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  Attorney General Calls Collusion Accusations a Detestable Lie  CSPAN  June 13, 2017 2:40pm-5:09pm EDT

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i'd like to call the hearing to order, please. >> attorney general sessions, i appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today. and thank you for your years of dedicated services as a member of this body and your recent leadership as the department of
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justice. as i mentioned when director comey appeared before us last week, this committee's role is to be the eyes and ears for the other 85 members of the united states senate and for the american people. ensuring that the intelligence community is operating lawfully and has the necessary tools to keep america safe. the community is large and diverse. we recognize the gravity of our investigation into russia's interference in the 2016 u.s. elections. but i remind our constituents that while we investigate russia, we are scrutinizing cia's budget while we're investigating russia, we are still scrutinizing cia's budget, nsa's 702 program, the nation's satellite program and the effort to recruit and retain the best talent we can find in the world. more often than not, the committee conducts its work behind closed doors, a necessary
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step to ensure that our most sensitive sources and methods are protected. the sanctitity of these sources and methods are at the heart of the ability to keep us safe and to keep our allies safe from those who seek to harm us. i've said i did not believe any committee -- that the committee does should be done in public. but i also recognize the gravity of the committee's current investigation 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 10th 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
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separate fact from fiction. and to set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the prez. for example, there are several issues that i'm hopeful we will address today. one, did you have any meetings with russian officials or their 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 are 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 people having spoken to more than 35 individuals to date to include just yesterday an interview of
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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. is vice chairman and i continue to lead the investigation together on what is a highly charged political issue. we may disagree at times, but we remain a unified team with a dedica dedicated, focussed, and professional staff working tirelessly on behalf of the american people to find the truth. the committee has made much
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progress as the political winds blow forcefully around us, and i think all members would agree that despite a torrent of public debate on who and what committee 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 my remarks he might have. >> thank you. i want to also thank the way we're proceeding on this investigation. mr. attorney general, it's good to see you again. and we appreciate your appearance on the heals of mr. comey's revealing testimony last week. i do want to take a moment at the outset and first express some concern with the process by which we are seeing you, attorney general, today. it's my understanding that you were originally scheduled to testify in front of the house and senate appropriations
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committees today. i know those appearances have been cancelled to come here instead. while we appreciate this 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 for members of those committees and the judiciary committee as well. attorney general, it's my hope you'll 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 believed 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 to make yourself available as necessary to this committee for as the chairman indicated, this very
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important investigation. now, let's move to the subject of today's discussion. let's start with the campaign. you were an early and ar dant supporter of mr. trump. in march you were named as chairman of the national security advisory committee. you were a 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 if you'd been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the russian government about any part of the election. you said no. despite that fact, the fact is
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as discovered later, you did have interactions are russian government officials during the course of campaign.
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we also heard that director comey took it as a direction former national security adviser mike flynn. finally, we heard from mr. comey that he believes he was fired over his handling of the russian investigation.
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on both sides of the aisle preserving the independence of the fbi.
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by the president plus leaders in the intelligence committee to undermine this same investigation. united states can and must be a leader but it would require our administration. finally, in the past several weeks, we've seen a concerning
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pattern of the administration -- >> please be seated. >> thank you, very much, chairman burr, and ranking member warner for allowing me to appear before the committee
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today. i appreciate the committee's important effort to investigate russian interference with our democratic process. such interference can never be tolerated and i encourage any effort to get to the bottom of any such allegations. as you know, the deputy attorney where then has appointed a special counsel to investigate the matters related to the russians' interference in the 2016 election. i am 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, and consistent with longstanding department of justice practice, i cannot and will not violate my duty to protect the confidential communications i have with the president. now, let me address some issues directly. i did not have any private meetings nor do i recall any
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conversations with any russian officials at the mayflower hotel. i did not attend any meetings at that event separate, prior to the speech i attended by the president today. 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 of meeting or talking to the russian ambassador or any other russian official. if any brief interaction occurred in passing with the russian ambassador during that reception, i did not remember it. after the speech, i was interviewed by the news media, there was an area for that, in a different room. then i left the hotel. whether i attended a reception where the russian ambassador was
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also present. the trump campaign. had aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country, which i have served with honor for 35 years, or to under mine the integrity of our democratic process is an appalling and detestable lie.
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related, 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 surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government, close quote. i was taken aback by that explosive allegation which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day, and
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which i had not heard. i wanted to refute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such an activity. i replied, quote, i replied to senator franken this way, quote, senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and i did not -- didn't have, did not have communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it, close quote. that was the context in which i was asked the question. and in that context, my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as i understood it. i was responding to this allegation that surrogates had been meeting with the russians on a regular basis. it simply did not occur to me to go further than the context of the question and to list any conversations that i may have
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had with russians in routine situations as i had many routine meetings with other foreign officials. so please hear me now. 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 had 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 had had during 2016. in addition, i provided
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supplemental testimony to the senate judiciary committee to explain this event. so i readily acknowledged 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, please, 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 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, until i announced my formal
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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 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 act 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 staff of this recusal and to advise them not to brief me or involve me in any way, in any
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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 investigation of a campaign if they served as a campaign adviser. 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
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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 department attorney general's memorandum on that issue, which have 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 may recommendation. it is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation with 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, mr. comey discussed a
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conversation that he and i had about the meeting mr. comey had with the president. i am 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 two decades and i was confident that
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he understood and would abide by the well-established rules limiting communications with the white house, especially about ongoing investigations. that's what's so important to control. my comments encouraged him to do just that. and indeed, as i understand it, he in fact did that. our department of justice rules on proper communications between the department and the white house have been in place for years. mr. comey well knew them. i thought and assumed correctly that he complied with them. i'll finish with this. i recused myself from any investigation into the campaign for president. but i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations. at all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming attorney general, i have dedicated myself to the
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highest standards. i've earned a reputation for that at home and in this body, i believe, over decades of performance. the people of this country expect an honest and transparent government. and that's what we're giving them. this president wants to focus on the people of this country to ensure they are treated fairly and kept safe. the trump agenda is to improve the lives of the american people. i know some have different ways of achieving this and different agendas. but that is his agenda and it's one i share. importantly, as attorney general, i have a responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation, to protect this country from its enemies, and to ensure the fair administration of justice. and i intend to work every day with our fine team and the superb professionals in the department of justice to advance
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the important work we have to do. these false attacks, innuendos, the likeeaks, you can be sure w not intimidate me. in fact these events have only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty, my duty to reduce crime, to support our federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who work on our streets every day. just last week, it was reported that overdose deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. last year was 52,000. "the new york times" just estimated next year will be 62,000 overdose deaths. the murder rate is up over 10%. the largest increase since 1968. we are telling the gangs, the cartels, the fraudsters, and the terrorists, we are coming after
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you. every one of our citizens, no matter who they are, where they live, has the right to be safe in their homes and communities. i will not be deterred. i will not allow this great department to be deterred from its vital mission. thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member warner. i have the great honor to appear before you today and i will do my best to answer your questions. >> attorney general sessions, thank you. thank you for that testimony. i would like to note for members, the chair and the vice chairman will be recognized for ten minutes. members will be recognized for five minutes. and i would like to remind our members that we are in open session. no references to classified or committee sensitive materials should be used relative to your questions. with that, i recognize myself at this time for ten minutes.
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attorney general sessions, you talked about the mayflower hotel where the president gave his first foreign policy speech. it's been covered in the press that the president was there, you were there, others were there. from your testimony, you said you don't remember whether ambassador kislyak was there, the russian ambassador; is that correct? >> i did not remember that. but i understand he was there. and so i don't doubt that he was. i believe those representations are correct. in fact i recently saw video of him coming into the room. >> but you never remember having a conversation or a meeting with ambassador kislyak? >> i do not. >> in that event, was there ever a private room setting that you were involved in? >> no. other than the reception area
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that was shut off from i guess the main crowd, a couple of dozen, two to three dozen people. >> i take it for granted that at that event like this, the president came in and shook some hands. >> yes, he shook hands in the group. you mentioned there were some staff that were with you at that event. >> my legislative director at the time. >> your senate staff. >> senate legislative director, who was a retired u.s. army colonel, served on the armed services staff of john warner before he joined my staff, was with my in the reception area and throughout the rest of the event. >> would you say you were there as a united states senator or as a surrogate for the campaign for this event? >> i came there as an interested person, very anxious to see how president trump would do in his first major foreign policy
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address. i believe he had only given one major speech before, that was maybe at the jewish aipac event. it is an interesting time for me to observe his delivery and the message he would make. that was my main purpose for being there. >> 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 the at some point of your senate life, but in the campaign capacity. >> no, mr. chairman. i stretched my -- wracked my brain to make sure i could answer any of those questions correctly. and i did not. i would just proffer for you that the -- when asked about
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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 had 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 in 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
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federal regulations, put out by the department of justice, part of the department of justice's rules. and it says there. 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 in the conduct of an investigation. it goes on to say for political -- in a political campaign. and it says if you have a close identification with an elected official or a candidate arising from service as a principal adviser, you should not -- you should not participate in an investigation of that campaign. >> so would you -- >> so many have suggested that my recusal is because i felt i
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was a subject of the investigation myself, that i may have done something wrong. but this is the reason i recused myself. i felt i was required to under the rules of the department of justice and as a leader of the department of justice i should comply with the rules, obviously. >> did your legal counsel basically know from day one you would have to recuse yourself from this investigation because of the current statute? >> well, i do have a timeline of what occurred. i was sworn in on the 9th, i believe, of february. i then on the 10th had my first meeting to generally discuss this issue, where the cfr was not discussed. we had several other meetings. and it became clear to me over time that i qualified as a significant -- a principal
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adviser type person to the campaign. and it was the appropriate and right thing for me to recuse myself. >> this could explain director comey's comments that he knew that there was a likelihood you would recuse yourself because he was probably familiar with the same statute. >> well, i think probably so. i'm sure the attorneys in the department of justice probably communicated with him. because, mr. chairman, let me say this to you clearly, in effect, as a matter of fact, i recused myself that day. i never received any information about the campaign. i thought there was a problem with me being able to serve as attorney general over this issue. and i felt i would possibly have to recuse myself. and i took the position, correctly i believe, not to involve myself in the campaign
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in any way, and i did not. >> you mentioned sending your chief of staff an e-mail about your decision to recuse. would you ask your chief of staff to make that available? >> i would be pleased to do so and i think i have it with my now. >> thank you, attorney general. have you had interactions with special counsel robert mueller since his appointment? >> i have not. with regard to the e-mail, mr. comey, director comey indicated that he did not know when i recused myself or did not receive notice, one of those 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 was sent to him and to his name. >> general sessions, as you said, mr. comey testified at length before the committee about his interactions with the president, in some cases highlighting your presence at those meetings. you addressed the meeting where
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all were asked to leave except for director comey and he had a private meeting with the president. and you said that he did inform you of how uncomfortable that was. and your recommendation was that the fbi and doj needed to follow the rules limiting further correspondence. did director comey ever express additional discomfort with conversations that the president might have had with him? because he had two additional meetings and i think a total of six phone calls. >> that is correct. there's nothing wrong with the president having a communication with the fbi director. what is problematic for any department of justice employee is to talk to any cabinet persons or white house officials, high officials about ongoing investigations that are
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not properly cleared through the top levels of the department of justice. and so it was a regulation that i think is healthy. i thought we needed and strongly believe we needed to restore discipline within our department, to adhere to just those kind of rules, plus leaking rules and some of the other things that i think are a bit lax and need to be restored. >> you couldn't have had a conversation with the president about the investigation because you were never briefed about the investigation? >> that is correct. i 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 i would not be justified for a department official to share information about an ongoing investigation without prior
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review and clearance from above. >> general sessions, one last question. you were the shachair of this foreign policy team for the trump campaign. to the best of your knowledge, did that team ever meet? >> we met a couple of times, maybe. some of the people did. but we never functioned, frankly, mr. chairman, as a coherent team. >> were there any members of that team you never met? >> yes. >> okay. vice chairman. >> thank you, general as he goes. as i mentioned in my opening statement, we appreciate your appearance here but we do see this as the first step. we would like to get your commitment that you will agree to make yourself available as the committee needs in the weeks and months ahead. >> senator warner, i will commit to appear before this committee and other committees as
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appropriate. i don't think it's good policy to continually bring cabinet members or the attorney general before multiple committees going over the same things -- >> i know other members of the appropriations committee may wish to raise questions. but let me just ask about this committee. >> i gave you my answer. >> thank you. can we also treat your commitment, since there will be questions about some of these meetings that took place or not, to get access to documents, memoranda, your daybook or something, so we can -- >> mr. chairman, we will be glad to provide appropriate responses to your questions and review them carefully and try to respond. >> thank you. yesterday, a friend of the president was reported to suggesting that president trump was considering removing director mueller as special counsel. do you have confidence in director mueller's ability to conduct his investigation fairly and impartially? >> first, i don't know about these reports and have no basis
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to ascertain -- >> i'm asking -- >> -- their validity. i have known mr. mueller over the years, i served 12 years as fbi director. i knew him before that. and i have confidence in mr. mueller. >> do you have -- >> but i'm not going to discuss any hypotheticals or what might be a factual situation in the future that i'm not aware of today, because i know nothing about the investigation and -- >> i've got a series of questions, sir. do you believe the president has confidence in director mueller? >> i have no idea. i have not talked to him about it. >> now, will you commit to this committee not to take any personal actions that might result in director mueller's firing or dismissal? >> well, i think i probably could say that with confidence because i'm recused from the investigation. in fact the way it works, senator warner, is that the acting attorney general -- >> i'm aware of the process.
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>> deputy -- >> with your recusal, you would not take any actions to try to have special investigator mueller removed? >> i wouldn't think that would be appropriate for me to do. >> sir, i agree. to your knowledge, have any department of justice officials been involved with conversations with any possibility of presidential pardons about any of the individuals involved with the russia investigation? >> mr. chairman, i'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the white house. that would be a violation of the communications rule that i have to -- >> just so i can understand, is the basis of that unwillingness to answer based on executive privilege? >> it's a longstanding policy, the department of justice not to
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comment on conversations that the attorney general has had with the president of the united states for confidential that really are founded in the co-equal branch of powers in the constitution of the united states. >> just so i'm understanding, does that mean are you claiming executive privilege here today, sir? >> i'm not claiming executive privilege, because that's the president's power and i have no power to claim executive privilege. >> 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 suggesting that i have had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that, there are privileges of communications within the department of justice that we share, all of us do. we have a right to have full and robust debates within the department of justice. we encourage people to speak up and argue cases on different sides. and those arguments are not
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revealed, historically we've seen they shouldn't be revealed. >> i would hope you would agree, since you've recused yourself from this investigation, that if the president or others would pardon someone during the midst of this investigation while our investigation or director mueller's investigation, that would be i would think problematic. one of the comments you made in your testimony was that you had a reached this conclusion about the performance of director comey's ability to lead the fbi, that you agreed with deputy attorney general rosenstein's memo. the fact that you had worked with director comey for some time, did you ever have a conversation, as a superior of director comey, about his failure to perform or some of these accusations, that he wasn't running the fbi in a good way, that somehow the fbi is in turmoil? did you have any conversations with director comey about those subjects? >> i did not.
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>> so you were his superior, and there were some fairly harsh things said about director comey. you never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was actually terminated by the president? >> i did not do so. a memorandum was prepared by the deputy attorney general, who evaluated his full performance, noted some serious problems with it. >> and you agreed with those conclusions? >> i agreed with those. in fact, senator warner, we had talked about it even before i was confirmed and before he was confirmed. it's something that we both agreed to, that a fresh start at the fbi was probably the best thing. >> it just, again, seems a little -- i can understand if you talked about that before you came on, you had a chance for a fresh start, there was no fresh start. suddenly we're in the midst of the investigation, and with
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timing that seems a little peculiar, at least to me, out of the blue, the president fires the fbi director. and if there are all these problems, disarray and a lack of he esprit de corps at the fbi, i would think director comey would at least be owed a conversation. by the time april 27th came around, you had already been named as a chair of then candidate trump's national security adviser. so showing up at that meeting would say appropriate. >> that was the mayflower hotel? >> yes, sir. my understanding was that the president's son-in-law, jared kushner, was at the meeting as well? >> i believe he was, yes. >> you don't recollect whether mr. kushner had any conversations with ambassador kislyak at that session? >> i do not.
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>> and to the best of your memory, you had to conversations with ambassador kislyak at that meeting? >> i don't recall that, senator warner. certainly i can assure you, nothing improper, if i had had a conversation with him. and it's conceivable that that occurred. i just don't remember it. >> but there was nothing in your notes or memory so that when had a chance to correct the record about the other two sessions in response to senator franken and senator leahy, this one didn't pop into your memory, that in an overabundance of caution, that you ought to report this session as well? >> well, i guess i could say i possibly had a meeting but i still do not recall it. and i did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony or in my subsequent letter intentionally false. >> i understand, sir. i'm just trying to understand, you corrected the record, and clearly by the time you had a chance to correct the record, i
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would have thought that you would have thought that ambassador kislyak was at that april 27th session. is received quite a bit of press notoriety. and again, echoing what the chairman has said, just again for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the russian government during the campaign season. >> not to my recollection. i would just say with regard to the two encounters, one at the mayflower hotel that you referred to, i came there not knowing he was going to be there. i don't have any recollection of even knowing he would be there. i didn't have any communications with him before or after that event. and likewise, at the event at the convention, i went off the convention grounds to a college campus for an event -- >> but at the mayflower. >> let me just follow up on that
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one. i didn't know he would be in the audience and had no -- >> but there was this i guess vip reception first and then the speech? >> that's my recollection. >> and you were part of the vip reception? >> yes, sir. >> general sessions, one of the, again, troubling things that i need to sort through is, mr. 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, perhaps a sense that you felt uncomfortable about it as well. i'm going to allow you to obviously answer and correct it if that's not the right impression. after this meeting took place, which clearly director comey felt had some level of uncomfortableness, you never asked director comey what took
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place in that meeting? >> well, 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 depart. and director comey was sitting in front of the president's desk and they were talking. that's what i do remember. i believe it was the next day that he said something, expressed concern about being left alone with the president. but that in itself is not problematic. he did not tell me at that time any details about anything that was 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 that he should not carry on any conversation with the president or anyone else about an
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investigation in a way that was not proper. i felt he, so long in the department, former deputy attorney general as i recall, knew those policies probably a good deal better than i did. >> thank you, sir. i thank you, mr. chairman. it did appear that mr. comey felt that the conversation was improper. >> he was concerned about it. and his recollection of what he said to me about his concern, i don't -- is consistent with my recollection. >> senator risch. >> attorney general sessions, good to hear you talk about how important this russian interference and active measures in our campaign is. i don't think there's any american who would disagree with the fact that 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 stop it. that's what this committee was charged to do and that's what this committee started to do. as you probably know, on february 14th, "the new york
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times" published an article alleging that there were -- there was constant communications between the trump campaign and the russians on collusion regarding the election. do you recall that article when it came out? >> not exactly. >> generally. >> that was -- generally i remember those -- >> mr. comey told us when he was here last week that he had a very specific recollection, in fact he chased it down through the intelligence community and was not able to find a scintilla of evidence to that effect. then he told democrats and republicans up here that this was false, there was no such fact anywhere that corroborated what "the new york times" had reported. nonetheless, after that, this committee took data on, one of the things we've spent really substantially more time on that than we have on the russian active measures, we've been through thousands of pages of information, interviewed
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witnesses, everything else, we're really no different than we were when this whole thing started. and there's been no reports that i know of any factual information in that regard. are you aware of any such information? >> is that what arose from the so-called dossier? i believe that's the report that senator franken hit me with when i was testifying. and it i think has been pretty substantially discredited. but you would know more than i. what was said would suggest i participated in the continuing communications with russians as a surrogate is absolutely false. >> mr. sessions, there's been all this talk about conversations and that you had some conversations with the russians. senators up here who are on either foreign relations, intelligence, or armed services, conversations with officers of other governments or ambassadors or what have you are everyday
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occurrences here, multiple time occurrences for most of us; is that a fair statement? >> i think it is, yes. >> indeed if you run into one in the grocery store, you're going to have a conversation with them. >> that could very well happen. nothing improper. >> on the other hand, collusion of -- collusion with russians or any other government for that matter, when it comes to our elections, certainly would be improper and illegal, would that be a fair statement? >> absolutely. >> are you willing to sit here and tell the american people, unfiltered by what the media is going to put out, that you participated in no conversations of any kind where there was collusion between the trump campaign and any other foreign government? >> i can say that absolutely. and i have no hesitation to do so. >> mr. sessions, you're a former u.s. attorney, former united states senator and now attorney general of the united states. you've participated, as you described, in the trump campaign. and as such, you travelled with the campaign, i gather? >> i did. >> you spoke for the campaign?
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>> on a number of occasions. i was not continually. >> based upon your experience and based upon your participation in the campaign, did you hear even a whisper or a suggestion or anyone making reference within that campaign that somehow the russians were involved in that campaign? >> i did not. >> what would you have done if you had heard that? >> i would have been shocked and known it was improper. >> and headed for the exit, i suppose? >> maybe. this was a serious -- this is a serious matter. what you're talking about is hacking into a private person or dnc computer and obtaining information and spreading that out. that's just not right. and i believe it's likely that laws were violated if that actually occurred. so it's an improper thing. >> mr. sessions, has any person from the white house or the administration, including the president of the united states, either directed you or asked you
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to do any unlawful or illegal act since you've been attorney general of the united states? >> no, senator risch. they have not. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator feinstein. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. welcome, attorney general. >> thank you. >> on may 19th, mr. rosenstein in a statement to the house of representatives essentially told them that he learned on may 8th that president trump intended to remove director comey. when you wrote your letter on may 9, did you know that the president had already decided to fire director comey? >> senator feinstein, i would say that i believe it's been made public that the president asked our opinion.
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it was given. 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 11th, on "nbc nightly news," two days later, the president stated he was going to fire comey regardless of the recommendation. so i'm puzzled about the recommendation, because the decision had been made. so what was the need for you to write a recommendation? >> well, we were asked our opinion. and when we expressed it, which was consistent with the memorandum and the letter we wrote, i felt comfortable in -- i guess the deputy attorney general did too, in providing
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that information in writing. >> so do you concur with the president that he was going to fire comey regardless of recommendation because the problem was the russian investigation? >> senator feinstein, i guess i'll just have to let his words speak for himself. i'm not sure what was in his mind explicitly when we talked with him. >> did you ever discuss director comey, fbi's handling of the russian investigations with the president or anyone else? >> senator feinstein, that would call for a communication between the attorney general and the 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
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termination, why wouldn't you discuss the reasons? >> well, that was put in writing and sent to the president. he made those public. so he made that public, not -- >> so -- >> -- i. >> -- you had no personal conversation with him about the firing of mr. comey? >> i'm not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of 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 have been long adhered to by the department of justice, as you know, senator feinstein. >> your long time colleague. but we heard mr. coats and we heard admiral rogers say essentially the same thing. when it was easy just to say if the answer was no, "no."
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>> it would have been easy to say if the answer was yes, "yes." but both would have been improper. >> okay. so how exactly were you involved in the termination of director comey? because i am looking at your letter dated may 9th. and you say the director of the fbi must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principles, who sets a right example for our law enforcement officials, 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 had to do with director comey's performance with the men and women of the fbi? >> there was a clear view of
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mine and of deputy attorney general rosenstein, as he set out at some length in his memorandum, which i adopted and sent forward to the president, that we had problems there. and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at the fbi was the appropriate thing to do. and when asked if the president did something adhered to, deputy rosenstein's letter dealt with a number of things. when mr. comey declined the clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation of the authority of the federal prosecutors in the department of justice. it was a stunning development. the fbi is the investigative team. they don't decide prosecution policy. and so that was a thunderous
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thing. he also commented at some length on the declination of the clinton prosecution, which you should not normally -- you shouldn't do. the policies have been historic. if you decline, you decline, and you don't talk about it. there were other things that had happened that indicated to me a lack of discipline. and it caused controversy on both sides of the aisle. and 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 very much. >> thank you. >> senator rubio. >> thank you. thank you for being here, attorney general. i want to go back to february 14th and kind of close the loop on the details. director comey was here, provided great detail about that today. what i've heard so far is there was a meeting in the oval office on the 14th, you recall being there along with him. at some point the meeting concluded. everyone got up to leave. the president asked director comey to stay behind, correct? >> that's a communication in the
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white house that i would not comment on. i do -- >> do you remember seeing him stay behind? >> yes. >> and his testimony was that you lingered and his view of it was, you lingered because you knew that you needed to stay, that was 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 to be one of the last ones to leave? >> i don't know how that occurred. we had finished a -- i think a terrorism, counterterrorism briefing. there were a number of people there, people were filtering out. and i eventually left. and i do recall, i think i was the last or one of the last two or three to leave. >> would it be fair to say that you felt like perhaps you needed to stay because it involved the fbi director? >> well, i don't know that -- how i would characterize that, senator rubio. i left. it didn't seem to me to be a major problem.
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i knew that director comey, long time, experienced in the department of justice, could handle himself well. >> he characterized it that he went up to you and said, never leave me alone with the president again, it's not appropriate, and he says, this is his characterization, you just kind of shrugged as if to say, what am i supposed to do about it. >> well, 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 eventually that there are rules on private conversations with the president. but there is not a prohibition on a private discussion with the president, as i believe he's acknowledged six or more himself with president obama and president trump.
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so i didn't feel like -- 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 certainly knew that with regard to -- that he could call his direct supervisor, which in the department of justice is the deputy attorney general, he could have complained to the deputy or to me at any time if he felt pressured. but i had no doubt that he would not yield to any pressure. >> do you know if the president records conversations in the oval office or anywhere in the white house? >> i do not. >> let me ask you this. if in fact any president was to record conversations in their official duties in the white house or the like, would there be an obligation to preserve those records? >> umm, i don't know, senator rubio. probably so. >> i want to go to the campaign for a moment. as i'm sure you're aware, it's
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been widely reported that russian intelligence agencies often pose not simply as an official but as businessmen or journalists and the like. at any point during the campaign, did you have interaction with anyone that in hindsight you would look at and say, they were trying to gain influence over me? did you ever, with hindsight, wonder? >> i never -- >> 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 that they thought were important for their country. that's a normal thing i guess we talk about. >> as far as someone who is not an official from another country, just a businessman or anyone walking down the street
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who struck you that was suspicious? >> i would have to wrack my brain. i don't recall it now. >> you were on the foreign policy team. the republican platform was changed to not provide defensive weapons to ukraine. were you involved in that decision? do you know how that change was made or 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 no recollection of a debate about that issue internally in the campaign? >> i never watched the debate, if it occurred, on the platform committee. i think it did. so i don't recall that, senator rubio. individually to think about that. >> senator wyden. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. mr. chairman, i want to thank you for holding this hearing in the open, in full view of the american people where it belongs. i believe the american people
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have had it with stonewalling. americans don't want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged and off limits or that they can't be provided in public or that it would be, quote, inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. we are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions. and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable. and general sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. now to the question. last thursday, i asked former director comey about the fbi's interactions with you, general sessions, prior to your stepping aside from the russian 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
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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 statements before you finally did so. now in your breeped statement, you stated you received only limited information necessary to inform your recusal decision. but given director comey's statement, we need to know what that was. were you aware of any concerns at the fbi or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the russian investigation? >> senator, i am not stonewalled. i am following the historic policies of the department of justice. you don't walk into any hearing or committee meeting and reveal
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confidential communications with the president of the united states who's entitled to receive confidential communications and your best judgement about a host of issues. and after the accused of stone walg for not answering them. so i would push back on. that secondly, mr. comey perhaps he didn't know but basically i recused myself the day, 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 any documentation. the documentation, what little i received, was mostly already in the media. and was presented by the senior at the public responsibility professional responsibility attorney in the department. >> general -- >> and i made an honest and proper decision to recuse myself as i told senator feinstein and
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the members of the committee i would do when they confirmed me. >> general sessions, inspectfully, you're not answering the question. >> what is the question? >> the question is mr. comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them. what are they? >> i -- why don't you tell me? there are none, senator widen. there are none. i can tell that you for absolute certainty. this is a secret inendobeing leaked out there about me and i don't appreciate it. and i tried to give my best and truthful answers to any committee i have appeared before and it's really -- people are suggestsing through inendothat i have been not honest about matters and i've tried to be honest. >> my time is short. you made your point. that you think mr. comey is
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engaging in innuendo. >> well, senator widen, did he not say that. >> he said it was problematic. i asked you what is problematic about it? >> some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in closed sessions. >> okay. one more question. i asked former fbi director whether your role in firing him violated your recusal given the president trump said he fired comey because of the russian investigation. director comey said this was a reasonable question. so i want to ask you just point blank, why did you sign the letter recommending the firing of director comey whether it violated your recusal? >> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal. that's the answer to that. and the letter i signed represented my views that were
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formulate fo formulated for some time. >> that answer in my view doesn't pass the smell test. the president tweeted repeatedly about his anger at investigations into his associates in russia the day before you wrote your letter. he tweeted that collusion story was a total hoax and asked when will this taxpayer funded sh ra charade end? >> i think i should ab loud to briefly respond at least and would cite the letter, the memorandum that senator -- that deputy rosenstein wrote and my letter that accompanied it represented my views of the situation. >> i'll ask that on the second round. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator collins. >> second round? >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions, i want to clarify who did what with regard to the firing of mr.
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comey. first of all, let me ask you, when did you have your first conversation with rod rosenstein about mr. comey? >> we talked about it before either one of us were confirmed. it was a topic of, you know, conversation about among people who served in the department a long time. they knew that what had happened that fall was pretty dramatically unusual. many people felt it was very wrong. and so it was in that context that we discussed it. and we both found that we shared common views that a fresh start would be appropriate. >> and this was based on mr. comey's handling of the investigation involving hillary clinton and clinton in which you said he userped the authority at the department of justice?
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>> yes that, part of it. and the commenting on the investigation in ways that go beyond the proper policies. we need to restore senator collins. i think the classic discipline in the department, my team, we discussed this. there's been too much leaking and too much talking publicly about investigations. in the long run, the department historic rule lets you remain mum about on going investigations is the better policy. >> now, subsequently, the president asked for you to put your views in writing. you received today. and i believe that you are right to recuse yourself from the on going russian investigation. but then on may 9th, you wrote to the president recommending that mr. comey be dismissed. and obviously this went back many months to the earlier
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conversations you had had with mr. rosenstein. but my question is why do you believe your recommend togs fire director comey was not inconsistent with your march 2 n nd 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 to our judiciary committee and other committees to ensure that 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 anyone of the great agencies like dea or u.s. marshals or atf that are part of
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the department of justice, you can't make a decision about the leadership in that agency. >> 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 would just say this, senator collins. i don't think it's appropriate to deal with those kind of hypotheticals. i have to deal in actual issues and i would respectfully not comment on that. >> well, 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
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comey? >> i think it's my responsibility. i mean, i was a party to be attorney general, supervising all the federal agencies is my responsibility, trying to get the very best people in those agencies at the top off them is my responsibility. and i have 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 14th because he believed that you would shortly recuse yourself from the 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 that the director had an obl gagigation to bring information about the president saying that he hoped he could
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let michael flynn go to someone else at the department of justice? there are a lot of lawyers at the department of justice, some 10,000 10,000 by last count. >> i think the appropriate thing would have been for director comey to talk with the acting deputy attorney general who is his direct supervisor. she had 33 years in the department of justice. and was even then still serving for six years and continues to serve as a attorney general appointed by president obama. so he's a man of great integrity and everybody knows it. a man of decency and judge ment. if he had concerns, i think he should have raised it to the deputy attorney general who would have been the appropriate person in any case really but if he had any concern i might be recusing myself that, would be a double reason for him to share it with deputy attorney general
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bente. >> thank you. >> attorney general sessions, has the president ever expressed his frustration to you regarding your decision to recuse yourself? >> senator, i'm not able to share with this committee private communication. >> because you're invoking executive privilege. >> i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. >> you took an oath. you raised your right hand here today and you said that you would solomnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing built the truth. and now you're not answering questions. you're impeding this 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 it in closed session. that is bucket number two. bucket number three is to say,
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i'm invoking executive privilege. there is no appropriateness bucket. it is not a legal standard. can you tell me what are these long standing doj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoguiki executive privilege? zbh i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to review it. and secondly, i am telling you the truth in answering your question in saying it's a long standing poll sieve the department of justice -- and to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues. >> can you share those policies with us? are they written down at the department of justice? >> i believe they are. certainly -- >> the appropriate legal standard for not answering the inquiries? >> it's my judgement that it is inappropriate for me to answer
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and reveal private conversations with the president 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 privilege that's could be invoked. one of the things deals with the investigation of the special counsel as -- >> we're not asking questions about that investigation. if i wanted to ask questions about that investigation, i'd ask those of rod 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. there is also a congressional investigation. and you are obstructing that congressional delegation -- investigation by not answering these questions.
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and i think your silence, like the silence of director coats, like the silence of admiral rogers speaks volumes. >> i would say that i have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department. >> i suspect you have. >> and i believe this is consistent with my duties. >> senator asked you a question about appropriateness if you had known that there had been anything untoward with regard to russia and the campaign, would you have headed for the exits? 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's a good answer. i'm not sure why it wasn't the answer in the first place. >> i thought i did -- >> i find it strange that neither you nor rod rosenstein
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brought up performance issues with director comey. and in, fact, deputy fbi director mccabe has directly refuted any assertion that there were performance issues. this is troubling because it appears that 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 assessment of director comey didn't hold up to public scrutiny, the president finally admitted that he had fired director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation. ie the lester holt ibt vintervi. it appears that his firing was directly related to russia, not departmental mismanagement. how do you square those two things? >> well, you have a lot in that question. let me say, first, within a week or so, i believe may 3rd,
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director comey testified that he believed the handling of the clinton declanation was a proper and appropriate and he would do it again. i know that was a great concern to both of us. it did not -- 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. pretty breath taking use of patient of 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
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discussed. that was an important factor for us. >> i would like the record to show that last night admiral rogers spent almost two hours in closed session with the almost full committee fulfilling his commitment to us in the hearing that in closed session he would answer the questions and i think it was thoroughly answered and all members were given an opportunity to ask questions. i just want the record to show that with what senator stated. senator blunt. >> thank you, chairman. attorney general, good to see you here g . good to see mary. i know there are places you'd rather be today. you always looked at public service as something do you together. goods to see you here together and know that your family continues to be proud and
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supportive of what you do. >> thank you, i am blessed indeed. >> i agree with that. let me get a couple things clear. you was taking notes. you were talking on the april 27, 2016 event, i think that is the mayflower hotel speech that 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 and heard the speech and then may have seen people on your way out. >> correct. >> so when you said you possibly had a meeting with mr. kisslyback, did you mean you possibly met him? >> i didn't have any formal meeting with him. i'm confident of that.
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but i may have had an encounter during the reception. that's the only thing i cannot say was w. certainith certainty. i did not. >> that's what i thought you were saying. sometimes when i hear meeting, that means more to me than you met somebody. you might have met him at the reception. could you have met other ambassadors at that reception as well? >> i co. i remember one in particular that we had a conversation with whose country had an investment in alabama and we talked at length about. that i remember. that otherwise, i have no regulation of a discussion with the russian ambassador. >> all right. so you were there. you 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. >> on -- whenever you talk to mr. comey after he had his
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meeting with the president, do you think that was probably the next day? you didn't stay afterwards and see him after he left the oval office 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. we had three times a week national security briefing with fbi that i undertake and so it was after that that we had that conversation. >> 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 was incorrect. he indicated, i believe, that he was not totally sure of the exact wording of the meeting. but i do recall my chief of staff was with me.
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and we recall that i did affirm the long standing written 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 communications 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. apparently he did. >> when mr. comey talked fwou that meeting, did he mention mr. flynn? >> no. he mentioned no facts of any kind. did he not mention to me that he had been asked to do something
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he thought was improper. you just said he was uncomfortable, i believe, with it. >> after that discussion with mr. comey -- >> actually, i don't know that he said he was uncomfortable. i think he said 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 a firmed to him his willingness to say no. or not go in an improper way, improper direction. >> just say, finally, i'm assuming you wouldn't talk about this because it would relate to the may 8th meeting.
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but my sense is that no decision is final until it's carried out. my guess is there is somebody that said they were going to let somebody go or fire somebody and never did. that the fact that 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 cane. >> thank you for joining us. i respect your willingness to be here. you testified a few minutes ago, i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's up to the president. has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> then what is the basis of your refusal to answer the questions? >> senator cane, the president has a constitutional --
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>> i understand. that but the president has not asserted it. you said you don't have the power to assert the power of executive privilege. so what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer the zbhez. >> i'm protecting the right of the president to assert fit he chooses. and there may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance. >> well, i don't understand how you can have it both ways. the president can't not assert it and you've testified that only the president can assert it. and, yet, i just don't understand the legal basis for your refusal to answer. >> what we try to 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
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other privilege would be asserted. it is premature for me. >> you testified -- >> it is premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege. that's not necessary at this point. >> you testified a few minutes ago that "we were asked for our opinion." who asked for your opinion"? >> you mean we were -- we were asked for our opinion. >> my understanding is, i believe i'm correct in saying that the president has said so. that -- >> he didn't ask you directly? >> i thought you were asking about the privilege. >> no. you want to go back? >> you said, "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 -- >> i'm just asking you, who asked you for your opinion? who asked you for your opinion?
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>> yes, right. the president asked for our opinion. >> all right. so you just testified as to the content of the communication. >> that is correct. 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. if he hasn't and i'm in error, i would have constricted his constitutional right of privilege. >> so you're being selective about the use -- >>, no i'm not intentionally. i'm doing so only because i believe he made that discussion in public about that. >> did the question of the russian investigation ever come up in the firing of james comey? >> i can not answer. that it was communication about it president or any such occurred, it would be a communication that he is not waived. but he has not asserted executive privilege? >> he has not. >> do you believe the russians interfered with the 2016 elections?
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>> it appears. so the intelligence community seems to be united in. that i have to tell you, senator king, i know nothing but what i've read in the paper. i've never received any detail briefing o briefing on how hacking occurred or information was alleged to have influenced. >> between the election, there was a memorandum from the intelligence community on october 9th, detailed what the russians were doing. after the election, before the enr inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country? you never asked for a briefing or attend aid briefing or read 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 have been -- >> i'm not talking 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
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election? >> no. i don't believe i ever did. >> let's go to your letter of 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 you could classify deputy attorney general rosenstein's memorandum as an evaluation. he was the direct supervisor of the fbi director. zblaen his evaluation is based 100% on the handlingst hillary clinton e-mails, is that correct? >> and a number of other matters. but as i recall, he did explicitly lay out the errors that he thought had been made in that process by the director of the fbi.
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i thought they were he could jen -- joent and accurate and far more significant than a lot of people have understood. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator? >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions, good to see you again. >> thank you. >> you speak as a man eager to set the record straight. you spoke very plainly from the very beginning from your opening statement through this time. i am amazed 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 and would not make to any committee in the house or the senate. and would or would not turn over documents even requested that had to go all the way throughout court system to final lit courts strog s -- final lit courly the courts hold those back. some accusation saying that he
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every conversation about everything, there say long history of attorney generals standing beside the president saying there are some conversation that's are confidential. and can 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 and peppered with questions about russia. during that conversation as well. he was very clear that he is 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 is somehow the president is thinking about firing robert mueller and getting rid of him and very clear that rosenstein himself said i'm the only one that could do that and i'm not
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contemplating that nor would i do that and no one has any idea what the latest unnamed source story of the day is coming from but somehow it is grabbing all the attention. i do want to be able to bring up a couple things to you specifically. one is to defiant word recuse. and i come back to your e-mail that you sent to jim comey and others that day on march 2nd. this is what you said in your e-mail. after careful consideration following meetings with career department officials over the course of the past several weeks the attorney general decided to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaign for president of the united states. the attorney general's recusal is not only with respect of 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 have maintained from march 2nd snond. >> ond? >> absolutely, i maintained it from the first day i became
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attorney general. we discussed those matters and i felt until and if i ever made a decision to not recuse myself, i should not as abundance of caution involve myself in studying 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 b. comey, director of the fbi. you should instruct members of your staffs to not to brief the attorney general or any other officials in the office of the attorney general about or otherwise involve the attorney general or other officials in the office of the attorney general in any such matters described above. >> and you requested. that. >> we took proper and firm and crystal clear position of that recusal meant recusal.
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>> relating to this april 27th meeting, nonmeeting in the same room, at the same time. the national interest was asked specific by this as well who was host of that event. they stated this in writing. "as the host, seblter for national interest decided whom to invite and then issued the invitations. the trump campaign did not determine or aprofit invitation list, guests included both republicans and democrats with the lighter supporting other candidates. some of the geflts were washington policy experts and journalists, center for national interest visited russian ambassador kislyak and several other ambassadors to the speech. we regularly invite ambassadors to our events to facilitate dialogue." then they said, "we seated all four in the front row in defrns to the diplomatic status. the center for national interest extended equal treatment of the four ambassadors attending the event and vilted each to a short reception prior to the trump speech. it includes approximately two
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dozen guests in a receiving line. the line moved quickly and any conversations with mr. trump in that setting were inharnltly bri -- inherently brief and could not be private. the questions were a exchange of pleasantries. we are not aware of any conversation with ambassador kislyak and jeff sessions at the reception. however in a small group setting like this one, we consider it unlikely that anyone would have engaged a meaningful private conversation but drawing attention from others present. you have any reason to disagree with that? >> number i think that's a very fair description of the reception situation. i appreciate them having made that statement. >> great. i yield back. >> mr. chairman, thank you. mr. chairman, thank you for being here again. i want to follow up a little bit on what senator king had asked concerning you and i are the same age. we remember back in our lifetime we never known the russians to be the russian government or the
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russian military to ever be our friend. and wanting the same things we wanted out of life. the seriousness of this russian hacking is very serious to me and concerning. you said you were not briefed on. that i think october 9th, the one known that the odni at that time i think mr. clapper and also mr. jay johnson, homeland security, made that public what was going on. then on december 29th, president obama at that time expelled 35 russian diplomats and denied access to kpounld and brooned the existing sanctions. have you had any discussions at all or set in on any type of meetings or recommendations were made to remove the sanctions? >> i don't recall any such
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meeting. >> and during the time not from the president being inaugurated on january 20th, prior to that in the campaign up until through the transition, was there ever any meetings he showed any concern or consideration or just in quiztive of what the russians were really doing and if they really done sfwlit. >> i don't recall any such conversations. i'm not sure i understood your question. maybe i better listen again. >> you were part of the national security team f he heard something about russia and with the capabilities and our concern about what they could do to our election process, was there ever any conversations concerning that whatsoever? >> i don't recall it. >> i know it's been asked of you, the things that your executive privileges and 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 closed session. would you be able to go into
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closed session? would it change your answers to us or your ability to speak more frankly on some things we would want to know? >> senator, i'm not sure. the executive privilege is not waived by going in closed session. it may be that one of the concerns is that when you have a investigation on going as the special counsel does, it's often very problematic to have persons, you know, not cooperating with that counsel and the conduct of the investigation. may or may not be a factor in going into closed session. >> it would be very helpful to the committee. there say lot of questions they'd like to x i know you would like to answer if possible. and maybe question check into that a little further f i could, sir, did you have any meetings, any other meetings with russian government officials that have not been previously disclosed?
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>> i racked my brain and i do not believe. so i can assure that you none of meetings discussed manipulating a campaign in the united states in any way, shape, or form or any hacking or any such ideas like. that. >> i'm going to go quickly through this. are there any other meetings and any other trump campaign association that's have not been disclosed? >> i don't recall any. >> doive in the following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign? you can just go yes or no. >> paul man i for the? >> repeat that now. >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of these following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign. you can say yes or no. paul manifort? >> i don't have any information that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for fema. >> steve bannon? >> i have no information that he did. >> general michael flynn?
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>> i don't recall it. >> reince priebus? >> i don't recall. >> steve miller? >> i don't recall him ever having such a conversation. >> corey lewandowski? >> i do not recall any of those individuals having any meeting with russian officials. >> carter page? >> i don't know. >> and i would finally ask this quechlt i always think we try to get -- you have innate knowledge -- >> there was -- there may have been some published accounts of mr. page talking with russians. i'm not sure. >> okay. >> i don't recall. >> you bring unique wholistic 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 were sitting on this side, okay -- >> nobody gets to ask you about your private conversations with your staff. >> here we go. get your chance to give us some advice. if your sitting on this side, what question would you be asking?
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>> i would be asking whether or not -- i would asking questions related to whether or not there was an impact on this election. >> and what part of the story do you think there? >> by foreign power, particularly the russians since intelligence community is suggested and stated that they believe they did. but i do think members of this government have offices to run. >> is there a part of the story -- >> and the question should be on. that. >> is there part of the story that we're missing? i'm so sorry, mr. chairman. is there part of the story that we're mising? >> i don't know. because i'm not involved in the campaign and had no information concerning it. i have no idea at what stage it is. you members of the committee know a lot more than i. >> thank you, general sessions. >> general sessions, i will assure you we're very much focused on russia's involvement and our hope is we complete this process. we'll lay the facts out for the american people so they can make
quote
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their own determinations as well. we're grateful for what you have done. senator? >> well, i am on this side of the dias. i can ask a very simple question that should be asked. did donald trump or any of the associations in the campaign collude with russia and release them in the public. that's where we started six months ago. we laerd frheard from six of th democrats. i don't think a single one of them asked that question. they have gone down lots of other rabbit trails but not that question. maybe that is because jim comey said last week as he said to donald trump, down three times, he assured him he was not under investigation. maybe it's because multiple democrats on this committee have stated they have seen no evidence thus far after six months of our investigation and 11 moves an fbi investigation of any such collusion. i would suggest what do we think happened at the mayflower?
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mr. sessions, you are familiar with what spies called trade craft? >> a little bit. >> that involves things like covert communications and dead drops and brush passes, right? >> that is part of it. >> do you like spy fiction, daniel silva, jason matthews? >> allen first, david ig nay shus. >> do you like jamdz bond movies? >> no. do you like james bond movies? >> number yes, i do. >> you have ever in any of the fantastical situations heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitting united states senator and an ambassador of a foreign government he could lieutenanted in an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of espionage? >> thank you for saying that, senator cotton. it's just like through the looking glass. i mean what is this? i explained how in good faith i
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said i had not met with russians because they were suggesting i as a surrogate had been meeting continuously with russians. i said i didn't meet with them. there some 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. you want to testify in public. last week mr. comey and character stim stick and the theatrical fashion eluded ominously to what you call innuendo. there is some kind of classified intelligence that suggested you might have clueded with russia or you might have otherwise acted improperly. you've addressed those allegations theer day. do you understand why he made that allusion?
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>> i do not. i no yfgs about that. >> i have a lot of questions. you said did you talk to mr. comey. do you know why he would say you didn't respond to him on that conversation with you on february 14th or 15th? >> i do not. it was a little conversation not very long. but there was a conversation and i did respond to him, perhaps not to everything he asked. but i did respond to him.
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>> i'm not able to speculate on that. >> let's turn to the potential crimes that we know happened. leaks of certain information. here's a short list of what i have. the contents of alleged transcripts of alleged conversations between mr. flynn and in kislyak. the contents of president trump's phone calls with australian and mexican leaders, the content plaintiff trump's meetings with the russian foreign minister and ambassador. the leak of manchester bombing suspects identity and crime scene photos and last week within 20 minutes of this committee meeting in classified setting with jim comey, the leak of what -- the basis plaintiff 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 and investigatesing and ultimately going to prosecute them to the fullest xeent of t
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fullest extent of the law. >> thank you, senator cotton. we had one successful case in georgia. that person has been denied bail. we have to restore a regular or the principle. we cannot have people in our intelligence agencies, investigative agency norz congress leaking sensitive matters. on staff. so this is -- i'm afraid will result in -- is already resulting in investigations. and i fear that some people may find that they wish they didn't leak it. >> it was stated early that's right republican platform was weakened on the point of arms for ukraine. that s that is incorrect. it was the democratic president who refused paeped bipartisan requests of this congress to
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supply the arms. >> senator harris? >> attorney general sessions, 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 i do recall, dmo not have recollectin do, not remember it. my question is for any of your testimony today, did you refresh your memory with any written documents be the calendar, written correspondence, e-mails, notes of any sort? >> i attempted to refresh my recollection but so much of this is in a wholesale campaign of extraordinary nature. you're moving so fast that you don't keep notes. you meet people. i didn't keep notes miff conversation with the russian ambassador. i didn't keep notes so most of the things.
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there is nothing for me -- >> will you provide the committee with the notes did you maintain? >> as appropriate i will supply the committee with documents. >> can you please tell me what you mean when you say appropriate? >> i 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 general flynn -- >> i'm not able to make that opinion today. >> i'm sure you prepared for this hearing today and mostst questions that have been presented you to were predictable. so my question to you is did you then review with the lawyers of your department, if you were the top lawyer are unaware what the law is regarding what you can share us and what you can't share with us. what is privileged and not privileged? >> we discussed the basic parameters of testimony. frankly, i have not discussed document airy disclosure rules. >> will you make a commitment to this committee that you'll share
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any written correspondence be they your calendars, records, notes, e-mails, or anything that has 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 as and when thatti issue is raisedo respond appropriately. >> did you have any communications with russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this committee? >> i don't recall it. >> i can not testify what was said as we were standing at the republican convention before the podium where i spoke. >> did you have any communication with any russian businessmen or any russian
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nationals? >> i don't believe i had any conversation with russian businessmen or russian nationals. a lot of people were at the convention. it's conceivable that somebody -- >> i have a few more. >> you let me qualify. if i don't qualify, you accuse me of lying. i'm not able to be rushed this fast. it makes me nervous. >> are you aware of any communications with other trump campaign officials and associates that they had with russian officials or any russian nationals? >> i don't recall that. >> and are you aware -- >> 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,
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with the general strategic concept of the possibility of whether or not russia and the united states could get on a more harmonious relationship and move off the hostility. the soviet union did in fact collapse. it's really a tragic strategic event that we're not able to get along better than we are today. >> before being sworn in as attorney general, how did you communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> would you repeat that? >> before you were sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> i did not submit memorandum. i did not make formal presentations. >> did you ever kbhun him in writing? >> i don't believe so. >> and you referred to a long standing doj policy, can you tell us what policy it is that you're talking about? >> well, i think most cabinet people as the witnesses you had
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before you earlier, those individuals declined to comment because we're all about conversations with the president. >> sir, i'm just asking you about the doj policy you referred to. >> the policy that goes beyond just the attorney general. >> is that policy in writing somewhere? >> i think so. >> so did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about it? >> well, we talked about it. the policy is based -- >> you think it would be shown to you? >> the policy is based on the principle that the president -- >> sir, i'm not asking about the principle. i'm asking -- >> i'm not able to answer the question. >> you rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for refusing to answer the majority of the questions that have been asked of you. >> the attorney general should ab loud to answer the questions. >> senator harris, let him answer. >> please do. >> we talked about it. and we talked about the real
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principle that is at stake is one that i have some appreciation for as having spent 15 years in the department of justice, 12 as united states attorney. en that principle is that the constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges. and that members -- one of them is confidentiality of communications. and it is improper for agents of any of the department of any departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval of the president. >> mr. chairman, i have asked -- >> that's the situation -- >> mr. sessions, i asked for a yes or no. >> yes, i consulted. >> did you ask staff to see the policy? >> the senator's time has expired. >> apparently not. >> senator? >> attorney general sessions, former director comey in his letter to fbi employees when he was terminated started this way,
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he said i've long believed that a president can fire an fbi director for any reason or no reason at all. do you before he with that? >> yes. and i think that was good for him to sachlt i believe we're going to have a new and excellent fbi director, a person who is smart, disciplined and with integrity that will be good for the bureau. i think that statement probably was a valuable thing for director comey to say and i appreciate he did. >> just to reiterate the time line of the recusal and the rosenstein member and letter to the president recommending the term ination of director comey. you recused perfect the russia investigation on march 2 nnd, correct? >> the formal recusal took place on that date. >> the letter that you wrote
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forwarding the rosenstein memo to the president as a basis for director comey's termination was dated may 9th. a couple months after you recused from the russian investigation. isn't it true the russian investigation didn't factor into the recommendation to fire director comey? >> the recommend dumb, your letter to the president forwarding that recommendation didn't mention russia at all. is that your recollection? what was the basis for the recommendation. he wrote in the memo, he said i did k. not defend the director's hand willing of the conclusion
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of the investigation of secretary clinton's e-mails. and i do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken. of course, he's talking about director comey. he went on to say the director, that was director comey at the time, was wrong to userp the attorney general's authority on july 5th, 2016. you'll recall that is the date of the press conference he held. he went on to say that fbi director is never empowered to s surplant federal prosecutors and commandst justice department. kpounlding the error, the director ignored another long standing principle that we do not hold 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,
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is there not, entitled election year sensitivities. are you familiar with the prohibition of the justice department making announcements or taking other actions that might interfere with the normal elections? >> i am generally familiar with that. those were some of the memorandum after my time in the department. >> let me read -- >> there's always been rules about it though. >> let me read just an excerpt from a memo from the attorney general march 9th, 2012, entitled election year sensitivities. "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 disadvantage to any candidate or political party. such a purpose is inconsistent with the department's mission and with the principles of
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federal prosecution." do you agree with that? >> essentially, yes. >> so what essentially the deputy attorney general said is that former director comey violated department of justice directives when he held a press conference on july 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 is not the role of the fbi director, is it? that is a job for the prosecutors at the department of justice. that's what was meant by deputy attorney general rosenstein when he said that the director comey userped the role of the department of justice prosecutor, is that right? >> that is correct.
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and former attorney general bill barr wrote an op-ed recently in which he said 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. it violates fundamental powers and then when he reaffirmed that -- the rightness he believed of his decision on may 3rd, i think it was, that was additional confirmation that the director's thinking was not clear. >> senator reid? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. first, a point, attorney general. the senator and others have raised the issue of long
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standing rules. if there are written rules, would you provide them to the committee, please? >> i will. >> thank you very much. now, senator cornyn
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ened then you concluded by saying essentially that it's not his problem. it's hillary clinton's problem. then in november on november 6 after mr. comey again made news in late october by re-opening, if you will, the investigation, you said again on fox news, you know, fbi director comey did the right thing. he had no choice but to report
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it to the american congress where he had under oath testified. the investigation was open. he had to correct that and say this investigation 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 have felt that his last statement in october was fully justified, so how far can you 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 begin to look at that clearly and talk about it as representatives of the department of justice, once the director had first got involved
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and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation which would never have been better to have been discussed publicly and then 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, it would have been consistent with the rules of the department of justice -- to have never thought about that investigation to begin with. that went against classical prosecutoring policies that i learned and was taught when i was a united states attorney and an saernt easy attorney just a moment fi may ask another question. your patrol premise in recommending to the president was the actions in october involving secretary of state
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clinton, the whole clinton controversy. did you feel misled when the president announced that his real reason for dismissing mr. comey was the russian investigation? >> i don't have -- i'm not able to characterize that fact -- >> so -- >> -- i wouldn't try to comment on that. >> you had no inkling that there was anything to too with russia until the president of the united states basically declared not only on tv but in the oval office to the russian prime minister saying the pressure is off, i got complete of that nut job. that came to you as a surprise? >> all i can say is our recommendation was put into writing and i believe it was correct. i believe the president valued it but how he made his decision was his process. >> you had no inkling that he was considering the investigation investigation?
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>> well, i'm not going to try to -- >> that's fair. >> there is a scenario in which this whole recapitulation, the plaent clinton, was basically a story, a story that he wanted put out and quickly abandoned, which would have been the case i suppose you as an individual would preclude yourself of any involvement. thank you. >> senator mccain. >> over the last few weeks the administration has characterized your previously undisclosed meetings with russian ambassador kislyak as meetings you took in your official capacity as u.s. senator and a member of the senate armed services committee. as chairman of that committee,
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let me ask you a few questions an that. did you raise concerns about russian invasion of ukraine or of crimea? >> i did and i would like to follow up on that. that's one of the issues that i recall explicitly. the day before my meeting with the russian ambassador, i had met the ukrainian ambassador and i heard his concerns about russia, and so i raised those with mr. kislyak 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 the subject. >> with you on the committee, i can't imagine that. did you raise concerns for support of president bashar al
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sad including use of chemical weapons against his people? >> i don't know. >> did you raise -- or its sbrfrgs the electoral processes of our applies. >> i don't recall that being discussed. >> if you met with ambassador kislyak, you presumably talked with him about russian-related security issues that you have demonstrated is important to you as a member of the committee? >> did i discuss security -- >> yeah. i don't recall you as being particularly rockial on such issues. >> on -- repeat that, senator mccain. i'm sorry. >> the whole russia-related security issues, demonstrating as important to you as the committee. did you raise those with him? >> you mean the issues was nuclear issues or -- >> yeah. in other words, russia-related security issues. in your capacity as the chairman
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of the strategic forces subcommittee, what russia-related security issues dove hold hearings on b and otherwise hold a keen interest in? >> we may discussed that. i just don't recall the meeting. i was not making a report about it to anyone. i just was basically willing to meet and see what it he discussed. >> and his response was? >> i don't recall. >> during that 2016 campaign season dove any contacts with any representative including any american o lobbyists or agent of any russian company in or outside your position in the congress nchts i don't believe so. >> politico reported that the fbi found that russian diplomats whose travel to the state
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department was supposed to track were missing. some came up driving around kansas. reportedly after about a year of inattention these movements indicate one, that uss moscow's ground game has grown 12r07ker and more brazen and that quietly the chem len have been trying to map the infrastructure what do you know about this development and how the justice department and other relevant u.s. government agencies 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 technology cal skills like china and some other nations who are penetrating our national security interest. as a member the armed services committee, i did support and advocate and i think you
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supported legislation that would -- and it's on going now -- that requires the defense department to identify weaknesses in our system and how we can fix them. but i would say to you, senator mccain, in my short tenure here in the department of justice i've been more concerned about computer hacking and thoz issues than i was in the senate. it's an important issue, you're correct. >> the paesh post reported yesterday russia has developed a weapon that can disrupt telecommunications and electric infrastructure. this is similar to what russian hackers used against ukraine in 2015. can you discuss a little bit in open session how serious that is? >> i don't believe i can discuss the technological yirns. just to say that -- issues. just to say that it is very
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disturbing that the russians continue to push hostile actions in their foreign policy and it is not good for the united states or the world or russia, in my opinion. >> believe we have a strategy in order to counter these ever-increasing thets to our national security and our way of life? >> not sufficiently. we do not have a sufficient strategy dealing with tech lolg cal and i.t. penetrations of our system. i truly believe it's more important than i did before and i appreciate your concern and leadership on that issue and in fact, all congress will have to do better. >> recognize the vice chair. >> thank you. i particularly appreciate your last comments with senator
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mccain about the seriousness of this threat and it's why so many of us on this committee are concerned on the whole question of russian intervention. the president continues to refer to it as fake news and a witch hunt. i share, i think most members do that the russians interfered, they want to continue to interfere to favor their own interest. it is of enormous concern that we have to hear from the administration how they take that on. also, comments vn made here about where we had in terms of the trump associates who may have had contact with russians. >> we've not gotten to all of that yet because of the unprecedented firing of the fbi director that was leading this
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same russian investigation. those members who i hope will equally pursue the very troubling amount of smoke at least that's out there between individuals who were affiliated with the trump campaign, possible ties with the russians. i've not reached any conclusions. we have to pursue that. i understand your point. but you have to a series of comments made by mr. comey last week. i think members on this side of the aisle have indicated you understand executive privilege, nnd classified setting, i do think we need, as senator reid and harrison and others, if there are these long written procedures about this fwloilt 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 today
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and last week where this all head. at the end of the day, i'll say what i said last time. i'd not about relitigating 2016. on a going forward basis, it's about making sure the russians who are not finished in terms of their activities, didn't end on election day on 2016, we know that's going ongoing and we must persist. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> i do want to say that a change at the top of the fbi should have no impact whatsoever on the investigation. those teams have been working and they'll continue to work and they've not been altered in any way -- >> jub of very strange comments that mr. comey testified on last week that i believe you could
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shed light on. thank you. >> thank you. >> i'm not sure that you knew it but your replacement sat through most of this hearing, luther. >> big luther is a good round ballplayer. tulane. >> you've been asked a wide range of questions and i think you've answered things related to claims about the meeting at the may flower. you've answered questions that surround the reasons for your recusal and the fact that you had never been briefed since day one on the investigation, that 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 conversation that you had, though brief, with director comey that he referenced to after his private meeting with
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the president, just a few questions you helped us clear up. there were a number of questions you refused to answer because of confidentiality with the president. i would only ask you 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 do, 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 provide for the committee, they would be helpful for us for the purpose of sorting timelines out, anything that substantiates your testimony today, individuals who might have been at events that you're fam with, especially those that worked with you would be extremely helpful, and more importantly, i want thank you
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for your agreement to have continuing dialogue with us as we go further down the investigation, that certainly does not have to be a public hearing but it may be an exchange in a dialogue we have. you have helped us tremendously. we're grateful to you and mary o for the unbelievable sacrifice you made in this institution, but now also in this hearing. this hearing's now adjourned. >> thank you.
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