tv MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson MSNBC November 14, 2017 7:00am-8:00am PST
restored to just half the island. we're keeping an eye on that hearing and will bring you any developments as they happen. i promise, this story is very important to me. and that wraps us up this hour. i'm stephanie ruhle. i'll see you again at 11:00 a.m. with my partner ali velshi and all day on twitter. right now, more news with my friend kristen welker. hi, steph. i'm in for hallie jackson on what is a very busy "newsday" here in washington. so let's get you right to capitol hill right now where we are awaiting testimony from attorney general jeff sessions. he's appearing before the house judiciary committee. now, this is a prescheduled routine oversight hearing. now, though, a potential blockbuster after new developments overnight. first the ag overnight authorizing the justice department to consider whether a new special counsel should be appointed. prosecutors now examining some of president trump's political rivals like hillary clinton. also, those new revelations around the president's eldest son, donald trump jr., his private messages with wikileaks during the height of the presidential campaign.
all that happening this hour, and house speaker paul ryan, his weekly news conference with gop leadership, don't forget about all that, we are watching this and bringing you the news throughout the hour. but we want to begin on capitol hill with garrett haake. garrett, i want to underscore that again, this is a routine hearing. in past years, this would barely get a headline. but now it is a potential blockbuster given the fact there have been new revolutions about trump campaign advisers and potential contact with russian officials. for today? >> reporter: yeah, so true, kristen. i don't think it is possible to have a routine hearing here on capitol hill. they want to ask the attorney general about donald trump jr. communicating with wikileaks and what jeff sessions knew about that. and the justice report says they
may -- they may see if jeff sessions will throw his hat back in for his old senate seat. he heard the question and smiled but didn't answer it. he will certainly get the question again in this hearing. and any time jeff sessions comes to the hill, the question of russia always claims over this. >> if there the any evidence of anyone communicated with the trump campaign in the course of this campaign, what would you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and i did not have the communications with the russians. and i'm unable to comment on it.
>> reporter: i don't think today will be any different. >> garrett, your reporting is right, george papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to officials with false information. thank you for that report. let's bring in justice correspondent pete williams. let's talk about that big development that we got late last night, the fact that the attorney general has directed the doj. we should mention that these are live pictures of attorney general jeff sessions walking in to the hearing room, pete, we're monitoring this very closely. so if this gets underway, we may have to cut to this, but talk about the big revelation overnight, that the attorney general is essentially directing the justice department into looking into whether there should be a second special
counsel. >> reporter: well, let the viewers know that they won't miss jeff sessions speak because they will have to hear opening statements from all the members. i don't read a lot into this e-mail. what it says is after members of the house asked the justice department to look into all sorts of things, the uranium one deal and things looking into hillary clinton, looking at the hillary e-mail issue, the fact that james comey leaked information after being fired from the fbi, basically what the letter seems to me to be is sort of an artful walking of the line saying, on the one hand, yes, we'll look into this, but on the other hand, don't get your hopes up. there's a lot of sort of boilerplate in there about, remember, if we opt to open investigation, look at the u.s. attorney's manual, we can't do it unless there's probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. so i don't view this as a, here we go with another special counsel, i view it as, okay, yeah, we'll look at your letter,
but it doesn't seem to me to say that they are eager to have another special counsel. >> and pete, following up on that point, obviously, we have heard that the president very strongly asked for the justice department to look into the democrats and to hillary clinton into that uranium deal you mentioned. could this be part of an attempt to sort of calm that criticism? >> reporter: perhaps. i think they have this letter from the house, perhaps it does serve a lot of different interests to have this letter out there. but i don't think it's then signaling that they want to have a special counsel going on. of course, there's another question that may come up today, if there were to be any special counsels involving hillary clinton, whether attorney general sessions would have to recuse from any decisions involving that, given his role in the campaign. >> and pete, as we're having this discussion, we should mention the opening statements have started.
chairm the chairman goodlatte is making his announcements. how unusual would it be to have a special counsel? >> reporter: well, it is unusual to have a special counsel. it is not that often. if there were two at once, that would probably be the first time. but who knows how long this will last and how long it will be before the second one got going. but yeah, it would be unusual to have two going. it would be the first time. >> all right. pete williams, thank you so much for helping us understand what is a very complicated story. appreciate it. i'm joined now by my msnbc national security analyst and former fbi special agent, clint watts. and my panel for the hour, julie bikowitz for the washington street journal and charlie salve annual, washington correspondent for "the new york times." thank you to all of you for being here. clint, i want to start with you. as we await to hear from jeff sessions, i want to get your take on the attorney general directing his staff to look into this laundry list of republican
concerns, including that uranium deal that i was just talking to pete about. take a listen to what chuck grassley had to say and then i want to get your reaction on the other side. >> the reason that i asked for special counsel is because the extent to which mueller, who was head of the fbi at the time of the uranium one stuff, and he's special counsel in the trump russia investigation, i suggested that maybe another special counsel would bring about more independence and more credibility to the investigation. >> clint, as you know, republicans have been talking an awful lot about that uranium deal. does chuck grassley have a point? >> no. i think this is political partisanship. and it is a sad thing because there's been, you know, looks into this investigation. we're only talking about it because the president is using the united states government, the department of justice, as a
tool against his political rivals and to distract from the investigation which has much more merit. the russia influence investigation which director mueller has, where does that come from? it comes due to what we have seen leading up to the presidential election of 2016. this uranium one thing goes back to a 2010 deal, which operated all the way through 2012. and it is only significant because the president is trying to distract from it. it's also interesting because it was used as a political football in the run-up to the election. there was a book called clinton cash if you remember, that's where this story came up. and so it's an interesting distraction. and in by no way is it equivalent to what we have seen with the mueller investigation looking into the trump team and how russia essentially tried to influence our election. so i think it's strange. and i also find it concerning because we need to understand that this is a waste of time for government servants. if it was really about america
first, we would be talking about putting the department of justice out on the streets, making sure we are going after criminals and going after white-collared crime. that we are looking forward. instead, we are trying to investigate something that is already looked at five years ago. >> and clint, i want to remind our viewers that everything you just brought up will likely be discussed in this hearing that we continue to monitor on the left-hand side of our screen on capitol hill. again, the chairman there of the house judiciary committee, bob goodlatte continues with the opening remarks. you saw the shot of the attorney general listening intensely as the opening statements are underway. we are going to cut to the hearing as soon as we hear something newsworthy to bring it to everyone. julia, i want to breng you ininn this pitfall. the reality is it is not likely to have two legal counsels at
once. it could be a political stunt if they go down that path. >> attorney general sessions is in a precarious situation and has been the whole time he's had his post. he's trying to navigate this complex russia investigation, which he said he's not going to participate in. that was pretty early on that he made that commitment. and yet you have a president who is bringing public pressure to the department of justice to look into other allegations as clint was saying, it could be a political football, but for sure, attorney general sessions has to somehow navigate this difficult path of not being involved but also knowing that president trump is watching his every word and is not, has not been very happy with conducted himself. >> charlie, pick up on that point, before the president left for asia, he made some of his strongest remarks to date about this whole issue in a radio interview, saying that he wishes
he could get engaged, have more control over the justice department, before leaving from the south lawn, saying, he wants to see the justice department do something, to get engaged, to look into what he sees as inpropriety by democrats and hillary clinton n particular. if there were to be a second special counsel, would it not come against the backdrop of questions over whether there is independence of the justice suspect, given what the president has brought to bear? >> i think that is right. given those comments by president trump were extraordinary, and we get used to the ways in which this year we have been living through norms falling by the waist side, but i think any previous president of either party would have fled in horror in the modern era from saying in public that he wanted to use the justice department to investigate his enemies. that's the kind of thing that even if you suspect might have been happening back in the '60s, no one would say it out loud in front of the camera. but president trump is doing that to put tremendous pressure on the justice department and
attorney general sessions. and in some ways, it may impede sessions' ability to do what trump wants because it would be so obviously what is happening. but sessions is under such a variety of pressure today. one of the things as we look at this hearing that is getting going now that i think also viewers should be looking for are questions about what has come out of the mueller investigation with the indictment of papadopoulos the other week, specifically the information that sessions himself and president trump were at a meeting which papadopoulos talked about his contacts with people, with russians and surrogates in setting up a meeting, potential meeting between trump and putin the last year, which sessions apparently then said would be a bad idea. that contradicts not just what sessions said in january, that clip you showed earlier, but subsequent hearings where he came back to say he had no knowledge of any campaign person talking with the russians. i think this is the first time he's really going to have to face questions about that since mueller brought the information
to light. >> i think all that will be at the forefront of this hearing, which we do continue to monitor. ranking member john conniers is making his opening statements as we watch and wait for the attorney general jeff sessions. this is a routine hearing, but we are expecting some fireworks for all of the reasons that we have just been discussing here. we want to turn now to the president's eldest son and his communications with wikileakss. this is the other big story that we have been tracking. overnight, donald trump jr. tweeted his exchanges with wikileaks after first being reported by "the atlantic." he responded to three messages. trump jr. turned them over to congressional investigators. the u.s. intelligence community believes wikileaks was used by the russian government to disseminate election information in the 2016 campaign. this says in part, quote, we can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these
documents and any questions raised about them have been easily answer in the appropriate forum. nbc's ken delaney has been following this story since it broke. talk about the big headlines here, is this a story being overblown or does it have significance relate on the russian probe? >> reporter: kristen, it is significant. donald trump's own cia director mike pompeo labeled wikileaks a hostile non-intelligence service. in a vessel for russian intelligence. and here you have don jr. in communication with wikileaks during the campaign, essentially a russian agent. and there's a lot of attention being paid in particular to his messages on october 12th and 14th where wikileaks says, hey, donald, great to see you and your dad talking about the public cases. strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentioned us. and it was a link to the hacked e-mails from john podesta, the
democrat. and on a very short time later, trump tweets very credible information provided by wikileakss. so dishonest. rigged system. then two weeks later, don jr. tweets the same, for those who have time to read all about the corruption and hypocrisy, here it is. that looks a lot like collusion, kristen. >> and this obviously got a lot of pick-up during the campaign and after. the president talked about wikileaks some 145 times according to nbc news' count in the kind of final weeks until election day. and then his campaign advisers were pressed on whether there was coordination after the campaign. take a listen to some of these exchanges. >> russia, if you're listening, i hope you're able to find the
30,000 e-mails that are listening. you just have to take a look at wikileaks. this just came out, wikileaks, i love wikileaks. amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet. wikileaks, wikileaks, they've got to start talking about wikileaks. >> dken, what type of a backdro does that paint as we kind of delve into this developing story? >> so, what is remarkable about that exchange, kristen, is people, the public don't understand what we do today, the extent to which wikileaks was working hand and glove with the russian intelligence at that moment. but donald trump had people on his campaign, former intense official, mike flynn, who were well-briefed about the situation. and at that point, u.s. intelligence did know that russia had hacked the campaign and was interfering and
providing messages to wikileaks. so it really raised a whole host of questions about what they were thinking. what was he thinking when he made the statements? and now he's saying there was no collusion, no relationship with russia, how did the two things square? >> ken, standby for us in the lower corner of the screen, we do continue to monitor that house judiciary committee hearing and await attorney general jeff sessions who will undoubtedly get some questions about that. but i want to bring in msnbc legal analyst danny sevalos. let's talk where ken left off, the potential implications, the backdrop to which this occurs. could donald trump jr. be in legal jeopardy here? anything that crosses the line about communicating with wikileaks on its face? >> the inquiry is this, did trump jr. solicit or accept anything of value. and that is very broadly defined under federal law to include information. it can include election materials.
it's a very broad definition. it doesn't have to be dollars or anything of particular tangible value. and was that acceptance of anything from a foreign national? if you look at the link he posted, that information, that could, depending on what side you take, that could be perceived as a thing of value o solicited or accepted from a foreign national to a campaign. on the other hand, if you are defending donald trump jr., your position is, he didn't solicit, these things were sent to him. but then the statute also includes acceptance in addition to solicitation. these things bring us very close to federal election law. >> julie, weigh in here, because obviously donald trump jr. was at the center of the political firestorm before this, because he had that meeting with the kremlin-linked attorney that we only learned about after his father took office. how does this latest revelation
add to that? and what special counsel robert mueller may be looking at? >> well, it just raises all sorts of questions. we just clearly don't know the entire picture yet. there are some really critical missing pieces. we know that don jr. had a meeting in trump tower with the russian lobbyists and some others. there were other campaign officials involved in that meeting. and then separately, we know that now that don jr. was communicating with wikileaks. what we don't really totally understand at this point and what we can assume that the special counsel is looking into is, how much don jr. knew about links between wikileaks and russia, what exactly he knew about the campaign that wikileaks and we now know russia was waging at the time. >> one of the problems is that administration officials, vice president mike pence, in particular, was really on the front lines of saying, there has
been no coordination. not only no coordination with russia, no coordination with wikileaks. take a look at when i pressed the vice president on potential coordination. did the president fire director comey to impede the russia investigation? >> well, as you know very clearly, and it has been stated repeatedly and the president has been told, he's not under investigation. >> reporter: but intelligence officials have said there's investigation into potential ties between campaign officials and russian officials. >> that's not what this is about. >> very definitive there. he's been asked about wikileaks specifically and the vice president has said, essentially, dismissed any suggestion about that outright. now, i heard from a spokesperson for the vice president overnight who said, look, he just learned about the contact between donald trump jr. and wikileaks from the news report yesterday. what do you make of that and how it relates to the vice president? >> so, two things. first, focused on the vice president, i think that his
credibility is taking another blow here. he's good at going out in public and speaking and saying, there's nothing here, of course not. remember, he went out and did that for the question of whether mike flynn had conversations with the russian ambassador before the inauguration, about relaxing sanctions. and that turned out to be false, too. supposedly, he just didn't know at the time. so i think the next time the vice president is trotted out to reassure us, there's nothing to look at here, folks, we are taking that with a grain of salt and it is the way to do it. >> and it may be that he really wasn't loop in on any of this. that's the argument that the white house would make. danny, let me turn back to you on that point. the vice president, other officials, very clear, look, there was no coordination. and donald trump jr. really downplayed this whole story. he said, look, there were three measly interactions. and they weren't significant. i mean, does he have a point in that regard? >> he might have a point.
on one hand, you have the solicitation aspect. trump jr.'s view may be, listen, i received these direct messages, i wasn't soliciting them. there's no direct solicitation. part two is the knowingly requirement of the statute. it must be a knowing acceptance of something of value from a foreign national. so to prove a violence is to prove that trump jr. either actually knew that these came from a foreign national or that he was willingfully blind to the fact that it was probably coming from russia or some other country that would violate the election law. so trump jr. definitely has some defenses to these allegations. >> and as we continue to have this discussion, we continue to monitor that hearing that is underway in the house judiciary committee. the opening remarks continue. that is ranking member john
conners. this was previously scheduled, nothing significant about it on its face, however, we are expecting some fireworks given some of the latest revelations about the russia probe and also given everything that we're talking about, the attorney general looking into the possibility of starting a second special counsel. while we wait for this hearing to get underway and to hear from the attorney general, i want to play now a sound bite from senator warner on don jr. donald trump jr. and potentially calling him into testify. take a listen. >> i want to bring donald trump jr. in. he has not testify in a public way. >> in a public way? >> we want to get a chance to have folks hear his side of the story. >> julie, we may hear from donald trump jr. he may go to capitol hill. unlikely it will be a public hearing, i would think.
what will you be looking for in that regard? >> well, i mean, what we know is that don jr. has not been shy about making public remarks. >> that's true. >> so if help doesn't go in a public way to talk to congress, i think that there's a fair expectation that he would sort of summarize how things went, given his per penpensity to putt out on twitter. we saw that after taking the initiative after a story comes out to release documents on his own. so i think that we can expect that we'll get some sort of summary from him or his legal team as to how the probe is going. >> let me bring clint watts back into this discussion. what do you anticipate, clint? do you think that donald trump jr. will head back to capitol hill? what are you expecting? >> i sure do hope so. we are talking, i think there were great points made, but trump jr. in a message to wikileaks said, can you tell me
what came down on wednesday to use it for a campaign? there's a solicitation from a foreign agent, wikileak, from a foreign power, meaning russia. it is ridiculous that he was unknowing. if he was unknowing, then he's not part or qualified to be part of the campaign. everyone has known that wikileaks has been an enemy of the united states. going back to tell chelsea manning and the records disclosed there. this is an adversary to the united states that trump jr. reached out to. so i don't know in any context how this was innocent or it's not a big deal or just being an opportunist in the space of the campaign. the other thing that i think is super interesting with trump jr. is it was online and on the ground. they physically engaged him at trump tower with the lawyer. they physically, or they online engage him through wikileaks. this is a major intelligence operation. and for some reason, they focused on trump jr.
and why did they do this? because in the espionage business, the best way to influence the target, this being now president trump, is to get as close to him as possible. and there's no one closer to him than his family. >> and clint, thank you for that as we continue to monitor the hearing that is going on on capitol hill. we should let our viewers know, the attorney general was just sworn in. so it's possible we'll start to hear from him shortly. we continue to monitor that as we await. and it looks like he's beginning his opening remarks. it looks like he does have an opening statement. and we will go to it shortly. but in the meantime, charlie, i want to ask you kind of big picture here. president trump is traveling home from asia, the biggest trip of his presidency. before he left, he said it's been a great 12 days. he's returning to a firestorm on a whole host of issues, not only the russia probe, but obviously
the scandal over roy moore. how does he manage that when he comes home? do you get the sense that he's prepared for just how big the headlines will be? >> so let me just quickly say something for the viewers that just heard clint speak for a minute before i get to that. >> please. >> i think it is not at all a -- to be something to be taken as a fact that wikileaks way back to the chelsea manning era was an enemy of the united states. the story of julian assange is much more complicated than that and the story of the evolution in which they put out the original chelsea manning cables and so forth. and then the obama administration including hillary clinton reacted forcefully to that, that ends up in a complicated way to assange and clinton hating each other, which then sets us up. and snowden didn't leak through wikileaks. i didn't want that to go unchallenged because this is a cross over simplificatiosimplif. >> clint, anything you want to say on that? >> yeah, let's get into this. wikileaks claimed they were about transparency and going to
expose a corrupt regime. russia being one of them, yet have they ever gone after russia? no. what they have done consistently in the past few years is take a very russian tone. and essentially become an extension of the russian intelligence operation. so at no point have i seen where they are even, if they are about transparency, where is the evenness in their transparency in they beat up on only one country with transparency to this degree. they taken a anti-american tone while they watch as authoritarian regimes continue to do their business. if they were really about freedom and transparency, there are dozens of authoritarian regimes around the world they can do this to. but they choose not to. so when you're telling me this is just, oh, that, you know, they have gone through a transition, whatever it might be, i would like to see the evidence trail. because i have looked at it and i'm not aware of it. where they go after regimes like putin's regime. i can tell you why they don't.
because putin would respond in a very different way than the u.s. would. at least we have democratic processes here and open review and transparency. and because they know we are not going to resort to violence or to corruption or to other things, they challenge us. so some of the channels are, oh, just innocent and trying to raise transparency. if they want to go to another country and do that, i would ask them to do so as well. >> i'm going to pause this debate momentarily while we go to another big story. and as we continue to monitor what is happening on capitol hill. the other big story, of course, is about roy moore. speaker ryan just spoke moments ago on capitol hill and talked about the embattled senate candidate from alabama. take a listen to what he had to say. >> if he cares about the values and the things he cares about, then he should step aside. >> pretty definitive from the house speaker. gabe gutierrez is following the latest from birmingham, alabama. gabe, we have been talking about this for days now, the feeling
in washington is different than the feeling in alabama, although i get the sense thats the sta i starting to shift a little bit. as the polls get tighter, are they getting tighter between the two candidates? >> reporter: doug jones is up 46-42. that's the first poll after the allegations broke. and if you talk to people here in alabama, there's a sense that they are going to stick by roy moore no matter what his campaign chairman is saying this morning. these are chutrumped up charges. and the latest accuser showed during the news conference, the one that had the signature allegedly from roy moore, that he denies that was roy moore's signature. now, this latest accuser, beverly young nelson, a dramatic account at the news conference in new york. she claimed roy moore visited,
was a regular at the restaurant where she worked some 40 years ago, the one night he offered to give her a ride home, got her in his car, pulled to the back of the business and then assaulted her. take a listen at what she had to say. >> mr. moore reached over and began groping me. him putting his hands on my breasts. i tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and he locked it so i could not get out. i tried fighting him off and yelled at him to stop. but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck attempting to force my head onto his crotch. i continued to struggle. i was determined that i was not going to allow him to force me to have sex with him. i was terrified. he was also trying to pull my
shirt off. i thought that he was going to rape me. i was twisting and struggling and i was begging him to stop. i had tears running down my face. at some point, at some point he gave up. and then he looked at me and told me, and he said, you're just a child. and he said, i am the district attorney of the county. and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you. >> very emotional account there from beverly young nelson. again, late last night, roy moore came out with his wife by his side and completely denied having anything to do with young nelson. in fact, even saying he had never even met her. as you know, kristen, there's a
now growing chorus from republicans on capitol hill saying he should resign. some saying he should resign altogether as you heard from the house speaker a short time ago. >> gabe gut yairsz has beierrez the ground for days tracking this story. we appreciate it. i want to bring back charlie salve annual and julie backowitz. you have roy moore and his wife continuing to insist that the allegations are made up. we'll listen to more and get reaction on the other side. >> to a sweet or beautiful girl, i could not say merry christmas. christmas 1977, love ray moore. >> and jewulie and charlie, standby. we do want to go to capitol hill and attorney general jeff sessions starting opening statements. he's mid statement.
>> i will answer every question as i understood them to the best of my recollection as i will continue to do today. i would like to address recent news reports regarding meetings during the campaign attended by george papadopoulos and carter page among others. frankly, i had no recollection of this meeting until i saw these news reports. i do now recall that the march 2016 meeting at the trump hotel that mr. papadopoulos attended, but i have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. after reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, i believe that i wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the russian government or any other foreign government for that matter. but i did not recall this event which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago. and i would gladly have reported
it had i remembered it, because i pushed back against his suggestion that i thought may have been improper. as for mr. page, while i do not chann challenge his recollection, i have no memory of his presence at a dinner at the capitol hill club or any passing conversation he may have had with me as he left the dinner. all you have been in campaigns, let me just suggest, when most of you have not participated in a presidential campaign. and none of you had a part in the trump campaign. and it was a brilliant campaign, i think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one. we traveled, sometimes to several places in one day, sleep was in short supply, and i was still a full-time senator and a very full schedule. during this year, i have spent close to 20 hours testifying
before congress before today. i have been asked to remember details from a year ago, such as who i saw on what day and what meeting and who said what to when. in all of my testimony, i can only do my best to answer your questions as i understand them and to the best of my memory. but i will not accept and reject accusations that i have ever lied. that is a lie. let me be clear, i have at all times conducted myself honorably and in a manner consistent with the high standards and responsibilities of the office of attorney general, which i revered. i spent 15 years in that department. i loved that department. i honor that department. and will do my dead level best to be worthy of your attorney
general. so as i said before, my story has never changed. i've always told the truth. and i've answered every question to the best of my recollection. and i will continue to do so today. with that, mr. chairman, i'm honored to take your questions. >> well, thank you general sessions. we'll now proceed under the five-minute rule with questions and i'll begin by recognizing myself. under your leadership, the prosecution of firearms offenses have increased 22% over the same period of the previous year. furthermore, the number of defendants charged with using a firearm in violent crimes of drug trafficking rose 10% over the previous year. we have a slide which shows the increase as compared to the obama-era numbers. what do these increased prosecutions of firearms offenses indicate about the department of justice's commitment to fighting violent crime, particularly with the use of firearms, in this country? >> mr. chairman, as a former
federal prosecutor who emphasized gun prosecutions, i have long believed that they have a significant impact in reducing violent crime. professors earlier this year have explained that they share that view based on scientific analysis. it will be a high priority of ours. you are correct that prosecutions fell. one instant that was raised during the texas terrific horrible shooting at the church there in south sutherland, texas, was the ability of an individual to get a firearm and whether or not they filed correctly their form before you get one that requires questions about criminal convictions and court m court-martials. those have dropped by 15% over the last few years.
i think those are worthy prosecutions. and when a criminal is carrying a gun during a criminal act of some other kind, that is a clear and present danger to the public and those cases are important and they impact the reduction of crime. >> as you're aware, i and a majority of the members who have the committee have on multiple occasions requested a special counsel to investigate former secretary hillary clinton's mishandling of classified information and the actions of former attorney general lynch with respect to former fbi director comey's decision not to prosecute hillary clinton. i'm in receipt from the letter of yesterday stating that senior federal prosecutors will review our letters and make recommendations as to whether any matters under the current investigations should be open, require further resources or merit the appointment of a special counsel. do i have your assurance that these matters will proceed
fairly and expeditiously? >> yes, you can, mr. chairman, and you can be sure that they will be done without political influence. and they will be done correctly and properly. >> you also reference the ongoing inspector general investigation into many of the matters we have raised. will you ensure that the ig briefs this committee on his findings in closed session if necessary? >> i will do my best to comply with that. the inspector general is able to announce investigations in a way that we do not on the normal criminal side of the department of justice. and i assume he'll be able to do that. >> over the past year we have seen numerous apparent disclosures of unmasked themes of u.s. citizens in the context of intelligence reports. which crimes are violated when these unmatched names are disclosed? for example, to impress, how does the department of justice investigate such unauthorized
disclosures? >> mr. chairman, that could implicate a number of legal prohibitions. and it could be clearly a release of classified information contrary to law. and it's a very grave offense according to policies of this government to protect those manners from disclosure. and the second part of your question was -- >> how the department investigates such unauthorized? >> we have members of the committee -- we had about nine open investigations of classified leaks in the last three years. we have 27 investigations open today. we intend to get to the bottom of these leaks. i think it has reached epidemic proportions. it cannot be allowed to continue. and we will do our best effort to ensure that it does not
continue. >> on april 11, you issued a memorandum that they make prosecution of certain immigration offenses a higher priority. to your knowledge, have the number of federal prosecutions increased nationwide for offenses such as harboring aliens, improper entry and illegal reentry? >> i tdo not have the statistic on that, but i believe there's been some increases in those cases. one thing we have seen is a reduction of attempts to enter the country illegally. and that is good news. and should result in some decline in some prosecutions. >> and clearly, as you know, this committee did a great deal of work to enact criminal justice reform last congress. will you continue to work in good faith with me and the members of this committee on both sides of the aisle to identify and craft responsible reforms? >> i certainly will, mr. chairman. >> thank you, general sessions. i now recognize the ranking member of the committee, mr.
conners, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and welcome again mr. attorney general. i would like to begin by putting a few statements by the president up on the screen. the first from july 24, 2017. so why aren't the committees and investigators and of course our beleaguered attorney general looking into cook crooked hillary crimes and russian relations? the second from november the 3rd, everyone is asking why the justice department and the fbi isn't looking at all of the dishonesty going on with the crooked hillary and the dems, end quotation. the third, also from november
3rd, pocahontas just stated that the detectives lead by the legendary crooked hillary clinton rigged the primaries. let's go to the fbi and justice departme department. i believe he is referring to senator elizabeth warren in that last one, when richard nixon spoke about us that way, at least he had the courtesy to do it behind closed doors. mr. attorney general, a few questions for you, yes or no, please. in a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents?
>> is that a question? >> yes, that's the question. >> is it proper? is that what you were -- >> no. do you answer to me whether it is yes or no. your response. >> but i didn't quite catch the beginning of the question, i'm sorry. >> in a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents? >> mr. conyers, i would say that it's on the department of justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents. and that would be wrong. >> i interpret that as no. >> the answer stands for itself, i guess. >> well -- i would just -- that would make it a little easier if you just responded yes or no, if
you can. here's another. should the president of the united states make public comments that might influence a pending criminal investigation? >> should it take great care in those issues. >> could you respond yes or no? >> well, i don't know exactly the facts of what you're raising and what amounts to the concern you have. i would say it's improper to influence -- it would be -- a president cannot improperly influence an investigation. >> okay. >> and i have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced. the president speaks his mind. he's bold and direct about what he says, but the people elected him, but we do our duty every day based on the law and the
facts. >> reclaiming my time, i'm not -- i'm not impugning these comments to you or to what you will do in advance. last night, sir, the assistant attorney general sent the chairman a letter suggesting that the attorney general has directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues, like the sale of uranium one in 2010. now, at your confirmation hearing, you said, i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve secretary clinton and that -- were raised during the campaign or to be otherwise connected to it. now, for my yes or no question,
are you recused from investigations that involve secretary clinton? >> mr. chairman, i cannot answer that yes or no, because under the policies of the department of justice to announce recusal in any investigation would reveal the existence of that investigation. and the top ethics officials have advised me, i should not do so. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from wisconsin for five minutes. >> thank you very much. welcome, mr. attorney general. we're debating whether section 702 should be reauthorized. and i want to talk about that issue. at the beginning, let me show you a poster that my campaign committee put up on the university of whitewater campus in the 2014 election during the
debate on the usa liberty act. it says, the government knows what you did last night. the nsa has grabbed your phone calls, facebook posts and e-mails. jim said, that's an outrageous invasion of your fivecy and shows i passed the bill and asked the students to vote for me. it worked. my percentage on that campus went up 20 points from the previous election. now, we're talking about many of the same issues in terms of section 702. and the foreign intelligence surveillant act was designed to collect foreign intelligence, not domestic intelligence. but in reality, we know that a vast number of americans' communications are also collected. the committee took a great step in trying to balance security and privacy last week when we reported out the usa liberty
act, which made significant changes to the program. but notably, this legislation specifies two ways the government can query the information under section 702. either foreign intelligence or . usa liberty act ensures that the government does not abuse 702 by requiring that a warrant be issued to access content after querying information for evidence of a crime. you have stated on several occasions that you believe a warrant requirement would hinder the government's ability to deduct and stop terrorists yet this bill already provides the government to move forward without a warrant on intelligence in emergency situation. why can't the usa liberty act be the compromise? can't we allow the intelligence community to stop terrorists while protecting the constitutional rights of americans? >> well, we can.
and constitutional rights of americans should be protected and i know you worked on the patriot act when it came up with senator hatch and senator leahy and others. i know you're a champion of civil liberties. so i would just say that we can do that. the act as written as in law today has been approved by the courts -- i know the committee decided to put restrictions on the way the act is conducted. we did not think that was lawfully required. congress can make its own decisions and we'll continue to be able to share our thoughts about how the legislation should be crafted. >> well, mr. attorney general, the day before the committee marked up this bill, the justice department was lobbying members
of the committee to pose the measure stating it would dismantle section 702. now, this is a huge gamble. because 702 expires at the end of the year. we have a very shorp timeli-- s timeline. and i want to ask you, you want to risk that the program will expire by insisting on a clean reauthorization without a sunset? >> no. we don't want to take that risk. >> will you commit to working with congress and not against us to make sure 702 is reauthorized either the way you want it or the way we want it? >> mr. -- i almost said mr. chairman. i know you held that office. congress gets to dispose. we get to give our opinion. i believe the act as passed and has been reauthorized with a
larger vote last time is constitutional. i believe it works and i am worried about additional burdens particularly a warrant requirement which can be exceedingly damaging to the effectiveness of the act. we're willing to talk to you about concerns out there. hopefully we can work our way through it. and accept the concerns and fix the concerns you have without going too far. >> with all due respect, there is an emergency exemption in the usa liberty act as reported from the committee. and that should take care of the problem. yet people in your committee say this is no good. i take your offer at face value and i will let you know if i hear members of your department act ily lobbying to defeat the bill. >> i know you'll let us know.
>> thank you. mr. attorney general, following up on mr. conyers, your hearing you said i think the proper thing to do is recuse myself from any questions involving these kind of investigations that involve secretary clinton that were raised during the campaign or be connected to it, closed quote. do you stand by that statement, yes or no? >> yes. >> thank you. now, i want to show you an image from march 31st, 2016, of a meeting of the trump campaign national committee which you chaired along with trump and papadopoulos. mr. papadopoulos pled guilty. told the group he had connections and could arrange a meeting between trump and putin. after the meet, mr. papadopoulos continued to talk to the russian
officials. here's the problem on october 18th this year you sat here saying continuing exchange of information between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the trump campaign did not happen at least not to my knowledge and not with me. senator franken asked you don't believe anyone was. and you said i did not, i'm not aware of anyone else that did, unquote. now, we now know that one, the campaign had communications with the russians through mr. papadopoulos -- yes or no? did mr. papadopoulos mention his
outreach to the russian government at that meeting? >> he made some comment to that effect as i remember having read it. >> i asked for yes or no. i don't have time. >> all right. >> there are reports you shut george down, unquote, when he proposed that meeting with putin. is this correct, yes or no? >> yes. i pushed back. i'll just say it that way because it was -- >> yes. your answer is yes. so you were obviously concerned by mr. papadopoulos' connections and possibly arranging a meeting with putin. again, yes or no, did anyone else at that meeting including then-candidate trump react in any way to what mr. papadopoulos presented? >> i don't recall. >> your testimony is neither donald trump nor anyone else at the meeting expressed interest in meeting the russian president or concerns about the campaign and the russians. >> i don't recall. >> okay. we know for multiple sources including the papadopoulos guilty plea and others that
contrary to your earlier testimony, there were continued efforts to continue with the russians on behalf of the trump campaign. we established you knew some of these efforts. they caused you such concern that you, quote, shut george down. i want to know what you did with this information. yes or no, after the march 31st meeting, did you take any steps to prevent trump campaign officials, advisers, employees from further outreach to the russians? >> mr. nadler, let me just say it this way. i pushed back at that. you made statement that he did, in fact, at the meeting i pushed back. >> we know that. but did you -- >> i have to be able to answer. i can't be able to -- >> i'm asking you -- >> i'm not going to be able to answer if i can't answer completely. >> you said you pushed back. we accept that. after the meeting, did you take any further steps to prevent trump campaign officials and advisers and employees from further outreach to the russians
after you pushed back at that meeting? >> what i want to say to you is you allege there was some further contacts later. i don't believe i had any knowledge of any further contacts and i was not in regular contact with mr. papadopoulos. >> so your answer is no because you don't think there were any such contacts. >> i'm not aware of it. >> okay. so i was going to ask you the question of did you raise the issue with various people but your answer is no. >> to the best of my recollection. >> okay. so your testimony today is you didn't continue -- your testimony is that you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31st meeting. >> i don't recall it. >> you don't recall. at some point you became aware that the fbi was investigating potential links between the trump campaign and the russian government. after you became aware of the investigation, did you ever discuss mr. papadopoulos' effort with anybody at the fbi?
>> dw i discuss the matter with the fbi? about what they found? >> did you discuss mr. papadopoulos with the fbi? >> i have not had any discussions with mr. maher or his team or the fbi -- >> nobody else at the fbi either? >> no. >> at the department of justice? >> no. >> at the white house? >> no. >> any member of congress? >> is well, i don't know if these conversations may have come up at some time, but not directly. i don't recall at this moment any such discussion. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. we've got a lot of people waiting to ask questions. recognizing the gentleman from ohio for five minutes. >> thank you. does your recusal from investigations related to the interference by russia in the
2016 presidential campaign apply to any investigations regarding efforts by the democratic national committee and the clinton campaign to secretly fund in -- dossier on candidate donald trump? >> anything that arises in this nature that may or may not be connected to my recusal on the question of the campaign and russia would be discussed between me, the senior ethics adviser at the department of justice and that's how i make my decision. that's what i promised to do when i was confirmed before the senate judiciary committee. and that's what i will do. i'm unable to provide what the decision was in this matter. >> thank you very much.