Skip to main content

tv   News Sessions Senate Testimony  NBC  June 13, 2017 11:35am-2:08pm PDT

11:35 am
we'll be heading to that news coverage soon so let's turn you over to nbc news. members of the committee are expected to question the firing of james comey and his decision by sessions to recuse himself from the russia investigation. our team is standing by with full coverage of this day. nbc's peter alexander is in the hearing room. peter, set the stage a week after the comey hearing. >> yeah, less ter, this is going to be another high-tension day of testimony from attorney general jeff sessions. this is the first time that he is going to be testifying in an opening hearing since confirm. that's about five months ago.
11:36 am
the sort of drill down on some of the likely questions he'll face here. among them, if he refused himself from the russia investigation, why did he still take part in recommending the firing of the fbi director, james comey? >> what will he say about the meetings with sergei dilsiac and how did he take james comey's comments to him that he didn't want to be left alone. did he act on that and what action did he take? that's among the questions that sessions is pressed on over the course of the hearing. >> peter, as we watch members of the committee slowly file in and take their seats and conferring with here around the horn. our political director and moderator of "meet the press" chuck todd is joining us.
11:37 am
will we look for a rebuttal of what comey said here? >> we'll see if it's a full-fledged rebuttal. jeff sessions has a couple of different challenges and they may be in competition with each other. on the one and he has to develop his own credibility of a justice department that was badly damaged from the james comey testimony and badly damaged by some of the actions that the attorney general did inadvertently or not when it comes to those lack of reporting on russia. . he has a justice department under siege and he has to represent the career folks there and at the same time and re-establish credibility with his boss and i don't know that you can do both at the same time. >> chuck, thanks. our hallie jackson is watching this. after the comey hearing the president essentially dropped the mike saying he got a clean
11:38 am
bill of health and there was no investigation and all but declared it over. how closely will the white house be watching this particular session? . >> it's likely the president could see the beginning of the testimony before he heads to milwaukee to talk work force development, and i think that's symbolic here, this president wants to be talking about anything else that we've been discussing. they want to talk about health care as the president hosted republican members of congress here for lunch earlier today. they want to talk tax reform and wittrance issues as well and this, what we're watching right now on capitol hill continues to be the dominant force and the dominant theme driving a lot of it. that's frustrating to the president. you hear about it privately behind closed doors and publicly as the president tweets like he did today about what he describes as an agenda of hate coming from members of the media. as for as the strategy here,
11:39 am
well, a lot of this looked similar to what we saw just last thursday. there's not necessarily a counter strategy in the sense that we saw with james comey, an explicit sort of opposition to what you were hearing in that seat. instead, it's going to be a lot of backing up that sessions had to say from allies of the president pointing to his eagerness to testify as an indication that president trump has nothing to hide. less ter. >> hallie jackson, still waiting for members of the committee to fill those seats. photographers at the ready to get a picture of attorney general sessions as he takes his seats there -- seat there and prepares to take the oath before testifying. want to check in with our justice correspondent pete williams. what are the questions that the committee needs and will likely want to hone in on? >> you heard about some of them from peter about the meeting with the russians, if he was recused why he took part in the comey firing and what he did not
11:40 am
to leave comey alone with the president and then the question of the security for the job for robert mueller. comey, mr. sessions, is completely refused from that, but earlier today on the other side of capitol hill his deputy rod rosenstein was answering questions about that given the fact that some of mr. trump's friends had said that they think he's thinking about firing comey. rod rosenstein says as far as he knows that that's not the case. the sound of shutters, there comes the attorney general. >> he's entering the room greeting a few folks and cameras clicking away as he prepares to take his seat there, and presumably will be sworn in assuming he wasn't sworn in out of camera range here, but he'll be taking questions for what will probably -- the whole hearing will probably last around two hours or so from the guidance that we have received.
11:41 am
11:42 am
11:43 am
11:44 am
and the need for the american people to be presented the facts so that they might make their own judgments. it is for that reason that this committee has now held its tenth open hearing of 2017, more than double that of the committee in recent years, and the fifth on the topic of russian interference. attorney general sessions, this venue is your opportunity to separate facts from fiction, and
11:45 am
to set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press. for example, there are several issues that i'm hoping that we will address today. one, did you have any meetings with russian officials? were there proxies on behalf of the trump campaign or during your time as attorney general? two, what was your involvement with candidate trump's foreign policy team, and what were their possible interactions with russians? three, why did you decide to recuse yourself from the government's russia investigation, and, fourth, what role, if any, did you play in the removal of then fbi director comey. i look forward to a candid and honest discussion as we continue to pursue the truth behind russia's interference in the 2016 elections. the committee's experienced staff is interviewing the relevant parties and haven't spoken to more than 35 individuals today to include just yesterday an interview of
11:46 am
former homeland security secretary jeh johnson. we also continue to review some of the most sensitive intelligence in our country's possession. as i've said previously, we will establish the facts, separate from rampant speculation and lay them out for the american people to make their own judgment. only then will we as a nation be able to put this episode to rest and look to the future. i'm hopeful that members will focus their questions today on the russia investigation and not squander the opportunity by taking political or partisan shots. the vice chairman and i continue to lead this investigation together on what is a highly charged political issue. we may disagree at times, but remain a unified team with a dedicated focus and professional staff working tirelessly on behalf of the american people to find the truth. the committee has made much progress as the political winds
11:47 am
blow forcefully around us, and i think all members would agree that despite a torrent of public debate on who and what manchester city might be best suited to lead on this issue, the intelligence committee has lived up to its obligation to move forward with purpose and above politics. mr. attorney general, it's good to have you back. i would now turn to the vice chairman for any remarks he might have. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i want to also thank the way that we're proceeding on this investigation. mr. attorney general, it's good to see you again, and we appreciate your appearance on the heels of mr. comey's revealing testimony last week. i do though want to take a moment at the outset and first express some concern with the process by which we are seeing you, the attorney general today. it's my understanding that you were originally scheduled to testify in front of the house and senate appropriations committees today. i know those appearances have
11:48 am
been cancelled to come here instead. while we appreciate the testimony before our committee, i believe, and i speak -- i believe i speak for many of my colleagues, that i believe you should also answer questions from members of those committees and the judiciary committee as well. mr. attorney general, it's my hope that you will reschedule those appearances as soon as possible. in addition, i want to say at the outset that while we consider your appearance today as just the beginning of our interaction with you and your department, mr. attorney general, we always expected to talk to you as part of our investigation. we believe it would be actually later in the process. we're glad to accommodate your request to speak to us today, but we also expect to have your commitment to cooperate with all future requests and make yourself available as necessary to this committee for, as the chairman has indicated, this very important investigation. now let's move to the subject of
11:49 am
today's discussion. let's start with the campaign. you were an early and ardent supporter of mr. trump. in march you were named as chairman of the trump campaign's national security advisory committee. you were much more than a surrogate. you were strategic adviser who helped shape much of the campaign's national security strategy. no doubt you will have key insights about some of the key trump associates that we're seeking to hear from in the weeks ahead. questions have also been raised about some of your own interactions with russian officials during the campaign. during your confirmation hearing in january you said, quote, you did not have communications with russians. senator leahy later asked you in writing whether you had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the russian government about this and you answered no.
11:50 am
despite that fact, it was discovered later that you did have interactions with russian government officials during the course of the campaign. in march you acknowledged two meetings with the russian ambassador. yet, there's also been some public reports of a possible third meeting at the mayflower hotel on april 27th. i hope that today you will help clear up those discrepancies. we also expect and hope, and this is very important, that you'll be able to provide the committee with any documents that we would need to shed light on this issue such as e-mails or calendars. then, there's the topic of the firing of former fbi director comey. last thursday we received testimony from mr. comey under oath. he outlined his very troubling interactions with the president as well as the circumstances of his firing. a few disturbing points stood out. first, mr. comey, who has decades of experience at the department of justice and at the
11:51 am
fbi serving under presidents of both parties was so unnerved by the actions of the president that he felt, quote, compelled to fully document every interaction they had. mr. comey sat where you're sitting today and testified that he was concerned that the president of the united states might lie about the nature of their meetings. that's a shocking statement from one of our nation's top law enforcement officials. we also heard that director comey took it as a direction from the president that he was to drop the fbi's investigation into former national security adviser general mike flynn. finally, we heard from mr. comey that he believes he was fired over his handling of the russia investigation. the president himself confirmed this in statements to the media. this is deeply troubling for all of us who believe on both sides of the aisle in preserving the
11:52 am
independence of the fbi. we have a lot of work in order to follow up on these alarming disclosures. mr. attorney general, your testimony today is an opportunity to begin the process of asking those questions. for instance, again, and i know others will ask about this. you recused yourself from the russia investigation, yet you participated in the firing of mr. comey over the handling of that same investigation. we want to ask you about how you view your recusal. in addition, we heard from mr. comey last week that the president asked you to leave the oval office so that he could speak one-on-one with mr. comey. again, a very concerning action. we will need to hear from you about how you reviewed -- how you viewed the president's request and whether you thought it was appropriate. we'll also want to know if you're aware of any attempts of the president to enlist leaders in the intelligence community to undermine this very same russia
11:53 am
investigation. most importantly, our committee will want to hear what you are doing to ensure the russians or any other northern adversaries cannot attack our democratic process like this ever again. i'm concerned that the president still does not recognized the severity of the threat. he to date i believe has not even acknowledged the unanimous conclusions of the u.s. intelligence communities that russia massively intervened in our elections. the threat we face is real, and it's not limited to us. recent events in france, again, are a stark remind their all western democracies must take steps to protect themselves. i believe the united states can and must be a leader in that effort but it will require our administration to get serious about this matter. finally in the maflt several weeks we've seen a concerning pattern of administration officials refusing to answer
11:54 am
public unclassified questions about allegations about the president in this investigation. we had a hearing with this subject last week. i want to commend the chairman who at the end of that hearing made very clear that our witnesses -- it was not acceptable for our witnesses to come before congress without answers. the american people deserve to know what's going on here. thank you, mr. chairman. i look forward to the witness' answers. >> if you would stand, mr. attorney general. raise your right hand. do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> pleat, be seated. thank you, attorney general sessions. the floor is yours. >> thank you very much, chairman burr and ranking member warner for allowing me to publicly appear before your committee today. i appreciate the committee's critically important efforts to
11:55 am
investigate russian interference with our democratic process. such interference can never be tolerated, and i encourage every effort to get to the bottom of any such allegations. as you know, the deputy attorney general has appointed a special counsel to investigate the matters related to the russian interference in the 2016 election. i'm here today to address several issues that have been specifically raised before this committee, and i appreciate the opportunity to respond to questions as fully as the lord enables me to do so, but as i advise you, mr. chairman, in consistent with long-standing with department of justice practice, i cannot and will not violate my duty to protect the confidential communications i had with the president. now, let me address some issues directly. i did not have any meetings with
11:56 am
the mayflower officials and i did not attend any meetings separate and attended -- i attended a reception with my staff that included at least two dozen people and president trump, though i do recall several conversations that i had during that pre-speech reception. i do not have any recollection meeting or talking to the russian ambassador or any other russian officials. if any brief interaction occurred in passing with the russian ambassador during that reception, i do not remember it. after the speech, i was interviewed by the news media. there was an area for that in a different room, and then i left the hotel, but whether i ever attended a reception where the russian ambassador was also present is entirely beside the
11:57 am
point. concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the united states. further, i have no knowledgech any such discussions by anyone connected to the trump campaign. i was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you, and the suggestion that i participated in any collusion or that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for years. it is an appalling testament. detestable lie.
11:58 am
relatedly, there is the assertion that i did not answer senator franken's question honestly at my confirmation hearing. colleagues, that is false. i can't say colleagues now, i'm no longer a part of this body, but former colleagues, that is false. this is what happened. senator franken asked me a rambling question after some six hours of testimony that included dramatic new allegations that the united states intelligence community, the u.s. intelligence community had advised president-elect trump, quote, that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government, close quote. i was taken aback by that explosive allegation, which he said was being reported as
11:59 am
breaking news that very day and which i had not heard. i wanted to refute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such an i replied, quote,ok to senator franken this way, quote. senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. tc communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it, close quote. that was the context in which i was asked the questionñi and haa correct response to t/mñ questin as i understood it. i was responding to this allegation that surrogates had been meeting with russians on a regular basis. it simply did =q occur to go further than the context of the question andxd toçó listi]
12:00 pm
russians as i had had in many many routine situations -- meetings with other foreign officials. so please hear me now. and it was only in march after my confirmation hearing that a reporter asked my spokesperson whether i had ever met with any russian officials. this was the first time that question had squarely been posed to me. on the same day, we provided that reporter with the information related to the meeting that i and my staff held in my senate office with ambassador kislyak as well as the brief encounter in july after a speech that i had given during the convention in cleveland, ohio. i also provided the reporter with a list of 25 foreign ambassador meetings that i'd had during 2016. in addition, i provided
12:01 pm
supplemental testimony to the senate judiciary committee to explain this event. so i readily acknowledge these two meetings and certainly not one thing happened that was improper in any one of those meetings. let me also explain clearly the circumstances of my recusal from the investigation into the russian interference with the 2016 election. please, colleagues, hear me on this. i was sworn in as attorney general on thursday, february 9th. the very next day as i had promised to the judiciary committee i would do, at least at an early date, i met with career department officials, including senior -- a senior ethics official to discuss some things publicly reported in the press that might have some bearing on whether or not i should recuse myself in this case. from that point, february 10th,
12:02 pm
until i announced my formal recusal on march 2nd, i was never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation. i received only the limited information that the department's career officials determined was necessary for me to form and make a recusal decision. as such, i have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been publicly reported. i don't even read that carefully, and i have taken no action whatsoever with regard to any such investigation. on the date of my formal recusal, my chief of staff sent an e-mail to the heads of relevant departments, including by name to director comey of the fbi, to instruct them, to inform their staffs of this recusal and to advise them not to brief me
12:03 pm
or involve me in any way in any such matters, and in fact they have not. importantly, i recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any belief that i may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign, but because a department of justice regulation 28 cfr 45.2 i felt required it. that regulation states in effect that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they served as a campaign advisor. so the scope of my recusal, however, does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the department of justice, including the fbi which has an $8 billion budget and
12:04 pm
35,000 employees. i presented to the president my concerns and those of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein about the ongoing leadership issues at the fbi as stated in my letter recommending the removal of mr. comey along with the deputy attorney general's memorandum on that issue, which had been released publicly by the white house. those represent a clear statement of my views. i adopted deputy attorney general rosenstein's points that he made in his memorandum and made my recommendation. it is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various department of justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations. finally, during his testimony,
12:05 pm
mr. comey discussed a conversation that he and i had about the meeting mr. comey had with the president. i'm happy to share with the committee my recollection of that conversation that i had with mr. comey. following a routine morning threat briefing, mr. comey spoke to me and my chief of staff. while he did not provide me with any of the substance of his conversation with the president, apparently the day before, mr. comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the white house and with the president. i responded -- he didn't recall this, but i responded to his comment by agreeing that the fbi and the department of justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the white house. mr. comey had served in the department for better than i was confident that he
12:06 pm
understood and wouldñi abide by white house, especially about ongoinglp investigations.r that's what's so important to lp control. my comments encouraged him to do just that and indeed as i understand it, withñi prominent rules between the investigation between the department and white house have been in place for years and mr. comby well knew them. i thought and understood correctly that complied.t(ñit(çó soñi i'll finish with this. i'llñi recuseçó myself for any investigation into the campaign of president and i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations. at all times throughout the confirmation process and since becoming attorney general i havq
12:07 pm
dedicatedñ)çpt( myself to the h standards. i've earned the reputation for that. at home and in this body, i believe.ñrlp over decades of performance. the people of thisçó country expect anñi honest and transpart government and that's whatxd wee giving them. this president wants to focus on the people of this country tone sure they are treated fairly and kept safe.ñi lives of the american people. ways of achieving this and different agendas but that is his agenda and one i share.lptx3 as attorney general i have a responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation, to protect this nation from its enemies and to ensure the administration of justice and i intend to work everydayqc with our fine team a the professionals within the department of justice to advance the important work we have to
12:08 pm
do.fá these false attacks, innuendos, leaks, you canjf be sure will n in fact these events have onlyc strengthened mye1 resolve to fulfill my duty, myxd duty to reduce crime, to support our federal state and local law enforcement officers toçó work ourlp streets everyday.i] just last week it was reported that overdose deaths in this country areñr rising2fcster tha ever recorded. last year withw3 52,000, new yo times just estimated nextñr yea will be 62,000 ñioverdosei] dea. the largestñr increase sinceçó . we are telling gangs, cartels,f fraudsters and terrorists, we arei]e1 coming after you.
12:09 pm
everyc pone of ourt( citizens,ç matter who they are or where g÷u$ey have has the right to be safe in their homes and i will not allow this great department to bexd deterred fro this vital mission. thank you,w3 mr. chairman,q rand thank you,w3 mr. chairman,q rand member warner. before you today and i will do my best to answer your questions.5ai cf1 o >> general sessions, thank you. thank you for that testimony.xdq i would like toxd note kid membs the chair and vice chairman wil1 be recognized for 10 minutes. members recognized for 5 minutes. and i would like to remind our members that we are in open session. no references to classified ore committee sensitive materials should be used relative to your questions. with that, i recognize myself that time for ten minutes.ñi
12:10 pm
about the may flower hotel where thei] president gave his first foreign policy speech, andt( it been covered in the press that president was there and you were there and others were there. from your ñitestimony, youfá sa you don't remember whetherjfxdf ambassador kilbt"q$e ambassador ki there. >> i understand heok wasw3 ther. i don't doubt he he was. i believe those representations are correct. i recently saw a video of him comingi] intofá the room. >> andt( you never remember havg a conversation or meeting with him? >> i did not. >> and in that event, was there ever afá private room setting tt you were involved in. >> no.ok other than a reception area that
12:11 pm
was shut off from -- i guess the -- [ inaudible ]ok soe@r staff with you thate1 eve. surrogatee1jffá campaign for thi ent? >> i came there as . o see how president trump would do in his
12:12 pm
first major foreign policy address. i believe he'd only given one major speech before. that was maybe at the jewish apac event. and so it was an interesting time for me to observe his delivery and the message he would make. that was my main purpose of being there. >> now, you reported two other meetings with ambassador kislyak, one in july on the sidelines of the republican convention, i believe, and one in september in your senate office. have you had any other interactions with government officials over the year in a campaign capacity? i'm not asking you from a standpoint of your senate life but in the campaign capacity? >> no, mr. chairman. i've stretched my -- racked my brain to make sure i could answer any of those questions correctly, and i did not. i would just offer for you that
12:13 pm
when asked about whether i had had any meetings with russians by the reporter in march, we immediately recalled the conversation, the encounter i had at the convention and the meeting in my office and made that public. i never intended not to include that. i would have gladly have reported the meeting, the encounter that may have occurred that some say occurred in the mayflower if i had remembered it or if it actually occurred, which i don't remember that it did. >> general sessions, on march 2nd, 2017, you formally recused yourself from any involvement in the russian investigation being conducted by the fbi and the department of justice. what are the specific reasons that you chose to recuse yourself? >> well, the specific reason, mr. chairman, is a cfr, code of
12:14 pm
federal regulations, put out by the department of justice, part of the department of justice rules. and it says this. i'll read from it. 28 cfr 45.2. unless authorized, no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person involved ie you it goes on to say forñi9 % it goes on to say forñi9 ñ you have a close identification candidate, arriving from service as a principle adviser, you should not --ñr you should not participate in an investigation of thatt( campaign. >> so manyñiw3 have suggested, y
12:15 pm
a subject ofe1lp the invest$bpá myself, that i may have done something wrong. this is the reason i recuse1 myself. the rules of the department # justice and asi]fá a leader of obviously. >> so did your legal counselç basically know from day one would you have >e'çó recuse yourself from the investigation because of the current statute? >> i did have a time line. i was sworn injf on the 9th, i believe, of february. i then -- on the 10th hñ my first meetingñr to generally discuss this issue where theq cr was not discussed. we had several other meetings and it became clearñi toñi me o time that i qualifiedfá as axd significant -- a principal
12:16 pm
adviser typelp person to the campaign and it wasfá appropria for me. >> so this could complain director comey's comments that he knew that there was a -- statute? >> i think probably so. i'm sure that the attorneys in the department of justice probably communicated with him, because, mr. chairman, l >> mr. chairman, let me state of fact, i recuse myself -- [ inaudible ]çót(çó &háhp &hc% ìáh%
12:17 pm
áu ask to m e-mail available? >> we would be pleased to. it( thinkñrq i have it with me . >> thank you, general sessions. have you had any interactions with the special counsel robert mueller since his appointment? >> i have not. with regard to the e-mail we sent out, mr. comey, directorw3 comey, indicated that he did not i did not receive notice, one of thoseq e-mails went to him by name. so a lot happens in our offices. i'm not accusing him of any wrongdoing, but in fact it wasl sent toe1 himxd and too his nam. >> okay. >> general sessions, asxd you said, mr. comey testified at length before the committee president in some cases highlighting your presencefá at those meetings. and youçó addressed the meeting where all were asked to lea>w
12:18 pm
except for director comey andt(e c president. and you said that he didfá info you of how uncomfortable that was and yourw3fáñilp recommendas î11=]áu&eslp limitqn%cñi furth further correspondence. )jp'swers i think a tot >> that is correct. there is nothing wrong with the president having communication with the fbi director.xd what is problematic for any is to talk to any cabinet person andxd white house officials, hi officials about ongoingi] investigations that are not
12:19 pm
properly cleared through top of levels ofq the department of justice. i think it is helping. i thought we needed and strongly believe we needfá to restore disciplinei]@5dájz;or wánok det to hear those type of rules.e1f# restored. >> you couldn't have had a conversation with the president about the investigation because you were never briefed on the investigation? >> that is correct. i do -- would note that with regard to the private meeting that director comey had by his own admission, i believe, there are as many as six such meetings. several of them he had with president trump. i think he had two with president obama. so it's not improper per se. but it would not be justified for a department official to share information about an
12:20 pm
ongoing investigation without prior review and clearance from above. >> general sessions, just one last question. you were the chair of this foreign policy team for the trump campaign. to the bes dz25x we met a couple of times. some of the people ñrdid. but we neverw3 functioned, frankly, mr. chairman, as a coherent team. >> were there any members of thatqw3 team we ever met? >> yes. >> vice chairman. as ixd+++e1
12:21 pm
and whether or not we get access to documents, memoranda. day book or something so we can -- >> mr. chair kman, man, we willd to provide appropriate responses to your questions and review them carefully and try to be -- >> yesterday a friend of the president was considering as director mueller as special counsel, do you have confidence in director mueller's ability to conduct fairly and impartially? >> i don't know about these reports and the basis to
12:22 pm
ascertain the validity, mr. mueller served 12 years as fbi director. i knew him before that. and i have confidence on mr. mueller -- but i'm not going to discuss my hypotheticals of what might be a factual situation in the future that i'm not aware of today because i know nothing about the investigation and totally recuse myself. >> do you believe the president has confidence in director mueller? >> i have no idea. i'm not talking about it. >> now, if we commit to this committee, not that to take any personal actions that might result in director mueller's firing or dismissal. >> well i think i could probably say that with confidence because if i'm recused of the investigation, in fact the way it works, senator warner, is that the acting attorney general --
12:23 pm
>> i'm aware. i just want you on the record -- with your recusal, you would not take any action to try to have special investigator mueller removed? >> i wouldn't think that would be appropriate for me do. >> to your knowledge have any department of justice official been involved with conversations about any possibility of presidential pardons about any of the individuals involved with the russian investigation? >> mr. chairman, i'm not able to comment on conversations with how officials within the white house -- >> just so i can understand it, the basis of that unwillingness to answer based on executive privilege or what -- >> it's long standing policy, the department of justice, not to comment on conversations that the attorney general has had
12:24 pm
with the president of the united states for confidential reasons that literally are founded in the we could co-equal branch and powers of the united states -- >> so, just so i'm understanding it, that means -- are you claiming executive privilege here today, sir? >> i'm not claiming executive privilege p because that the present power and i have no -- >> what about conversations with other department of justice or other white house officials about potential pardons. not the president, sir. >> mr. chairman, without in any way suggestion that i've had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that, there are privileges of communications within the department of justice that we share all of it. we have a right to have full and robust debates within the department of justice. we encourage people to speak up on different sides and those arguments are not to be
12:25 pm
revealed -- historic there i resay they shouldn't be revealed. >> you agree that, sibs you recused yourself from the investigation, that if the president or others would pardon someone during the midst of this investigation while our investigation or director mueller's investigation, i would think would be problematic. >> one of the comments you made in your testimony was when you reach this conclusion about the performance of then director comey's ability to lead the fbi, that you agree with deputy attorney rosenstein's motto, did you ever have a con vir sags as a superior to director comey with his failure to perform and he wasn't running the fbi in a good way. or somehow the fbi was in turmoil. did you have any conversations with director comey about those subjects?
12:26 pm
>> i did not. >> so you are his superior and there were some fairly harsh things said about director comey. you never thought it was appropriate to raise concerns before he was -- >> a memoranda was prepared by the deputy attorney general. and who evaluate his performance. note smed serious problems with it. >> and you agreed with those-doctor. >> i agreed with those. in fact, senator warner, we talked about it even before i was confirmed and before he was confirmed. it is something that we both agreed to that a fresh start at the fbi was probably the best thing -- >> i can understand if you talk about that before you came on, had a chance for a fresh start. no fresh start. suddenly in the midst of the investigation, and with timing
12:27 pm
that seems peculiar, what kind of least to me was out of the blue, that the president fired the fbi director. if there are all these problems of disarray and lack of accord and all of the things that acting director denied with the case, i would have thought that somebody would have had that kind of conversation with director kwoemy. and at least been owed that. let's go to the april 27th meeting. as brought up, i think chairman brought it up. by the time april 27th brought up, you were name as national security adviser. shoring up that meeting would be appropriate -- >> that was the mayflower hotel. >> yes, sir. >> my understanding is that the president and jared cush mkushn that meeting as well? >> i believe he was, yes. >> you don't recollect whether jared kushner had any
12:28 pm
conversations with kislyak or not? >> i do not. >> you didn't have any conversation with kislyak? >> i don't recall that. certainly nothing improper if i did have a conversation with him. i just don't remember. >> but nothing in your notes or memory so when you had a chance and i appreciate correct the record about the other two sessions in response to senator franken and lee hae i senator l didn't involve this session as well? >> well, i possibly had a meeting but i still don't recall it. i did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony or subsequent letter intentionally false. >> i understand, sir.
12:29 pm
>> and was that april 27 the session with a question of notoriety and again, echo what chairman has said, again for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the russian government during the campaigns? >> not to my recollection. i would just say with regard to the two encounters, one at mayflower hotel that you refer to, i came there not knowing he was going to be there. i don't have any recollection of knowing he would be there. i didn't have any communications with him before or after that event. and like wise at the event at the convention, i went off the convention grounds to a college campus for an event -- >> but at the mayflower --
12:30 pm
>> let me follow up on that one. i didn't know he would be in the aud yebs and had no -- >> but there was this -- and there was the speech, is that what you know? >> that's my recollection. >> you were part of the reception? >> yes, sir. >> general sessions, one of the troubling things i need to sort through is, with comey's testimony last week was that he felt uncomfortable when the president asked everyone else to leave the room. he left the impression that you lingered with perhaps a sense that you felt uncomfortable about it as well. and after the meeting took place, which clearly director comey, you never asked director comey what took place in that
12:31 pm
meeting? >> i would just say it this way. we were there, i was standing there, and without revealing any conversation that took place, what i do recall is that i did depart. i believe everyone else did the part and director comey was sitting in front of the president's desk and they were talking. that's what i do remember. i believe the next day that he kesh about being left alone with the president. but that itself is not problematic. he didn't tell me at that time any details about anything said that was improper. i affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guidelines of the department of justice and basically backed him up in his concerns and he should not carry on any conversation with the president or anything
12:32 pm
else about an investigation in a way that was not proper. i felt that he belonged in the department, from what former deputy attorney general, as i will, thought it a good deal better than i did. >> mr. comey thought that the conversation wasn't proper? >> his recollection of what he said to me about his concerns about recollection. >> you talk about how important this question interference and active measures in our campaign but i don't think there is any american who would disagree with the fact we need to drill down to this, know what happened, get it out in front of the american people and do what we can to top it again. that's what committee was charged to do and started to do. as you probably know on february 14, new york times published an
12:33 pm
article alleging there were constant communications between the trump campaign, russians and collusion regarding the elections. do you recall that article when it came out? >> not exactly. >> generally? >> i remember it started -- >> mr. comey told us when he he was here that that he had specific recollection. he chased it down through the intelligence community and was not able to find a scintilla of evidence then saw outspoken democrats and republicans up here to tell them that this was false. that there was no such facts anywhere. nonetheless, after the committee took that on, and more time on the measures than thousands of pages of information and interviewed witnesses and really
12:34 pm
no different than when this whole thing started. and there's been no reports of any factual information. are youware of any information -- >> is that from the dossier, so-called dossier, that you are preferring? >> anything. >> i believe that's the report that senator franken hit me with when i was testifying. and i think it's been substantially discredited. but you would know more than i. but in continuing communication with russia is absolutely false. >> mr. sessions, there's been all this talk about conversations and you had conversations with the russians. senators up here on either foreign relations, intelligence armed services, conversations with other governments or ambassadors are everyday
12:35 pm
occurrences here. is that fair statement? >> i think it is. >> if you run into him in the grocery store, you will have conversation, is that fair? >> it has happened and nothing improper. >> on the other hand, collusion -- collusion with russians or any other government for that matter when it comes to elections certainly would be improper and illegal. is that fair statement? >> absolutely. >> are you willing to sit here and tell the american people unfiltered by what american people put out that you had no conversations of any kind whether that is collusion between the trump campaign and any other foreign government? >> i can say that absolutely. i have no hesitation to do so. >> mr. sessions, attorney general of the united states, you participated as you have described in the trump campaign. and as such, you traveled with the campaign, i gather? >> i did. >> you spoke with the campaign --
12:36 pm
>> on a number of occasions. not continually -- >> based upon your experience and based upon your participation, was there a wh whisper or suggestion, and somehow the russians were involved? >> i did not. >> what would you have done if you heard that? >> i would have been shocked and known it was improper. >> headed for the ex snit. >> maybe. this is a serious matter. what you are talking about is hacking into a private person or dnc computer and obtaining information and spreading that out. that's just not right. i believe it is likely that laws were violate fed that actually occurred. so it's an improper thing. >> mr. sessions, has any person from the white house and
12:37 pm
administration, incruding president of the united states, asked you or directed to do any illegal act? >> no, sir. they have not. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator feinstein? >> thanks i have much, mr. chairman. welcome, attorney general. >> thank you. >> may 19, mr. ruben stein and statements in the house of representatives essentially told them that he learned on may 8, president trump intended to remove director comey. when you wrote your letter on may 9, did you know that president already decided to fire director comey? >> senator feinstein, i would say that i believe it's been made public that president asked us our opinions. it was given.
12:38 pm
and he asked us to put that in writing. and i don't know how much more he said about it than that. but i believe he has talked about it and i would let his words speak for themselves. >> well, on may 11, on nbc nightly news, two days later, the president stated he was going to fire comey regardless of the rec mommendations. so i'm public about the recommendations because the decision had been made so what was the need for to you write a recommendation? >> well, we were asked our opinions and when we expressed it, which was consistent with the memorandum and letter we wrote, i felt comfortable and i guess the deputy attorney general did too, in providing
12:39 pm
that information in writing. >> so do you concur with the president that he was going to fire comey regardless of recommendations because the problem was the russian investigation? >> senator feinstein, i guess i will just have to let his word speak for himself. i'm not sure what was in his mind explicitly when we talked with him. >> did you ever discussed director comey's handling of the investigation or anything else. >>? that would call for communication between the attorney general and president, and i'm not able to comment on that. >> you are not able to answer the question here whether you ever discussed that with him? >> that's correct. >> and how do you view that since you discussed his
12:40 pm
termination, why wouldn't you discuss the reasons? >> those were put in writing and sent to the president. he made those public. so he made that public. >> you have had no verbal conversation with him about the firing of mr. comey? >> i'm not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of our private conversations that i may have had with the president on this subject or others. and i know that how this will be discussed but that's the rules that -- that are long adhered to by the department of justice, as you know, senator feinstein. >> you're a long time colleague, but we heart mr. coats and we heard admiral rogers say essentially the same thing. when it was easy just to say the answer was no, no. >> well, the easy would have been easy to say if it was yes,
12:41 pm
yes. but both would have been improper. >> okay. so how exactly were you involved in the termination of director comey. i'm looking at your letter of may 9. you say the director of the fbi must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles, sets a writing for our law enforcement officiales. therefore i must recommend that you remove director comey and identify an experienced and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the fbi. do you really believe that this has to do with director comey's performance with the men and women of the fbi? >> there was a clear view of
12:42 pm
mine and our deputy attorney general rosenstein as he set out at some length in his memoranda, which i adopted and sent forward to the president, and we had problems there, and it was my best judgment is that a fresh start at the fbi was the appropriate thing to do. and when asked, i said that to the president, it is something i would adhere to, deputy rosenstein's letter dealt with a number of things. when the director comey declined the clinton participation that was the struggle in the department of justice. that was a stunning development. the fbi is the investigative team. they don't decide prosecution policies. and so that was a thunderous
12:43 pm
thing. he also commented at some length on the declaration of the clinton prosecution can be which you should not do. if you decline, you decline. you don't talk about it. there are other things that had happened that indicated to me a lack of discipline and caused controversy on both sides of the aisle aep i had come to the conclusion that a fresh start was appropriate and did not mind putting that in writing. >> my time is up. thank you. >> thank you. >> senator rubio. >> thank you. i want to go bab to february 14. there was a meeting in the oval office on february 14th. at some point the meeting concluded. the president, everyone got up to leave. the president asked director comey to stay behind, is that correct? >> that's the communication in
12:44 pm
the white house that i would not comment on. >> do you remember seeing him stay behind? >> yes. >> his testimony is that you lingered and his view of it was you lingered because you knew that you needed to stay. that's his characterization. do you remember lingering? do you remember feeling like you needed to stay? >> i do recall being one of the last ones to leave. >> did you decide -- >> i don't know how that occurred. i thisnk we finished a counterterrorism briefing. people were there and filtering out. and i eventually left. i do remember that i think i was the last or one of the last two or three to leave. >> would it be fair it say you felt like perhaps you needed to stay because it involved the fdi director? >> i don't know how i would characterize that, senator rubio. i left. it didn't seem to me to be a major problem.
12:45 pm
i knew that director comey long time experienced in the department of justice could handle himself well. >> so you saw him after that and he characterized it as he went up to you and said, never leave me alone with the president again. it's not appropriate. and he said, this is his characterization, you just shrugged like as if to say, what am i supposed to do about it. >> i think i described it more completely, correctly. he raised that issue with me. i believe the next day. i think that was correct. and he expressed concern to me about that private conversation. and i agreed with him essentially that there are rules on private conversations with the president. but there's not a prohibition on a private discussion with the president as i believe he acknowledg acknowledged himself with president obama or president
12:46 pm
trump. and he gave me no detail about what it was that he was concerned about. so i didn't say i wouldn't be able to respond if he called me. he knew he could call his direct supervisor. and within the department of justice, that is the deputy attorney general. he could have complained to the deputy or to me if at any time he felt pressured. but i had no doubt he would not yield any pressure. >> do you know if the president records conversations within the oval office or anywhere else in the white house? >> i do not. >> let me ask, if any president was to record conversations in their official duties in the white house, would there be an onab onab obligation to preserve those records? >> i don't know, senator rubio.
12:47 pm
probably so. >> i want to go to the campaign, as i'm sure you're aware as it is widely reported, russian posing as an official, businessman, journalist and the like, do you have any interaction with anyone who in behi hindsight you look back and say, they were trying to gain access or in hindsight you wonder? >> i don't believe in my conversations with the three times -- >> just in general. >> well, i met a lot of people, a lot of foreign officials who wanted to argue their case for their country and to point out things they thought were important. for their country. but that's a normal thing i guess we talked about. >> right. as far as someone who is not official from another country, just a businessman or anyone walking down the street who struck you as smoon trying to find out what you are up to, the
12:48 pm
campaign, you saw any interaction within hindsight appeared suspicion? >> i would have to wrack my brain but i don't recall it now. >> on the platform, the republican platform was changed to not provide the defense weapons to ukraine, were you involved in that decision? do you know who was involved in making that change? >> i was not active in the platform committee. did not participate in that and don't think i had any direct involvement. >> do you know who did or do you have any recollection of a debate about that issue in terms of the campaign? >> i never watched the debate. if it occurred on the committee, i think it did. so i don't recall that, senator rubio. i would have to think about that. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. chairman, thank you for holding this hearing in the open. and in full view of the american people where it belongs. i believe the american people
12:49 pm
have had it with stonewalling. americans don't want to hear the answers to vrelevant questions are privileged or can't be provided in public or it would be quote inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. we are talking about an attack on our democratic institution and stonewalling of any kind of unacceptable. and general sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. so now to close, last thursday i asked former director comey about the fbi's interaction with you, general sessions, prior to your stepping aside from the russians investigation. mr. comey said that your continued engagement with the russian investigation was quote, problematic, and he, mr. comey, could not discuss it in public. mr. comey also said that fbi
12:50 pm
personnel had been calling for you to step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you finally did so. now in your prepared statement, you stated you received only quote limited information necessary to inform your recusals decision. but given director comey's statement, we need to know what that was. were you aware of any concerns that the fbi or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the russians or any other matters relevant to whether you stepped aside from the russians investigation? >> senator, i am not stonewalling. i am following the historic policies of the department of justice. you don't walk into any hearing or committee meeting and reveal confidential communications with the president of the united
12:51 pm
states, entitled to receive confidential communication in your best judgment on a host of issues. and after being accused of stonewalling for not answering them. i would push back on that. secondly, mr. comey, perhaps he didn't know, but i basically recused myself the first day i got into the office because i never accessed files. i never learned the names of investigators. i never met with them. i never asked for documentation. the documentation, what little i received, was mostly already in the media and was presented by the senior ethic public responsibility, professional responsibility attorney, in the department. and i made an honest and proper decision to recuse myself as i told senator feinstein and members of the committee i would do when they confirmed me. >> general sessions,
12:52 pm
respectfully, you're not answering did -- [ inaudible ]
12:53 pm
[ inaudible ]
12:54 pm
i don't think your answer passes the smell test. >> senator, i think i should be able to recite the letter, the memoranda, that senator, that deputy rosenstein wrote in my letter that accompanied it, represented my views of the situation. >> thank you. >> mr. chairman, thank you. attorney general sessions, i want to clarify who did what with regard to the firing of mr. comey. first of all, let me ask you, when did you have your first
12:55 pm
conversations with rod rosenstein about mr. comey? >> we talked about him before either one of us were concerned. it was a topic of you know, conversation about among people who served in department a long time. they knew what happened that fall was pretty dramatically unusual. many people felt it was very wrong. so it was in that context that we discussed it and we both found that we shared common view that a fresh start would be appropriate. >> and this was from mr. comey's handling of the investigation involving hillary clinton, in which you said that he usurped the authority that prosecutors that department of justice? >> yes. that was part of it. and the commenting on the
12:56 pm
investigation in ways that go beyond the proper policies. we need to restore senator collins, i think the classic discussion, there's been too much leaking and too much public talking and in the long run there is stark rule that you remain mum about ongoing investigations is the better policy. >> now, subsequently, the president asked for to you put your views in writing, you testified today. and i believe that you were right tory kuz yourself from r the ongoing russian investigation. but then you wrote that director comey be dismissed. and obviously this went back many months to the earlier conversations you had had with mr. rosenstein. but my question is, why do you
12:57 pm
believe that your recommendation to fire director comey was not consistent with your march 2 recusal. >> thank you. the recusal involved one case involved in the department of justice. and in the fbi. they conduct thousands of investigations. i'm the attorney general of the united states. it's my responsibility our judiciary committee and other committees to ensure that department is run properly. i have to make difficult decisions and i do not believe that it is a sound position to say that if you recuse for a single case involving any one of the great agencies like dea or u.s. marshals or atf that a part of the department of justice, you can't make a decision about the leadership in that agency.
12:58 pm
>> now, if you had known that the president subsequently was going to go on tv and in an interview with lester holt of nbc, would say that this russian thing was the reason for his decision to dismiss the fbi director, would you have felt uncomfortable about the timing of the decision? >> well, i will say this, senator, i don't think it is appropriate to deal with those kind of hypotheticals. i have to deal in actual issues. i would respectfully not comment on that. let me ask you this, in retrospect, do you believe that it would have been better for you to have stayed out of the decision to fire director comey? >> i think it is my
12:59 pm
responsibility. i was appointed to be attorney general. supervising all of the federal agencies is my responsibility. trying to get the very best people in those agencies at the top of them is my responsibility. and i think i had a duty to do so. >> now, director comey testified that he was not comfortable telling you about his one on one conversation with the president on february 14 because he believes that you would shortly recuse yourself from the rush gr russian investigation, which you did. yet director comey testified that he told no one else at the department outside of the senior leadership team at the fbi. do you believe the director had an obligation to bring the
1:00 pm
direction to let him go. and there aren't that many at the department, 10,000 at the most by then. >> i think it would have been appropriate to talk with the acting deputy attorney general, dana, who 33 years in the department of justice, and was even then still serving for six years and continues to serve as attorney general appointed by president obama. so he is a man of great integriy and everybody knows it, a man of dee decency and judgment. if he had concerns i think he should have raise today to deputy attorney general boente who would be the appropriate person in any case, really. but if he had any concern that i might be recusing myself, that would be a double reason for him to share it with deputy attorney boente. >> thank you.
1:01 pm
>> center hine risch. >> you're watching jeff sessions testimony before congress we will pause for just a moment to allow some stations to return to regular programming. >> senator heinrich, i'm not able to sharexwith this committee private communications. >> because you're invoking executive privilege? >> i'm not able toib voke executi+e privilege that's the president's prerogative. >> my understanding is you took an oath, you raised your right hand here today and you said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and @rc nothing before you the truth and now you're not answering questions. you're impeding thys investigation. so my understanding of the legal standard is that you either answer the question, that's the best outcome. you say this is classified, can't answer it here, i'll answer is in closq" session, that's bucket number two. bucket num!er three is to say i'm invoking executive privilege. there's no appropriateness
1:02 pm
bucket. it's not a legal standard. it's not a lhat are these longstanding doj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? >> senator, i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to view it. >> you're giving it away. >> secondly i am telling the truth inness ago your question saying it's a longstanding policy of the department of justice. >> is this long time written. >> to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues. >> you can share those policies with me? are they written down at the department of justice? >> i believe they are. certainly -- if. >> the appropriate legal standard for not answering congressional inquiries? >> it's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reval private conversations with the president
1:03 pm
when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer, one. there are also other privileges that could be invoked. one of the things deals with account investigation of the special counsq& as other -- >> we're not asking questions about that investigation. if i wanted to ask questions about that investigation, i'd ask those of rob rosenstein. i'm asking about your personal knowledge from this committee which has a constitutional obligation to get to the bottom of this. there are two investigations here. there is a special counsel investigation, intere investigation, there is also a congressional investigation and you are obstructing that congressional investigation by not answering these questions and i think your silence, like the silence of director coats, like the silence of admiral
1:04 pm
rogers speaks volumes. >> i would say that i have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department. >> i believe -- >>nd this is consistent with my duty. >> senator risch asked you a question about appropriatenqáák if you had known that there had been anything untoward with regard to russia and the campaign would you have headed õfor the exit. your response was maybe. why wasn't it a simple yes? >> well, there was an improper, illegal relationship in an effort to impede or influence this campaign, i absolutely would have departed. >> i think that'áhp good answer. i'm not sure why it wasn't the answer in the first place. i find it strange that neither you nor deputy attorney general rod rosenstein brought up performance issues with director comey. in fact, deputy fbi director
1:05 pm
mccabe has directly refuted any assertion that there were performance issues. this is troubling because it appears that the president decided to fire director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation and had asked you to come up with an excuse. when your sesassessmentpzf come didn't hold up to scrutiny you finally admitted that he had fired comey, you've claimed that you did not break recusal whl participating in director comey's firing but it appears that his firing was directly related to russia, not departmental mismanagement had the how do you square those two things? >> there's a lot in that question. let me say first within a week or so, i believe may 1/3rd, tha
1:06 pm
he believed the handling the clinton investigation was proper and would he do it again. >> i knew that was of concern to both of us because that represented something that i think most professionals in the department of justice would totally agree that the fbi investigative agency does not decide whether to prosecute or decline criminal cases. it's pretty breathtaking use of patience on the responsibility of the attorney general. so that's how we felt that was sort of additional concern that we had heading the fbi, someone who boldly asserted the right to continue to make such decisions. that was one of the things we discussed. that was in the memorandum, i believe, and it was also an
1:07 pm
important factor for us. >> before i recognize senator blunt, i would like the record to show that last night admiral rogers spent almost two hours in closed session with almost the full committee fulfilling his commitment to us in the hearing that in closed session woe answer the question and i think it was clearly answered and all members were given an opportunity to ask questions. i just want the record to show that with what senator heinrich stated. senator zblunt thank you, chairman. attorney general it's go to see you here and see mary i know there's probably other places you'd both rather be today but you've always looked at public service as something you did together and it's good to see you here together and know that your family continues to be proud and supportive of what you do. >> thank you. i'm blessed, indeed. >> i agree with that.
1:08 pm
i agree with that. let me just get a couple of things clear in my mind here, notes i've taken while people were talking. on the april 27th, 2016 event, i think that's the may flower hotel speech that the presidential candidate gave on foreign policy, you didn't have a room at that event where you had private meetings, did you? >> no, i did not. >> as i understand it, you went to a reception that was attended by how many people? >> i think two to three dozen. >> two to three dozen people. you went in, heard a speech and then may have seen people on your way out? >> correct? >> so when you said you possibly had a meeting with mr. kislyak, did you mean you possibly met him? >> i didn't have any formal meeting with him. i'm confident of that. but i may have had an encounter during the reception, that's the only thing i cannot say with
1:09 pm
certainty i did not. that's all i can say. >> that's what i thought you were saying but sometimes i hear i didn't have a meeting that would mean more to me than i met somebody. >> right. >> you might have met him at the reception. could you have met other ambassadors at that reception as well? >> i could. >> i remember one in particular that we had a conversation with, that his country had an investment be in alabama and we talked at length about that, i remember that. but otherwise have no recollection of a discussion with the russian ambassador. >> all right. so you were there, you've read since he was there you may have seen him, but you had no room where you were having meetings with individuals to have discussions at the mayflower hotel that day. >> no, that is correct. >> whenever you talked to mr. comey after he had had his meeting with the president, you think that was probably the next day, you didn't stay afterwards
1:10 pm
and see him after he left the oval office of that night? >> no. i understand his testimony may have suggested that it happened right afterwards, but it was either the next morning, which i think it was, or maybe the morning after that. because we had a three-time a week on national security briefing with fbi that i undertake and so it was after that that we had that conversation. >> when you had that conversation. now, what i'm not quite clear on is did you respond when he expressed his concern or not? >> yes, i did respond. i think he's incorrect. he indicated, i believe, that he would not totally sure of exact wording of the meeting, by do recall my chief of staff was with me and we recall that i did affirm the longstanding, written
1:11 pm
policies of the department of justice concerning communications with the white house. we have to follow those rules and in the long run you're much better off if you do. they do not prohibit communication one on one by the fbi director with the president, but if that conversation moves into certain areas, it's the duty -- the rules apply to the department of justice. so it's a duty of the fbi agent to say, mr. president, i can't talk about that. that's the way that should work and apparently it did because he says he did not improperly discuss matters with the president. >> when mr. comey talked to you about that meeting, did he mention mr. flynn? >> no. he mentioned no facts of any kind. he did not noenmention to me th he'd been asked to do something he felt was improper he just
1:12 pm
said he was uncomfortable with it, i believe. >> after that discussion with mr. comey -- >> actually i don't know that he said he was uncomfortable. he said maybe -- maybe what he testified to is perhaps the correct wording. i'm not sure exactly what he said, but i don't dispute it. >> well, exactly what i think what i remember him saying was that you didn't react at all and kind of shrugged but you're saying you referred him to the normal way these meetings are supposed to be conducted? >> i took it as a concern that he might be asked something that was improper and i affirmed to him his willingness to say no or not go in an improper way -- improper direction. >> just finally i'm assuming you wouldn't talk about this because it would relate to the may 8th meeting, but my sense is no decision is final until it's
1:13 pm
carried out. my guess is that there are people that have said they are going to fire somebody or never did that so the fact that the president said that on may 8th doesn't mean that the information he got from you on may 9th was not necessary or impactful and i'm sure you're not going to say how many times the president said we ought to get rid of that person but i'm sure that's happened and chairman i'll -- >> senator kane. >> mr. attorney general thank you for joining us today. i respect your willingness to be here. >> thank you. >> i'm not able to invoke expectative privilege, that's up to the president, you said that a few moments ago. has the president invoked executive privilege in your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> what your basis to answer these questions. >> the president has a constitutional. >> i understand that but the president hasn't asserted that. you said you don't have the
1:14 pm
power to exert the power of executive privilege so what's the basis to reto angs these questions. >> i'm protecting the right of the president to assert it if chooses and there may be other privileges that could afly these circumstances. >> i don't understand how could you have it both ways. the president can't not assert it and you testified that on the president can assert it and yet i just don't understand the legal basis for your -- for your refusal to answer. >> well, what we try do, i think most cabinet officials, others that you questioned recently, officials before the committee, protect the president's right to do so. if it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there's a dispute about it, at some point the president will either assert the privilege or not or some other privilege can be -- would be asserted. but at that point i believe it's
1:15 pm
premature for me to -- >> you're aserlgt privilege the president -- >> it would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent charge about executive privilege. that's not necessary at this point. >> you testified a few minutes ago that, kwoequote, we were as for our opinion. >> my understanding is, i believe i'm correct in saying the president has said so, that -- >> so he didn't ask you directly? >> i thought you were asking about the privilege, sorry. >> no, no. >> you want to go back to -- >> you said, quote, we were asked for our opinion, you and mr. rosenstein. >> i believe that was appropriate for me to say that because i think the president -- >> no, i'm just asking you -- who asked you for your opinion who asked you for your opinion? >> the president asked for our opinion. >> so you just testified as to
1:16 pm
the content of the communication to the president. >> that's correct, but i believe he's already revealed that. i believe i'm correct in saying that. that's why i indicated that when i answered that question. but if he hasn't and i'm in error, i would have constricted his constitutional right of privilege, you're correct. >> so you're being collect selective about the use of -- >> no area i'm not intentionally i'm doing so only because i believe he made that -- >> in your discussion with the president about the firing of james comey did the question of the rufgs investigation ever come up? >> i cannot answer that because it was a communication by the president or if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not waived. >> but he has not asserted the executive privilege. >> he's not asserted executive privilege. >> do you believe of the russians interfered with the 2016 elections? >> it appears so. the intelligence community seems to be united in that. but i have to tell you, senator
1:17 pm
king, i know nothing but what i've read in the paper. i've never received any detail, briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign. >> between the election there was a memorandum from the intelligence community on october 9 thaj detailed what the russians were doing after the election before the inauguration. you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country? >> no. >> you never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or red the intelligence reports? >> you might have been very critical of me if i, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign. i'm not sure that would -- >> i'm not talk about the campaign, i'm talking about what the russians did. you received no briefing on the russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election? >> no, i don't believe i ever did. >> let's go to your letter of
1:18 pm
may 9th. you said based upon my evaluation and for the reasons expressed by the deputy, was that a written evaluation? >> my evaluation was an evaluation that had been going on for some months. >> is there a written evaluation? >> i did not make one. i think could you classify deputy attorney general rosenstein's memorandum as an evaluation, one that -- and he was the direct supervisor of the fbi director. >> and his evaluation was based whun% on the handle of the hillary clinton e-mails, is that correct. >> well, and a number of other matters, as i recall. but he did explicitly lay out the errors that he thought had been made in that process by the director of the fbi. i thought they were cogent and accurate and far more significant than i think a lot
1:19 pm
of people have understood. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator lankford. >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions good to see you again. >> thank you. >> you speak as a man eager to set record straight. have you spoken very bluntly from the very beginning all the way from your opening statement through this time. i'm amaze dollars at the conversations as if an attorney general has never said there were private conversations with the president and we don't need to discuss those. it seems to be a short memory about some of the statements eric holder would or would not make into the committee to the house or the senate and would or would not turn over documents that had to be requested. they had to go through the court system to finally the courts having to say, no, the president can't hold back documents and the attorney general can't do that. so somehow some acc sation that you're not saying every conversation about everything, there's a long history of attorney generals standing
1:20 pm
beside the president saying there are some conversations that are confidential and then we determine from there. it does seem as well that every unnamed source, story, somehow gets a hearing. i was in the hearing this morning with rod rosenstein as we dealt with the appropriations request that originally obviously you were scheduled to be at that rod rosenstein was taking your place to be able to cover. he was very clear. he was peppered with questions about russia during that conversation as well. he was very clear that he had never had conversations with you about that and that you have never requested conversations about that. he was also peppered with questions of the latest rumor of the day that if somehow the president is thinking about firing robert mueller and getting rid of him and was very clear that rosenstein himself said i am the only one that could do that and i'm not contemplating and nor i would do that and no one has any idea of where the latest unnamed source
1:21 pm
story of the day is coming from with you somehow it's grabbing all of the attention. >> i do want to bring up a couple things to you. one is to define the word recuse and i come back to your e-mail that you sent to jim comey and others on that day on march the 2nd. this is what you said in your e-mail. aftercare full consideration following meetings with career department officials over the course of the past several weeks the attorney general has decided to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. the attorney general's recusal is not only with respect to such investigations, if any, but also extends to the department of responses to congressional and media inquiries related to such investigations. is that something you had maintained from march 2 nd on? >> absolutely. actually, i maintained it from the first day i became attorney general. we discussed those matters and i felt until -- until and if i ever made a decision to not
1:22 pm
recuse myself, i should not, out of an abundance of caution, involve myself in study egg the investigation or evaluating it. so i did not. i also would note that the memorandum from my chief of staff directs these agencies and one of the people directly it was sent to was james d. comey, director of the fbi. you should instruct -- instruct members of your staff to -- not to brief the attorney general or any other officials in the office of the attorney general or otherwise involve the attorney general or other officials in the office of the attorney general in any such matters described above. >> and you haven't requested -- >> we took a proper and firm and crystal clear position that the recusal meant recusal. >> relating to this april 27th meeting, nonmeeting in the room
1:23 pm
at the same time, they stated this in writing. as the host, the senator nor national interests decided whom to invite and initiated the invitations. the trump campaign did not approve the rain istation list. democrats and republicans were some of the latter supporting other candidates. most of them were washington-based form senator for national interests and by the russian ambassador kiss leeiac and several other ambassadors to the speech. we regularly invite ambassadors and other foreign representatives to our events to facilitate dialogue and then they say we seated all four in the front row during the speech in difference to the diplomatic status. it extended equal treatment to the ambassadors and invited each to a short reception prior to the speech. it incollided approximately two dozens guests in a receiving line it moves quickly andny
1:24 pm
conversations were inherently brief and could nobt private. a recollection is that the interaction between mr. trump and the ambassador kiss leeiac was limited to poe kpliet change of pleasantries appropriate on such kagsz we're not aware of any consoougs sation between kiss leeiac and jeff sessions at the event. we consider is it unlike that i anyone could have engaged in a meaningful private conversation without drawing attention from others present. you have any reason to disagree with that? >> i think that's a very fair description of the reception situation. i appreciate them having made that statement. >> great. >> i yield back. >> thank you, mr. general, for being here. >> thank you senator manchin. >> i want to follow up i little bit on what senator king had asked concerning but and i are about the same vintage we remember back in our lifetime we never knew the russian government or military to be our friend and wanting the same
1:25 pm
things we wanted. we wanted out of life. with that being said, the seriousness of this russian hacking is very serious to me and concerning. and you're saying that you had not been briefed on that. october, i think it was october 9th, the one that was known that the odni at that time, i think mr. clapper and also mr. jay johnson, homeland security, made that cub u public what was going on. then on december 29th president obama at that time expelled 35 diplomats, denied access to the compound and i broad end the existing sanction sanctions. sir, did you have any discussions at all, have you had any discussions or sat in on any type of meetings or recommendations were made to remove those sanctions? >> i don't recall any such meets. >> and during the time not from the president being inaugurated
1:26 pm
on january 20th, prior to that in the campaign up until through the transition was there ever any meetings that he showed any concern or consideration or just inquiztive of what the russians were really doing and if they'd really done it? >> i don't recall any such conversation. i'm not sure i understood your question, maybe i better listen again. >> you were part of the national security team. >> yeah. >> so he would have heard something about russia and with their capabilities and their concern about what they could do to our election process. was thera ever any conversations concerning that whatsoever? >> i don't recall it, senator manchin. >> i know it's been asked of you and things that your executive privilege is in protecting the president, i understand that. but also when we had mr. comey here, you know, he couldn't answer a lot of things in open session, he agreed go into a closed session. would you be able to go into closed session, would it change your answers to us or your ability to speak more frankly on some things we would want to
1:27 pm
know? >> senator manchin, i'm not sure. the executive privilege is not waived by going in camera or in closed session. maybe one of the concerns when you have an investigation ongoing as a special counsel does, it's often very problematic to have persons not cooperating with that counsel in the cop duct of the investigation. it may or may not be a factor in going into closed session. >> it would be very helpful, i think, the committee there's a lot of questions they would like to ask and i know would you like to answer if possible, and maybe we can check into that a little further. if i could, sir, did you have any other meetings with russian government officials that have not been previously disclosed? >> i've racked my brain and i do not believe so. >> are there any other -- >> i would -- i can assure you that none of those meetings
1:28 pm
discussed manipulating a campaign in the united states in any way, shape, or form or any hacking or any such ideas as that. >> are there any other meetings between russian government officials and trump campaign associates that have not been previously disclosed that you know of? >> i don't recall any. >> to the best of your knowledge, did any of the following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign? you can just go yes, sir or no as i go down through. paul man for the. >> repeat that now. start over. >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of these following individuals meet with russian officials as any point during the campaign? you can just give yes or no on this. paul man for the? >> i don't have any information that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for a few months. >> steve bannon. >> i have no information that he did. >> general michael flynn? >> i don't recall it. >> reince priebus. >> i don't recall.
1:29 pm
>> steve miller. >> i don't recall him ever having such a conversation. >> corley lieu within douse sky. >> i do not recall any of those individuals having any meeting with russian officials. >> carter page. >> i don't know. >> and i'll finally ask this question because i always think we try to get -- you have an innate knowledge -- >> there may have been some public accounts of mr. page talking with russians, i'm not sure. >> okay. >> i don't recall that. >> as a former senator you bring a unique perspective to this investigation because you've been on both sides. >> i have indeed. all in all it's better on that side. >> if you're sitting on this side -- >> nobody gets to ask you about your private conversations with your staff. >> here you go. if you were sitting on this side, what question would you be asking? >> i would be asking whether or not -- i would be asking
1:30 pm
questions related to whether or not there was an impact on this election. >> and what part of the story do you think -- >> by a foreign power, particularly the russians since it's intelligence community has suggested and stated that they believe they did, and but i do think members of this government have offices to run. >> is there a part -- >> and the questions should be foc kusds on that. >> is there a part of story we're missing i'm so sorry. is there a part of the story we're missing? >> i don't know because i'm not involved in the campaign and have no information concerning it. i have no idea at what stage it is. you remember the committee know a lot more than i. >> thank you, general sessions. >> general sessions assure you we are very much focused on russia's involvement and our hope is that as we fleet this process we will lay those facts out for the american people so they can make their own determinations as well. we're grateful for what you've done. senator cotton. >> well, i am on this side so i
1:31 pm
can say a very simple question that should be asked. did donald trump or any of his associates in the campaign collude with russia nsh hacking those e-mails and releasing them to the public? that's where we started six months ago. we've now heard from six of the eight democrats in this committee and to my knowledge i don't think a single one of them asked that question. they've gone down lots of other rabbit trails but not that question. maybe that's because james comey said last week as he said to donald trump that on three he assured him he was not under investigation. maybe it's because multiple democrats have stated they have not seen any evidence thus far after six months of our investigation and 11 months of an fbi investigation of any such collusion. i'd just suggest what do we think happened at the mayflower? mr. sessions, are you familiar with what spies call trade
1:32 pm
craft? >> a little bit. >> that involves things like covert communications and dead drops and brush passes, right? >> that's part of it. >> do you like spy fiction, daniel silva, jason matthews? >> alan first, david ignatius. >> do you like jason bourn or james bond movies? >> yes, i do. >> have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting united states senator and an ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of -- >> thank you for saying that, senator cotton it just like through the looking glags. i mean, what is this? i explained how in good faith i said i had not met with russians because they were suggesting i,
1:33 pm
as a surrogate, had been meeting with continuously with russians. i said i didn't meet with them. and nought next thing you know, i'm accused of some reception plotting some sort of influence campaign for the american election. it's just beyond my capability to understand and i really appreciate, mr. chairman, the opportunity to at least be able to say publicly, i didn't participate in that and know nothing about it. >> and i gather that's one reason you want to testify today in public. last week mr. comey, and characteristic, dramatic and theatrical fashion alluded to innuendo that suggested that you might have colluded with russia or that you might have otherwise acted improperly. you've addressed those today. do you understand why he made that allusion? >> actually, i do not.
1:34 pm
nobody's provided me any information about it. >> thank you. i have a lot of questions. mr. blunt asked you if you had spoken in response to mr. comey's statement to you after his private meeting with the president on february 14th or february 15th. you said that you did respond to mr. comey. mr. comey's testimony said that you can not. do you know why mr. comey said that you did not bond is to him in that conversation with you on february 14th or 15th? >> i do not. there's a little conversation, not very long, but there was a conversation and i did respond to him. perhaps not to everything he asked, but he -- i did respond to him. i think in an appropriate way. >> do you know why mr. comey mistrusted president trump from their first meeting on january 6th? >> he stated last week that he did but didn't state anything from that meeting that caused him to have such mistrust.
1:35 pm
do you -- >> i'm not able to speculate on that. >> turn to the crimes that we know have happened, leaks of certain information had the. here's a short list of what i have. the contents of alleged transcripts of alleged conversations between mr. flynn and mr. kiss leeiac. the content of president trump's phone calls of australian and mexican leaders, the contintd of president trump's russian foreign minister and ambassador, the manchester bombing identity and crime scene photos and last week within 20 minutes of this committee meeting with a classified setting with jim comb what the basis of mr. comey's innuendo was. are these leaks serious threats to our national security and is the department of justice taking them with the appropriate degree of seriousness in investigating and ultimately going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law? >> thank you, senator cotton. we have had one successful case very recently in georgia. that person has been denied
1:36 pm
bail, i believe, and is being held until custody. but some of these leaks, as you well know, are extraordinarily damaging to the united states security and we have got to restore a regular order principal. we cannot have persons in our intelligence agencies, our investigative agencies or in congress leaking sensitive matters on staff. so this is, i'm afraid, will result in -- is already resulting in investigations and i'm in fear that some people may find this they wish they hadn't leaked. >> thank you my time has expired but it was stated earlier that the republican platform was weakened on the point of arms to ukraine that's incorrect the platforms that strength end and it would be democrat president who refused this congress supply
1:37 pm
those arms to ukraine. >> senator harris. >> thank you. you have several times this afternoon prefaced your responses by saying to the best of your recollection. just on the first page of your three pages of written testimony you wrote, nor do i recall, do not have recollection, do not remember it. so my question is, for any of your testimony today, did you refresh kwa refresh your memory with any written documents, calendar, written correspondence, notes of any sort? >> i attempted to refresh my recollection, but so much of this is in a wholesale campaign of extraordinary nature that you're moving so fast that you don't keep notes, you meet people. i didn't keep notes of my conversation with the russian ambassador at the republican convention. >> sir. >> i'm saying i didn't keep notes on much of these things. >> will you provide this committee with the notes that you did maintain? >> as appropriate, i will supply
1:38 pm
the committee with documents. >> you can please tell me what you mean when you say appropriate? >> i would have to consult with lawyers in the department who know the proper procedure to -- before disclosing documents that are held within the department of justice. >> attorney -- >> i'm not able to make that opinion today. >> sir, i'm sure you prepared for this hearing today and most of the questions that have been presented to you were predictable. so my question to you is, did you then review with the lawyers of your department, if you if the top lawyer are unaware, what the law is regarding what you can share with us and what you cannot share with us? what is privilege and what is not privileged? >> we discussed basic parameters of testimony. i frankly have not discussed documentary disclosure. >> will you make a commitment to this committee that you will share any written correspondence be it your calendars, records,
1:39 pm
notes, e-mails or anything that's been reduced at any point in time in writing to this committee where legally you actually have an obligation to do so? >> i'll commit to reviewing the rules of the department and when that issue is raised to respond appropriately. >> did you have sne communication with russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this kbhi committee? >> i don't recall it, but i have to tell you that i cannot testify to what was said as we were standing at the republican convention before the podium where i spoke. >> my question is only. >> i just don't have a detailed memory of that. >> as it relates to your knowledge. >> best of my -- >> did you have any communication with any russian businessmen or any russian national? >> i don't believe i had any conversation with russian businessmen or russian national.
1:40 pm
>> are you aware -- >> although a lot of people were at the convention it's conceivable that somebody came up to. >> he sir i have just a few -- >> well you let me qualify it if i don't qualify you'll accuse me of lying so i need to be accurate as best i can and i don't need to be rushed this fast it makes me nervous. >> are you aware of any communications between other trump officials and sthieshts they had with russian officials or russian nationals. >> i don't recall that. >> and are you aware of -- >> at this moment. >> are you aware of any communications with any trump officials or did you have any communications with any officials about russia or russian interests in the united states before january 20th? >> no. i may have had some conversations, and i think i did with the general strategic concept of the possibility of
1:41 pm
not russia and the united states could get on a more har moanous relationship and move off the hostility. the soviet union did in fact collapse. it's a tragic event that we're not able to get along better today. >> before being attorney general how did you then communicate with candidate or president-elect trump. >> repeat that. >> before your sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> i did not commit memoranda drir not make formal presentations. >> did you ever communicate with him in writing? >> i don't believe so. >> and you referred to a longstanding doj policy. you can tell us what policy it is you're talking about? >> i think most cabinet people as the witnesses you have before you earlier, those individuals
1:42 pm
declined to comment because we're all about conversations with the president -- >> sir, i'm just asking you about --. >> because that's the longstanding policy that goes beyond the attorney general. >> is that poll? i writing somewhere? >> i think so. >> so did you not consult it will before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about that? >> well, we talked about it. the policy is based -- >> did you ask that it be shown to you? >> the policy is based on the principles that the president -- >> sir, i'm not asking about the principle, i'm asking when you knew you were going dob asked these questions and you rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for your refusings to answer the majority of the questions. >> sir, the witness should be allowed to answer the question. >> senators will ayou lo the chair to control the hearing. senator harris, let him answer. >> please answer. thank you. >> we talked about it and we talked about the real principles that's at stake is one that's i
1:43 pm
have some appreciation for having spent 15 years in the department of justice, 12 at united states attorney, and that principle is that the constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges and that members -- one of them is confidentiality of communication. and it is improper for agents of any of the departments -- any departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval -- >> mr. chairman. >> -- of the president and that's the situation we're in. >> it's a sifrm yes or no, you can ask -- >> yes, i consulted. >> the senator's time's expired. >> apparently not. >> senator cornyn. >> attorney general session, former director comey's letter to fbi employees when he was terminated started this way. he said, i've long believed that a president can fire an fbi director for any reason or no
1:44 pm
reason at all. do you agree with that? >> yes, and i think that was good for him to say because i believe we're going to have a new and excellent fbi director, a person who is smart, disciplined, with integrity and proven judgment that would be good for the bureau and i think that statement probably was a valuable thing for director comey to say. i appreciate that he did. >> just to reiterate the timeline of your refoouz cuesal and the rosenstein memo and your letter to the president recommending the term nafgs director comey, you recused from the russian investigation on march the 2nd, correct? >> the formal recusal took place on that day. >> the letter that you wrote forwarding the rosenstein memo to the president as a basis for
1:45 pm
director comey's termination was dated may the 9th, a couple of months after you recused from the russian investigation, correct? >> i believe that's correct. >> so isn't it be true that the russian investigation did not factor into the -- your recommendation to fire director comey? >> that is correct. >> the memorandum written by the deputy attorney general, your letter to the president forwarding that recommendations didn't mention russia at all, is that your recollection? >> that's correct. >> so let's review what the basis was of deputy attorney general rosenstein's recommendation. he wrote in his memo on matte nooij he said i cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of secretary clinton's e-mails ann do not
1:46 pm
understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken and of course he's talking about director comey. he went open n to say that the director comey was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on july the 5th, 2016. he went on to say the director is never empowered to sue plant federal prosecutors and assume command of the justice department. finally he said, compounding the error, the director ignored another longstanding principle that we did not homd press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. in fact, there is written policy from the department of justice, is there not, entitled election year sensitivities. are you familiar with the --
1:47 pm
with the prohibition of the justice department making announcements or take other actions that might interfere with the normal elections? >> i am generally familiar with that on some of those where the memorandum after my time in the department. >> let me read -- >> there's always been rules about it, though. >> let me read the -- just an excerpt from a memo from the attorney general, march 9th, 2012, entitled election year sensitivities. it says law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of effecting any election or for the purpose of giving an advantage or z disadvantage to any candidate or political party. such a purpose is inconsistent with the department's mission and with the principles of federal prosecution. do you agree with that?
1:48 pm
>> essentially, yes. >> so what essentially he said is that former director comey violated department of justice directives when he held the press conference on july the 5th, 2016. he announced that secretary clinton was extremely careless with classified e-mail and went on to release other derogatory information including his conclusion that she was extremely careless, but yet went on to say that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. that's not the role of the fbi director, is it? that's a job for the prosecutors at the department of justice, that's what was meant by deputy attorney general rosenstein when he said that director comey usurped the role of the department of justice prosecutors, is that right? >> that is correct and former attorney general bill barre
1:49 pm
wrote an oped recently in which he said had he assumed that attorney general lynch had urged mr. comey to make this announcement so she wouldn't have to do it. but, in fact, it appears he did it without her approval totally and that is a pretty stunning thing, it is a stunning thing, and it violates fundamental power. and then when he reaffirmed that likeness of his decision on may 3rd, i i think it was, that was additional confirmation that the director's thinking was not clear. >> senator reed. >> thank you, very much to the chairman. first a point, attorney general, others raised the issue of long stangd rules. if there rp written rules to this effect r would you provide
1:50 pm
them to the committee, please? >> i will. >> thank you very much. now, senator cornyn has made the point that the whole substance of your recommendation to the president to dismiss director comey was his unprofessional conduct with respect to the clinton administration, is that correct? >> i supported everything that the deputy attorney general put in his memoranda as good and important factors to use in determining whether or not he had conducted himself in a way that justified continuing in office. i think it's pretty well speaks for itself and i believe most of it did deal with that. the discussion about his performance was a bipartisan discussion. it began during the election time. democrats were very unhappy about the way he conducted himself and in retrospect, in
1:51 pm
looking at it, i think was more egregious than i may have even understood at the time. >> general -- >> with regard to -- >> general, if i may, i don't want to cut you off. >> i'll let you go. i'm sorry. >> excuse me, sir. on july 7th when mr. comey made his first announcement about the case, you were on fox news and you said first of all, director comey is a former prosecutor and then you concluded by saying essentially that it's not his problem his hillary clinton's problem. then in november, on november 6th after mr. comey again made news in late october by reopening, if you will, the investigation, you said, again, on fox news, you know, fbi director comey did the right thing when he found new evidence. he had no choice but to report it to the american congress when he had under oath testified. the investigation was open he had to correct that and say just
1:52 pm
as the case is ongoing now i'm sure it's significant or else he wouldn't have announced that. so in july and november, director comey was doing exactly the right thing, you had no criticism of him, you felt that, in fact, he was a skilled professional prosecutor, you felt that his last statement in october was fully justified. so how you can go from those statements to agreeing with mr. rosenstein and then asking the president or recommending he be fired? >> i think in retrospect, as all of us began to look at that clearly and talk about it as agents the department of justice, once the director sfirs got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation which would have been better never have been
1:53 pm
discussed publicly and said it was over, then when he found new evidence that came up, i think he probably was required to tell congress that it wasn't over, that new evidence had been developed. it probably would have been better and would have been consistent with the rules of the department of justice to never have talked about the investigation to begin with. once you get down that road, that's the kind of thing that you get into that went against classical prosecuting policy that i learned and was taught when i was a united states attorney and assistant united states attorney. >> if i may ask another question. the movement in recommend together president was the actions on october involving hillary clinton, the whole controversy, did you assume it
1:54 pm
was misled when the president announced his real reason for dismission comey was the russian investigation? >> i don't have -- i'm not able to characterize that. >> you -- >> i wouldn't comment on that. >> so you had no inkling that there was anything to do with russia until the president of the united states basically declared on tv and in the oval office to the russian foreign minister saying the pressure's off now i got rid of that nutjob, that came to you as a complete surprise? >> well, all i can say, senator reed, is that our recommendation was put in writing and i believe it was correct and i believe the president request valued it but how he made his decision was his -- was his process. >> and you had no ifrpgling that he was considering the russian investigation. >> well, i'm not going to try to guess what i -- >> no, i -- i just -- there is a
1:55 pm
scenario in which this whole recapitulation of clinton was a story, basically, a cover story that the president sort of tried to put out and then he quickly abandoned and his real reason was the russian investigation, which if it 4 been the case i expect you as a principal would have precluded yourself from any involvement. thank you. >> senator mccain. >> over the last few weeks, the administration has characterized your previously undisclosed meetings with russian ambassadorkiambassador kiss leeiac as meetings you cook as a mefbt senator and member of the senate armed services committee. as chairman of this committee let me ask you a few questions about that. at these meetings did you raise concerns about russian invasion
1:56 pm
of ukraine on annexation of crimea? >> i did, senator mccain and i would like to follow up a little bit on that. that's one of the meetings that i -- that's one of the issues that i recall kplitly. the day before i met with the ukrainian ambassador and i heard his concerns about russia so i raised those with mr. kiss leeiac and he gave, as you can imagine, not one inch. everything they did was the russians had done according to him was correct and i remember pushing back on it and it was a bit testy on that subject. >> when you were on the committee i can't imagine that. did you raise concerns about russia's support for president assad and his campaign against indiscriminate violence against his own citizens including his use of chemical weapons. >> i don't recall whether that was discussed or zblot you raise discussions about russia's
1:57 pm
interference in our electoral process or the processes of our allies? >> i don't recall that being zugsd. >> at those meetings have you spoke with ambassador kislyak as a member of the arm services committee you preyou'll ably talked with him about russia related security issues that you dem month stlated is important to you as a mefbt committee? >> did i discuss the -- >> i don't recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues. >> on -- repeat that, senator mccain, i'm sorry. >> the whole russia-related security issues you demonstrated is important to you as a member of the committee, did you raise those with him? >> you mean issues that security issues? >> yeah. in other words, russia-related security issues in your capacity as the chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee what russia related security issues did you
1:58 pm
hold hearings on oj otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in? >> we may have discussed that. i just don't have a real recall of the meeting. i may -- i was not making a report about it to anyone, i just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed. >> and his response was? >> i don't recall. >> during that 2016 campaign season did you have any contacts with any representative including american lobbyist or agent of any russian company as a member of congress or a mefbt armed services committee? >> i don't believe so. >> "politico" recently reported in the milled of the 2016 election dollars the fbi found that russian diplomats who traveled with the state department were supposed to be track and gone mission some wound up in the desert or
1:59 pm
driving around kansas. reportedly intelligence sources reported after a year of inattention they reports indicate that the moss cow's grund game has grown stronger and more brazen and quietly the kremlin has been frooig trying to map the united states telecommunications infrastructure. what do you know about this development and how the justice department and other relevant u.s. government agencies are responding to it? >> we need to do more, senator mccain. >> i am worried about it. we also see that from other nations with these kind of technological skills like china and some of the other nations that are penetrating our business interests, our national security interests. as a member of the armed services committee, i did support and advocate and i think you supported legislation that would -- and it's gon ongoing now that will requires the
2:00 pm
defense important to identify weaknesses in our system and how we can fix them. but i would say to you, senator mccain, that in my short tenure here in the department of justice, i've been more concerned about computer hacking and those issues than i was at the -- in the senate. it's an important issue, you're correct. >> washington post reported yesterday -- >> you're watching nbc news live coverage of the jeff sessions testimony before congress woot he will pause for sessions's. we will allow some stations to return to regular programming now. >> can you discuss a little bit in open session how serious that is. >> i don't believe i can discuss the technological issues just to say that it is very disturbing that the russians continue to
2:01 pm
produce hostile actions in their foreign policies. it is not good for the united states or the world or russia, in my opinion. >> do you believe we have a strategy in order to counter he's ever increasing threats to our national security and our way of life? >> not sufficient. we do not have a sufficient strategy dealing with technological and i.t. penetrations of our system. i truly believe it is more important than i ever did before. and i appreciate your concern and leadership on that issue. and in fact, all of congress is going to have to do better. >> the senator's time has expired. the chair will recognize the vice chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman and general sessions, thank you. i particularly appreciate your last comments with senator mccain about the seriousness of this. it is why so many of us on this
2:02 pm
committee are concerned when the whole question of russian intervention the president refers to it as a witch-hunt and fake news. is and there doesn't seem to be recognition of the seriousness of this threat. i share, i think most members do, that the russians massively interfered. they want to continue to interfere. not to favor one party or the other. it is aoe phorplous conceenormo. comments have been made here about where we had some of the trump associates who may have had contacts with russians. and we have not gotten to all of that yet because of the unprecedented firing of the fbi director that was leading this very same russian investigation that superseded some of our activities. so those members who i hope will equally pursue the very
2:03 pm
troubling amount of smoke at least and if not there between individuals that were affiliated with the trump campaign, possible ties with russia. i have not reached any conclusions. we are trying to pursue that. i understand your point. but you have to -- there were a series of comments made by mr. comey last week. i think members on this side of the aisle had indicated -- understanding executive privilege, understand classified setting. i do think we need, senator, senator harris and others indicated, if there are these longstanding written procedures about this ability to have some other category to protect the conversations with the president, we'd like to get a look at them because we need to find out in light of some of the contradictions between here and last week. but at the end of the day, it's what i said the last time, it is
2:04 pm
is not reliving 2016. it is about finding out what happened, the serious allegations, about potential ties. but on a going forward basis making sure the russians are not finished in terms of their activities, didn't interfere in the election day 2016. we know that is ongoing. we have to be better prepared ongoing basis. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman, one great comment if you mind. i do want to say that a chain at the top of the fbi should have no impact whatsoever on the investigation. there are teams that have been working and they will continue to work and they have not been altered in my way. but there are a number of very strange comments that mr. comey testified last week that you could having, i believe, shed some light o. but we will continue. >> general sessions, thank you again for your willingness to be here. i'm not sure that you knew it, but your replacement sat through
2:05 pm
most of this hearing. he has made us regret that we don't have intramural basketball teams. >> good ballplayer, tulane. >> you have been asked a wide range of questions. and i think you have answered claims relating to claims at the meeting of the mayflower, you've answered claims surrounding your recusal and the fact that you have never been briefed since day one of the investigation. you made clear that you can't think of any other conversations that you've had with russian officials. you've covered in detail the conversations that you had, though brief, with director comey, that he referenced to after his private meeting with the president. just to name a few things that you have helped us clear up.
2:06 pm
there were several questions that you chose not to answer because of confidentiality with the president. i would only ask you now to go back and work with the white house to see if there are any areas of questions that they feel comfortable with you answering and, if they dorks that you provide those answers in writing to the committee. i would also be remiss if i didn't remind you that those documents that you can-can provide for the committee, they would be helpful to us for the purposes of sorting timelines out. anything that substantiates your testimony today, individuals who might have been at events that you're familiar with, that would be extremely helpful. more importantly, i want to thank you for your agreement to have continuing dialogue with us as we might need to ask some additional questions as we go a little further down in the
2:07 pm
investigation. that certainly does not have to be a public hearing. but it may be an exchange and a dialogue that we have. you have helped us tremendously. and we're grateful to you for the unbelievable sacrifice that you made in this institution but also now in this administration. this hearing is now adjourned. >> the attorney general of the united states, jeff sessions, completing some two hours of testimony before the senate intelligence committee regarding the russia investigation in the trump campaign. among the headlines, sessions denies there was an additional undisclosed meeting with the russian ambassador. he called it appalling and a detestable lie and recusing himself from the russian matter was a matter of following federal guidelines because he had been involved in the trump campaign. sessions saide

87 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on