rely and work with more effectively local law enforcement. asking them to lead the way. to do that, they must know they are supported. and if i'm so fortunate as to be confirmed as attorney general, they can be assured they will have my support in their lawful duties. as i discussed with many of you in our meeting prior to this hearing, the federal government has an important role to play in this area also. we must use the research and
the expertise and the training that has been developed by the department of justice to help these agencies in developing the most effective and lawful law enforcement methods to reduce crime. we must reestablish and strengthen the partnership between federal and local officers to enhance a common and unified effort to reverse the rising crime trends. i did this as united states attorney. i worked directly and continuously with local and state law enforcement officials. if confirmed, they will be one of my priority objectives. there are also many things the department can do to assist state and local officers to strengthen relationships with their own communities where policies like community-based policeing have absolutely been proven to work. i'm committed to this effort and ensuring that the department of justice is a
unifying force for improving relations between the police in this country and the communities they serve. this is particularly important in our minority communities. make no mistake, positive relations and great communications between the people and their police are essential for any good police department. and when police fail in their duties, they must be held accountable. i have done these things as united states attorney. i have worked to advance these kind of policies. in recent years, law enforcement officers have been called upon to protect our country from the rising threat of terrorism that has reached our shores. if i'm confirmed, protecting the american people from the scourge of radical islamic terrorism will continue to be a top priority. we will work diligently to respond to threats using all lawful means to keep our country safe, partnerships will
also be vital to achieving much more effective enforcement against cyber threats and the department of justice clearly has a lead role to play in that essential effort. we must honestly assess our vulnerabilities and have a clear plan for defense and offense when it comes to cybersecurity. the department of justice must never falter in its obligation to protect the civil rights of every american. particularly those most vulnerable. a special priority for me in this regard will be the aggressive enforcement of laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible voter without hindrance or discrimination and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process which has been a great heritage of the department of justice. further, this government must improve its ability to protect the united states treasury from
fraud, waste and abuse. this is a federal responsibility. we cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption, and you can be sure if i'm confirmed, i will make it a high priority of the department of justice to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover monies lost due to fraud and false claims, as well as contracting fraud and issues of that kind. the justice department must remain ever faithful that the constitution's promise that our government is one of laws and not of men. it will be my unyielding commitment to you, if confirmed, to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively and impartially. the attorney general must hold everyone, no matter how powerful, accountable. no one is above the law and no american will be beneath its protection. no powerful special interests will cower this department.
i want to address personally the fabulous men and women that work in the department of justice. that includes personnel in main justice here in washington but also the much larger number that faithfully fulfill their responsibilities every day throughout the nation. as united states attorney i worked with them constantly. i know them and the culture of their agencies. the federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law enforcement officers in the world. i know their integrity and professionalism and i pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. together we can and will reach the highest standards and the highest results. it would be the greatest honor for me to lead these fine public servants. to my colleagues, i appreciate the time each of you have taken to meet me one-on-one.
as senators we don't always have enough opportunity to sit down and discuss matters face-to-face. i had some great visits. i understand and respect the conviction that you bring onto your duties. even though they may not always be in agreement, you have always been understanding and respectful of my positions and i of yours. in our meetings over the past weeks you have had the opportunity to share with me relating to the department from unprosecuted crimes on tribal lands, a matter that is greater than i had understood. to discourage human trafficking and child exploitation, to concerns about cuts in grant programs and to the protection of american civil liberties and the surge of heroin overdose deaths to just name a few things. i learned a lot during those meetings and particularly in my meeting with senator whitehouse
who discussed cybersecurity. he have has a great deal of knowledge there and i'm glad that you and senator graham have taken a lead on this important issue and i think we can work together and make some progress. senator graham and congratulations on your football victory last night. >> talk about that later. >> i want to share with all of my colleagues i have given your concerns earnest reflection and bear them in mind as. i will endeavor to keep the line of communications open and continue our friendship. in that regard, if i'm confirmed, i commit to all of you that the department of justice will be responsive, mr. chairman, to congress and we'll work with you on your priorities, all of you, and provide you with guidance and views where appropriate. the department will respect your constitutional duties, your oversight role, and the
particularly critically important separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. let me address another issue straight on. i was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of african-americans by presenting the perry county case, the voter fraud case and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring sympathies for the kkk. these are false charges. the voter fraud case my office prosecuted was in response to pleas from african-american incumbent elected officials who claimed the absentee ballot process involved a situation in which ballots cast for them were stolen, altered and cast for their opponents. the prosecution sought to protect the integrity of the ballot, not to block voting. it was a voting rights case. as to the kkk, i invited civil
rights attorneys from washington, d.c. to help us solve a very difficult investigation into the unconscionable, horrendous death of a young african-american coming home from the 7/11 store at night simply because he was black. michael donnell and actively backed the attorneys throughout the case and they broke that case. that effort led to a guilty plea and a life sentence in court for one defendant and his testimony against the other defendant. there was no federal death penalty at the time. i thought it was appropriate in this case and i pushed to have it tried in state court, which was done. that defendant was indeed convicted and sentenced to death and 10 years later ironically as alabama's attorney general my staff participated in the defense of that verdict and sentence and a few months after i became
united states senator that murdering clansman was executed i abhor the klan and its hateful ideology. there was a lawsuit that led to the successful collapse of the klan at least in alabama. the seizure of their building at least for that period of time. as civil rights division attorneys have testified before the committee i supported fully their historic cases that the justice department filed to advance civil rights and that i supported. including cases to desegregate schools, abolish at-large elections for cities, county commissions and school boards. these at-large elections were mechanisms used to block african-american candidates from being able to be elected to boards and commissions. it was a deliberate and part of a systemic plan to reduce the ability of african-americans to
have influence in the election and governing process. i never declared the naacp was unamerican or that a civil rights attorney was a disgrace to his race. there is nothing i am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the department of justice. i love that great institution. i hold dear its highest ideals. if god gives me the ability, i will work every day to be worthy of the demands of this august office. you can be absolutely sure that i understand the immense responsibility i would have. i am not naive. i know the threat that our rising crime and addiction rates pose to the health and safety of our country. i know the threat of terrorism. i deeply understand the history of civil rights in our country
and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our african-american brothers and sisters. i have witnessed it. we must continue to move forward and never back. i understand the demands for justice and fairness made by our lgbt community. i will ensure that the statutes protecting their civil rights and their safety are fully enforced. i understand the life long scars born by women who have victims of assault and abuse and if i'm so fortunate to be confirmed as your attorney general, you can know that i understand the absolute necessity that all my actions must fall within the bounds of the constitution and the laws of the united states. while all humans must recognize
the limits of their abilities, and i certainly do, i am ready for this job. we will do it right. your input will be valued. local law enforcement will be our partners. many friends in federal government that i've had in law enforcement will be respected. i have always loved the law. it is the very foundation of this country. it is the exceptional foundation of america. i have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing that. if confirmed, i will give all my efforts to this goal. i only ask that you do your duty as god gives you the ability to see that duty, as you are charged by the constitution. thank you for your courtesies. i look forward to the further thank you, mr. chairman. >> before i ask questions i want to thank you, senator
sessions, for your service in the senate but more importantly for taking on this responsibility you have been nominated for. and to thank you for your opening statement. i am glad that you were able to mention the names of a lot of your family that are with you and there is a lot of other people that we may not have their name and i would ask the staff to put in the record the names of all the other people who are accompanying you today as well if they are willing to give us that name. and it's a proud day for you. your wife, son and daughters and their families, i welcome all of you very much. now to the questioning. the attorney general -- i'll take 10 minutes and senator feinstein, we'll go back and fort as we usually do. the attorney general of the united states is the nation's chief law enforcement officer. he or she is not the president's lawyer nor is he the president's wing man as
attorney general holder describes himself. rather, he or she has an independent obligation to the constitution and to the american people. now, i know you care deeply about this foundational principle. so i'm going to ask you a question. i've heard you ask other nominees for attorney general this question. occasionally you will be called upon to offer an opinion to the president who appointed you. you will have to tell him yes or no. and sometimes presidents don't like to be told no. so i would like to know, will you be able to stand up and say no to the president of the united states if in your judgment the law and your duty demands it? the reason i ask that is because i know you work very hard for the president-elect. >> i understand the importance of your question, mr. chairman,
and i understand the responsibility of the attorney general and i will do so. you simply have to help the president do things that he might desire in a lawful way and have to be able to say no both for the country, for the legal system and for the president. to avoid situations that are not acceptable. i understand that duty. i've observed it through my years here and i will fulfill that responsibility. >> somebody didn't start the clock, just so my colleagues don't think i'm taking advantage of my time. you've got it. the light isn't working. i'm sorry. i can read it now. so i heard what you said but just to emphasize let me follow up. if you disagree with the president's chosen course of action, and you told him so, and he intends to pursue that course of action anyway, what
are your options at that point? >> mr. chairman, i think attorney general should first work with the president, hopefully that attorney general would have the confidence of the president and avoid a situation that would be unacceptable. i do believe that if attorney general is asked to do something that is plainly unlawful, he cannot participate in that. he or she, and that person would have to resign ultimately before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes would be unlawful or unconstitutional. if there are areas that are clear and right, areas that may be gray and areas that are unacceptable. a good attorney general needs to know where the lines are and
to deal with unacceptable actions. >> you served in this department for 14 or 15 years. you served as your state's attorney general and you serve on this committee for a long time. and we have oversight over the department that you might head. and you've done that all for 20 years. i've had my share of disagreements with the department's leadership over the last few years. some of those were purely policy disagreements. but some issues were especially troubling to me in that department -- in that the department failed to perform fundamental functions to enforce the law. as attorney general day in and day out, you will be faced with difficult and sometimes thorny legal problems. what will your approach be to ensuring that the department enforces the law and more broadly, what is your vision for the department? >> mr. chairman, the ultimate
responsibility of the attorney general and the department of justice is to execute the laws passed by this congress and to follow the constitution in that process and carry its principles out. so you can be sure i understand that. we may have had disagreements here about whether a law should be passed, but once passed, i will do my dead level best to ensure it's properly and fairly enforced. i do believe that we have a crime problem. i won't perhaps go into it now unless you want me to to describe what we can do to address that. there are other challenges this country faces. i would be pleased to recognize the influence of the legislative branch and to welcome the insights that you might have. >> since that's a very important issue with me and i suppose every colleague here, let me emphasize by saying is
it fair to say, then, that regardless of what your position may have been as a legislator, your approach as attorney general will be to enforce the law regardless of policy differences? >> absolutely, mr. chairman. i don't think i have any hesitation or any lack of an ability to separate the roles that i have had to go from the executive -- legislative branch to the executive branch is a transfer of not only position but of the way you approach issues. i would be an executive function. an enforcement function of the laws this great legislative body might pass. >> during the course of the presidential campaign, you made a number of statements about the investigation of former secretary of state hillary clinton relating to her handling of sensitive emails
and regarding certain actions of the clinton foundation. you weren't alone in that criticism. i was certainly critical in the same way as were millions of americans on those matters. but now you've been nominated to serve as attorney general. in light of those comments that you made, some have expressed concern about whether you can approach the clinton matter impartially in both fact and appearance. how do you plan to address those concerns? >> mr. chairman, it was a highly contentious campaign. i, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign with regard to secretary clinton and some of the comments i made i do believe that that could place my objectivity in question. i've given that thought. i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions
involving those kind of investigations that involve secretary clinton and that were raised during the campaign. or to be otherwise connected to it. >> i think that's -- let me emphasize, then, with a follow-up question, to be very clear, you intend to recuse yourself from both the clinton email investigation and any matters involving the clinton foundation if there are any. >> yes. >> let me follow up again because it's important. when you say you'll recuse, you mean that you will actually recuse and the decision will therefore fall to i assume a deputy attorney general? i ask because after attorney general lynch met with president clinton in phoenix, she said she would quote, unquote, defer to the f.b.i., but she never officially
recused. >> no, she did not officially recuse. there is a procedure for that which i would follow. i believe that would be the best approach for the country because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute. that's not in any way that would suggest anything other than absolute objectivity. this country does not punish its political enemies but this country ensures that no one is above the law. >> you touched on something that is very dear to me and that's working with having executive branch people work with members of congress and you also mentioned working with us on oversight. but since that's very important to me, let me say that the executive branch has always been one of my top priorities regardless of who occupies the white house. i've often said i'm an equal
opportunity overseer. now over the years i've asked quite a few executive nominees, both republican and democrat to make commitments to respond to oversight. you said you would, but in my experience nominees are usually pretty receptive to oversight requests during these type of hearings, but after they've been confirmed, oversight doesn't seem to be a high priority for them. as i told you when we met privately in my office, sometimes i think nominees should go ahead and be a little more straightforward during their hearings. and instead of saying yes to everything we ask about oversight, be more honest to say maybe. when asked if they would respond to our questions. now because you have served on this committee and understand the importance of oversight, i'm hoping you will be different than your predecessors in response to oversight questions. and so i have with me that i'll
give to one of your staff a whole bunch of letters that haven't been answered yet. one of them even you signed with me to the department of justice. and i hope that you would go to great lengths to see that these get answered so the next may or june if i'm contacting you that they haven't been answered, then, you know, the trump administration might be blamed for it and these are all a result of not getting answers from the last administration. i hope you'll help me get answers to these, at least the one you helped me write. >> mr. chairman, you are correct that this committee has oversight but it goes beyond that. this committee and the congress funds the various branches of the executive branch, the various departments. you have every right before you fund our agencies and departments to get responsive answers to questions that are
proper. sometimes congress has asked for issues that maybe there is a legitimate reason to object to but they should object and state why. mr. chairman, i will be responsive to your requests and i understand your history, perhaps more than anyone in this congress, to advance the idea that the executive branch needs to be held accountable. i all suit you for it. >> if senator feinstein contacts you don't use the excuse, if you aren't chairman of the committee you don't have to answer the questions. i would like her questions answered just like you would answer mine. >> thank you. that was above and beyond the call. thank you, mr. chairman. i would like to begin with a -- second largest criminal industry in this country, which is now believe it or not, by
revenues produced, human sex trafficking. trafficking victims are among the most vulnerable in our society. the average age is 12 to 14. they are beaten, raped, abused, at times handcuffed at night so they can't escape, and often moved from place to place, forced to have sex with multiple men each night. the justice for victims of trafficking act signed into law in 2015 created a domestic trafficking victims fund for victims services to be administered by the department of justice. part of that fund contains up to $30 million for healthcare or medical items or services to trafficking victims. these funds are subject to the hyde amendment which says no appropriated funding can be used to pay for abortion. however, the hyde amendment does not apply in cases of rape.
on the senate floor, senator cornyn discussed the language. everyone knows the hyde amendment language contains an provision for rapt. under this act the limitations on spending wouldn't have anything to do with the services available to help those victims of human trafficking. in short, the senator asserted the hyde amendment would not effect the availability of services for these victims. the domestic trafficking victims fund will be under the jurisdiction of the department of justice. here is the question. will you ensure that these grant funds are not denied to service providers who will assist victims of human trafficking in obtaining comprehensive services they
need, including abortion, if that is what is required for a young girl impregnated during this horrific abuse? >> i appreciate that question and i do appreciate the fact that our country has been talking and i believe taking action for a number of years to deal with sex trafficking more effectively. i don't know that we've reached the level of actual effectiveness we need to but congress in you and others have been very, very outspoken about this and there are all kinds of great citizens groups that have focused on it. it is a very important issue. i was not aware of the language for this grant program how it has been established. i do appreciate your concerns on it. it's a matter that i have not thought through but ultimately it is a matter for this united states congress, not so much a matter for the attorney general. we need to put our money out to assist in this activity according to the rules
established by the congress. >> i'm delighted that senator cornyn is here. i quoted him that it would not prevent the distribution of these funds. so i hope you would agree to that and that certainly is most important to me because congress has spoken and the bill is law. >> i understand that and we would follow the law. >> okay. as you know, the constitution also protects a woman's right to have access to healthcare and determine whether to terminate her pregnancy in consultation with her family and her doctor. i'm old enough to remember what it was like before when i was a student at stanford and thereafter in the early 1960s i actually sentenced women in california convicted of felony abortion to state prison for
maximum sentences of up to 10 years and they still went back to it because the need was so great. so was the morbidity and so was the mortality. this right passed now by the constitution as recognized in roe, planned parenthood versus casey and the supreme court's decision in fact the court recently struck down onerous regulations imposed by texas on women's health clinics. you have referred to roe versus wade as one of the worst supreme court decisions of all time, end quote. is that still your view? >> it is. i believe it's -- it violated the constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law. it is the law of the land. it has been so established and settled for quite a long time
and it deserves respect and i would respect it and follow it. 14th, 2016, appearing on the tv show "60 minutes." the president elect said the issue of same-sex marriage was, quote, already settled. it is law. it was settled in the supreme court. it is done. and i'm fine with that. do you agree that the issue of same-sex marriage is settled law? >> supreme court has ruled on that. the dissents was vigorous but it was 5-4. the majority of the court has established the definition of marriage for the entire united states of america. and i will follow that decision. >> here is another question. if you believe same-sex marriage is settled law, but a woman's right to choose is not, what is the difference? >> i haven't said that the
woman's right to choose or roe versus wade is not the law of the land or not clear today. so i would follow that law. >> thank you. i would like to ask one question based on the letter that we receive from 1400 law professors from 49 states. only alaska is left out. i inquired why because they said alaska doesn't have a law school. it's a pretty comprehensive list representing law professors in every state that has a law school. what they said -- this is what i want you to respond to. nothing in senator sessions' public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge. all of us believe it's
unacceptable for someone with senator sessions' record to lead the department of justice. so i want your response to this and an answer to the question how do you intend to put behind you what are strongly-felt personal views, take off the political hat, and be an attorney general who fairly enforces the law and the constitution for all? >> senator feinstein, i would direct their attention to first to the remarks of senator specter who in his entire career said he made one vote that he would regret and that was the vote against me. he indicated he thought that was a person who treated people equally and respected people equally. this caricature of me in 1986 was not direct.
i became united states attorney. i supported as civil rights attorney said major civil rights cases in my district that integrated schools, that prosecuted the klan. that ended single member districts that denied african-americans the right to hold office. i did everything i was required to do. and the complaints about the voter fraud case and the complaints about the klan case that i vigorously prosecuted and supported are false. i do hope this hearing today will show that i conducted myself honorably and properly at that time and that i am the same person -- perhaps wiser and maybe a little better, i hope so today than i was then, but i did not harbor the raced-based discrimination ideas that i was accused of. i did not. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
>> senator hatch and then senator leahy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> before you are time starts the committee received a letter of the support for his nomination from ashcroft, barr, gonzalez, meece and mccasey and a number of attorney generals. they wrote as follows, a sentence from that letter based on our collective and extensive experience we also know him to be a person unwavering dedication to the commission of the department to ensure our country is governed by a fair and even-handed rule of law. i ask consent to put that letter in the record. senator hatch. >> our first hearing of the 115th congress.
you've structured it with the n fact you are including more witnesses in this hearing then in the past average for attorney general nominees. senator sessions has provided this committee with more than 150,000 pages of material relevant to his nomination. that is 100 times what attorney general lynch presented, and almost 30 times what attorney general holder provided. this material comes from somebody we know, somebody many of us have served within the senate. and on this very committee. yet some on the far left will stop at nothing to defeat those nomination. they oppose this nomination precisely because senator sessions will not politicize the justice department or use its resources to further a political agenda. they make up one thing after another to create a caricature that bears no resemblance to the nominee. who is actually before us here today.