tv MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson MSNBC March 2, 2017 7:00am-8:01am PST
nbc news confirming attorney general jeff sessions met with russia's ambassador to the u.s. right in the thick of the 2016 campaign. the attorney general not answering questions about any of this, talking to msnbc news. >> i never met with any russians at any time to discuss any political campaign and those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. >> we've also got house leader nancy pelosi live at the podium. we're going to bring it to you as democrats already now calling for sessions to resign. what about republicans? well, some are now hoping that the attorney general will step away from any investigation into russia's election interference. this hour we are talking with iowa congressman and member of the judiciary committee steve
king. pete williams is in washington, peter alexander at the white house, kasie hunt on the hill, one of the reporters who broke the sessions story, ellen nokashima of "the washington post" and eliza collins. i want to start immediately with ellen who broke this story, front page piece, a huge scoop. walk us through this. sessions was saying his meeting with the russian ambassador was as his official capacity as a senator on the armed services committee drawing this distinction as a surrogate or somebody who campaigned for the president on the campaign trail. talk about how this came up. >> jeff sessions during his confirmation hearing in january said he had never had any communications with russian
officials. as it turns out last year at the height of the concerns of the investigation of the russian hacks and influence in the presidential campaign, then senator session himself a one-on-one meeting with the russian ambassador in his office on capitol hill it was one of, to be fair, about two dozen meetings he'd had with various diplomats, ambassadors, over the course of the year. but in this case, he did not disclose the fact that he had met with the ambassador when he was testifying under oath during his confirmation hearing in january. >> ellen, i want to interrupt you for a second. i want to play that exchange that you're talking about between senator franken at the time and the attorney general, then senator sessions during his confirmation hearings, just to put this into perspective. let's play that. >> and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the russian government in the
course of this campaign, what will you do? >> senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians. >> and to lay this out, ellen, he is the timeline. in february 2016 the senator, then senator, endorsed, donald tru trump. in july, he spoke with the russian ambassador at the rnc, that was a more informal meeting, in september he met with the russian ambassador for that formal conversation and then in 2017 he denied he ever had contact with the russians. you spoke with people saying these ambassador meetings are unusual. this morning we're hearing conflicting stories saying, no,
i meet with ambassadors as part of my responsibilities. >> we did reach about 20 of the members of the senate armed services committee serving last year and all 20 said they had not had a meeting with the russian ambassador, while some may have had meetings in the past with the ambassador or others, none had any meetings with the ambassador last year, which was a campaign season. and the pressure is now growing on sessions to recuse himself from the overseeing the investigation, as he's a top law enforcement officer in the country. if -- there may well be nothing illicit or improper in his conversation but if there is even the appearance of
impropriety or conflict, that could call into question the integrity of the investigation and people are saying he should -- even republicans, top republicans are saying for the good of the investigation, he should recuse himself. >> ellen, thank you very much for joining us. i want to go to pick up that thread to kasie hunt. i want to pull up before we get to you some of the democrats calling for resignation, folks like elijah cummings, senator mack ca mccaskill. and others are calling for recusal. >> reporter: increasing calls from republicans who want jeff sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into russia and potential ties to the trump campaign during the election. that i think is going to be what
might put the most pressure on the white house at this point. i caught up with jason chaffetz in the hallway a few minutes ago. take a look. >> i do think he needs to clarify and i do think he needs to recuse himself. >> reporter: can you explain your explanation in. >> i think the attorney general should further clarify and i do think he's going to need to recuse himself at this point. >> reporter: i pushed him a little bit on why it was that that recusal should take place and he said it really is the conflict between the meetings happening and his statements in the confirmation hearing that if he misled or lied to congress, that would be the reason he's calling for this recusal. democrats going further calling for his resignation. we're waiting here for senator chuck schumer, the democratic leader, to come here and talk to us. he was one of the first people to lead these calls for sessions to recuse himself.
he was doing this before this news broke, had been for weeks. what else might schumer be looking for as far as an investigation goes, whether that might mean hearings or something with the inspector general. hallie. >> kasie hunt there on capitol hill. i will let you get over to that senator schumer press conference, which is set to start any minute. we will be bringing it to you live when it happens, as we do expect this to be one of the first things if not the only thing that the senator talks about. i want to bring in our political panel here. moments ago one of our collea e colleagues on capitol hill caught up with senator marco rubio, who said he had real questions about this and he wants to see jeff sessions answer these questions. that happens in the basement of the capitol as they get on the subway and head in and out. he can go before the senate judiciary committee to clarify remarks to answer more question, he could recuse himself from the russian investigation, he could potentially resign. that seems highly unlikely if
not an option at all just to be clear or he could dig in, as he did to nbc news this morning that he did nothing wrong and the allegations are false. what does he do? >> so far he is digging in. i think the white house is going to want him to dig in until they know more. the fact that republican leadership, marco rubio, people that are in his own party are asking for answers, i think he's eventually going to have to either come testify or recuse himself. i don't think he'll resign. >> the bigger problem is that he spoke with the russian ambassador, he's a senior member of the senate, he sits on the armed services committee. the bigger problem is he mislead fellow senators. >> we saw someone else who misled dismissed for misleading pence, the vice president, about his conversations with the same ambassador.
peter alexander is joining us from the north lawn. i understand the white house is now going on the record with a response to all of this. walk us through it. >> reporter: that's exactly right. we had heard privately from them, a fierce pushback to the situation. now we have it on the record from one of the deputy press secretaries. the white house says "this is the latest attack against the trump administration by partisan democrats. attorney general sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the senate armed services committee, which is entirely consistent with his testimony. it's no surprise, she adds, that senator al franken is pushing this story immediately following president trump's successful address to the nation." you were talking about the options for jeff sessions. it's clear the one the white house is taking, which is the one of digging in. >> peter, thanks.
somebody else who has been following this story very closely is pete williams from washington. we've been talking about the nuts and bolts of the story and where it goes from here. can you talk us through the actual interactions, the substance of these meetings that ted cruz earlier on this network called a "nothing burger." what did they talk about? do you know? >> we were told by his staff that was it was general discussions about u.s./russian relations. they say there may have been some passing reference to all the news coverage about the russian issue but that they didn't talk about the campaign in any kind of detail. of course there was only one direct conversation, that's the one in september while sessions was in his senate office. they say the one in july at the republican convention, he had given a speech to a whole room full of ambassadors and after the applause died down, several of them gathered around him as he stepped off the platform, off the podium, including the
russian ambassador, so that they say was not a one-on-one discussion. >> i want to get to shane and eliza again. i want to play again the reaction to this. let's start with senator al franken said on "morning joe " n this network. he pressed jeff sessions about this initially. here is what the senator said today about all of this. listen. >> these are contradictory statements and i think that he should immediately recuse himself from any of this. i think that we should have a special prosecutor that is appointed by -- not only not by jeff sessions but not by anyone with any ties to the campaign, that we need an independent special prosecutor. >> and here now more reaction from some republicans.
and joe manchin, moderate democrat. listen. >> reporter: does that require his reefcusal, congressman? >> i think it would be easier. >> jeff should recuse himself from all investigations with russian ties and investigations going on. >> could jeff have been more clear in what he said? yes. that was unfortunate but i think context matters a lot. >> and finally i got to play to you what jeff sessions said to us exclusively this morning about whether or not he would recuse himself. the full sentence is key. it's conditional. it not outright. >> i've said that whenever it's appropriate, i will recuse myself, there's no doubt about that. >> whenever it's appropriate, he says, i will recuse myself. that is the only hint we have gotten directly about jeff sessions himself about what he might do moving forward. he is saying that he's answering the question in terms of his conversation with the russian
ambassador as a member of the senate versus as a member of the campaign. is that going to fly? >> the key person there is kevin mccarthy. he's the number two republican in the house, a member of leadership and he's calling for his recusal. >> wait a second. here's what kevin mccarthy said on fox. almost immediately after appearing on "morning joe" said this. listen. >> why are you calling on him to recuse himself? >> i'm not calling on him to recuse himself. i was asked on morning joe if he needs to recuse himself going forward. as you just heard attorney general sessions said he would recuse himself going forward appropriate. that's all my answer was. it's amazing how people spin things so quickly. >> kevin mccarthy threading the needle of shapme. is he setting the tone now for the response? >> it's not just mccarthy. chaffetz said that some republicans are already floating the idea using the recusal word.
it's going to put pressure on the white house. but we've watched donald trump closely for the last two years now, digging in is what they're going to do. they're going to dig in and blame the media. >> pull back for a second, eliza. these are more questions that were alluded to about the trump campaign's involvement with russia. >> i think the white house needs to address this outright. >> the president has said i haven't had contact with russians. >> they need to go through i think and have every -- i don't know how exactly you put this to bed. their team needs to say at this point was a conversation. the attorney general in this -- in his nomination hearing needed
to say i talked to them in my capacity of the senate armed services committee. that is different than my capacity here and i think it wouldn't have been as big of an issue. i think the problem is the misleading his fellow senators. that's different than general mike flynn, who did have conversations with the russian ambassador about sanctions in a role on the trump campaign. >> as al franken had said, he said, hey, if the president releases his tax returns that, could clear a lot of that up. >> this is one question that sean spicer asked himself on the podium this week, what can i do to possibly clear this up? the answer is he can't. he can't speak for every member of the administration. even donald trump said i didn't speak to anybody but who couldn't say that nobody spoke to anybody because he can't speak to anybody. this is why the democrats have come out and said we need an independent prosecutor, that's why the republicans are saying we need someone unaffiliated
with the trump campaign to look at this. >> we are waiting for chuck schumer to come up and address with reporters about what we have been discussing. as the story has broken and develop, we've seen jeff sessions react and republicans, that is key, react and the democratic line has been that jeff sessions should resign, should step down. as my colleagues here on set, my journalism colleagues have said that seems highly, highly unlikely if not altogether completely unloikely. i'd like to bring in congressman steve king of iowa. i need to get you on the record. do you believe that jeff sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into russia's interference with the election? >> no, not at all. there a number of reasons for that. first of all, the answer to the questions he was asked during his confirmation haearing were answered within the context of the questions asked by senator
franken and others. for a senator to say, no, i haven't had any meetings or discussions with the russians on the topic, everybody at that table has had meeting with representatives of multiple countries, many of them including russia. so if there was any concern, any senator would have brought that up then. i'm not concerned. independent had meetings with russians and they weren't to do with this investigation. nobody has more integrity in this entire government than jeff sessions in is a political hack job going after him. >> you have also campaigned for president trump. you're talking about your contacts with russians. what have those contacts been? have you revealed them to your colleagues? >> i've talked about them publicly. at one time i went over to where all of the children were slaughtered by the terrorists. i went to their grabs aves and t with the successors of the kgb and we talked about the boston bombers and reviewed the
documents they had sent to the fbi. that was a constructive thing to do. there have been other of those types of meetings but there's nothing about that that i need to hide or not admit. i want to freely deliver that information so my constituents know i'm doing my job. >> congressman, given that, why wouldn't then senator sessions have just said, yes, i've had conversations with the russian ambassador when he was asked about it at his confirmation hearing? >> as i read the transcript of the question asked by senator franken, senator sessions was answering within the context of that question that he hadn't had discussions with the russians about that dossier that at this point we haven't seen and as far as facts are concerned it's still rumored. >> congressman, i have more questions for you but i want to briefly bring in my colleague kasie hunt with some new information about what senator schumer is going to do in a couple of minutes. kasie? >> reporter: we are now expecting senator schumer will be here and call for jeff
sessions' resignation at attorney general, though my sources tell me they do want to continue to make sewer that tur is on the integrity of the investigation. that means he is going to be joining calls from other democratic leaders, including house leader nancy pelosi in calling for the resignation of jeff sessions in the wake of the report that he did have these meetings with the russian ambassador and yet he still told senators at his confirmation hearings that he had had no such contact. i do think that is for members of congress the quickest way to turn them against you is to lie to them. if that perception continues -- i'm going to sit down because we're about to see senator schumer. >> congressman, your reaction as we wait for senator schumer to take the podium to his expected call for his resignation from senator sessions? >> i would think that senator
schumer and nancy pelosi would want to be taken seriously. it's a ridiculous proposal. >> do you see why they're raising questions, congressman? >> yes, i know exactly why. they're trying to undermine the trump administration any way they can. it's 100% politically motivated. i'd be happy to have some minutes to speak to the integrity. >> my apologies, we're going to listen to senator schumer. >> i felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. i worry about the future of our country with foreign influence in our elections. if goes to the very well spring of our democracy. for weeks i have said that attorney general sessions needs to recuse himself from any investigation into contacts between the president and his associates on the campaign and transition and russia. for weeks i made clear that i
believe attorney general sessions' close relationship with the trump campaign requires that he recuse himself from the executive branch investigation into ties between the trump campaign and russia. it's a matter of department of justice guidelines that i've read to you several times that are very clear. the guidelines are clear as day, yet attorney general sessions has demurred. the information reported last night makes it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that attorney general sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into russian interference in our elections or come anywhere near it with these revelations, he may very well become the subject of it. it would be of "alice in
wonderland" quality if this administration were to sanction him to investigate himself. recusal should have been given, but this goes beyond that. he had weeks -- attorney general session had weeks to correct the record that he made before the judiciary committee, but he let the record stand. there cannot be even the scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness of the attorney general, the top law enforcement official of the land. after this, it's clear attorney general sessions does not meet that test. because the department of justice should be above reproach for the good of the country, attorney general sessions should resign. but what everyone's views are on
resignation, the most important thing we must do is ensure the integrity of the investigation. has it already been compromised? what can we do to ensure it moves forward in a way that ultimately leads to the unvarnished truth? to that end, i am calling on three things -- i'm sorry. to that end i am calling for three things today. first, the justice department must immediately appoint a special prosecutor given that attorney general sessions' integrity is compromised, that responsibility will fall to the acting deputy attorney general, dana boente, originally appointed by president obama. it is incumbent upon the acting
deputy attorney general to select as special prosecutor an individual who is beyond reproach, completely impartial, without any significant ties to either political party. the choice for special prosecutor will be scrutinized. even the hint of partiality in that choice, even the hint that this person will not be able to get to the bottom of these troubling questions would be disqualified. the prosecutor must be of great experience and unimpeachable impartiality. now, this is not just common sense. this is what the justice department regulations require. they say that a special counsel should be appointed when a standard investigation, quote, these are the justice department's words, when a
standard investigation would, quote, present a conflict of interest for the department or other extraordinary circumstances and it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside special counsel. the regulations also require that a special counsel be a lawyer with a reputation for integrity and impartial decision making. there cannot even be a shred of a connection between the attorney general, mr. sessions and this department of justice investigation into the events of 2016. second, if the justice department drags its feet and refuses to appoint a special prosecutor or select someone with insufficient independence, there is another route. we will then urge senator
mcconnell and speaker ryan to work with democrats to create a new and improved version of the independent counsel law, which would give a three-judge panel the authority could appoint an independent counsel. this was a law that was on the books, put in place after watergate, to avoid a repeat of events like the saturday night massacre. it was designed for this purpose. unfortunately, it was not drafted with enough con restaurants. congress allowed the authority to expire after ken starr's investigation into whitewater went out of control. ken starr went too far, tested the boundaries of the authority he was given. the law, the original independent counsel law went too
far -- sorry, the law, the independent counsel law was not drafted tightly enough. but in this case, cognizant and wary of this history, we would work to craft a narrow authority with specific guidelines for this investigation to prevent this from becoming a political witch hunt. we hope that if the administration fails in its responsibility that senator mcconnell and speaker eryan wil rise to theirs. finally, third, the inspector general of the department of justice must immediately begin an investigation into the attorney general's involvement in this matter thus far to discover if the investigation has already been compromised.
the inspector general doesn't need any permission from either anyone in the administration or the congress, and he should go forward immediately. we know the attorney general met with the president several weeks ago. what did they discuss? have there been other contacts between the president or senior administration officials and the attorney general regarding this matter? have there been any attempts to interfere with the investigation in any way? has the a.g. or his close associates personally managed the work of career officials of the department of justice or fbi in the course of the investigation? the inspector general has the ability, the right and the obligation to find out answers to these questions and more. the revelations that we learned
about last night are extremely troubling and raise even more questions about the president and his associates' contact with russia. did the president know about the meetings between then senator sessions and the russian ambassador? were these the only two meetings between the attorney general -- the now attorney general and the russian ambassador or other russian officials? did the attorney general disclose these meetings during the fbi background check for his nomination? there has been revelation after revelation, mistruth after mistruth, stories shifting like quick sand. if there is truly no there there, why won't they tell the truth? the bottom line is we have an obligation to get to the truth. we must evaluate the scope of russia's interference in our election and assess if agents of
their government have penetrated to the highest level of our government. nothing less than the sanctity of our dear democratic process, the primacy of rule of law and the integrity of our executive branch is at stake. we now know the only way that this will happen is if an independent, impartial special prosecutor with no atatachment o this administration conducts this investigation. if the administration is unwilling or unable to manage that, congress should reinstitute the law allowing us to bring in a special counsel to do it for them. ready for your questions. yes. >> reporter: why isn't it enough for him to recuse himself? why does he have to resign? >> look, the toattorney generals the chief law enforcement of the
land and already his integrity and independence has been questioned. it would be better for the country if he resigned. the main point i am making here is we need an investigation to get to the bottom of this. better for the country if he resigns but let's get a real investigation going. >> reporter: i was just going to say, is there something inappropriate about the senator meeting with the russian ambassador? >> there's nothing inappropriate with the senator meeting with the russian ambassador. there is something very inappropriate to dramatically mislead congress. he said he didn't remember afterwards but it was in the record for weeks afterwards and you can be sure he was thoroughly briefed for this hearing. it was obvious with everything that was swirling about that this question would come up. it's not a question of -- you wonder about "i didn't remember." in the back. >> reporter: to follow up on that, the question that senator
franken has been replayed over and over. was it not nebulous, do you think it was crystal clear did you ever meet with russians? >> look, there is enough doubt about whether senator sessions told the truth at his hearing to have an investigation of it. and the standard for remaining attorney general and certainly for conducting an investigation is not just did you break the law. you have to be brabove reproach. >> reporter: during the campaign of 2016, senate democrats have met with the russian ambassador. how would you characterize that? is that a level of krp for ycon you? >> no, there's nothing wrong with meeting with the russian
ambassador. the question is if there was nothing wrong, why didn't you come clean and tell the whole truth? >> reporter: do you think that senator sessions lied to congress -- >> i am not a legal expert on perjury and i'd leave that to the experts. it was definitely extremely misleading to say the least as to what he did. and what bothers me just as much is every nominee goes through the record afterwards and they make corrections. if the next day he would have said i forgot and here's what i said, it a lot different than letting the record stand, especially with all the questions, swirling about. go ahead. >> reporter: the white house says that jeff sessions met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the senate armed services committee. basically that's consistent with his testimony. >> i don't think that is the way most people would interpret it and that's why we need to have a thorough investigation. >> reporter: they also say --
>> yes, kasie -- i didn't hear -- >> reporter: they say it's a -- >> they say that about everything. it's getting tired. if they're interested in the truth and they want to know about the truth, they know how to get to the bottom of it. >> reporter: you've seen no evidence that any of these contacts between the russians and the trump campaign ever happened, i'm wondering have you seen -- >> i am not commenting on anything i heard as part of the gang of eight. next question. >> reporter: [ inaudible ]. >> we'll wait, as i said, i
think we need a special prosecutor to look into all of these allegations. that is the right way to go. i was heartened to hear now that a few republicans have evidently called for this and the longer they all delay, the worse it will be for the country and for them. last question. >> reporter: [ inaudible ] do you have anything to say about that? >> no, that's not the point. the point is jeff sessions should have said he met with the ambassadors when asked about that. >> reporter: [ inaudible ]. >> no. first of all, will sessions still be in charge of the attorney general? we need a special prosecutor. this has to be above reproach. there's been allegation after allegation, question after question. a special prosecutor is what's
called for, and if the administration has nothing to hide, they won't object. thank you, everybody. >> senator chuck schumer, speaking in front of reporters, calling for the resignation of attorney general jeff sessions, saying he believes there is nothing inappropriate about meeting with the russian ambassador in the first place but what was inappropriate, he says, is misleading members of congress about it at jeff session's con fourmatifirmation. he wouldn't say whether he believed jeff sessions committed perjury. he said he believed it was extremely misleading and he wasn't an expert on perjury. i want to go to my panel. eliza. >> he's not going to resign. he did make an effective argument by saying he didn't do anything wrong by meeting with him on his role in the senate. it was that he didn't tell the
truth in his -- or he didn't share all of the details in his hearing and i think that's the crucial part. >> chuck schumer say we didn't need a special prosecutor, we need this kind of special prosecutor. he started litigating how that person should be selected. i think he's trying to move the ball two steps forward. >> just quickly, he said he wanted to make sure it wasn't a political witch hunt, which is a talking point republicans have been using to say they didn't need a special prosecutor. kasie hunt was in the room asking senator schumer about this. what's your take? >> reporter: well, hallie, i think the way that senator schumer crafted this argument is
important. he says, if there's no there there, why are they not telling the truth about these contacts? i think that kind of goes to the heart of why democrats are approaching this this way, the fact that shum achumer went out his way to say this is not about whether he had a meeting with the russian ambassador, this is about the fact that he misled congress when asked specifically about the trump campaign and their contacts with the russians when in fact sessions was a representative at the time of the trump campaign in addition to being a senator and that he did not go back and correct the record of his testimony and that of course senators, everyone here in washington learning about this through news reports. and on that point in calling for a special prosecutor, there has been some confusion around this and i think that senator schumer was trying to get some clarity there. republicans have been arguing there is no special prosecutor law and, therefore, that is something that's completely out of the realm of possibility.
the reality is, as senator schumer outlined, there had been a law that created an independent way of selecting a special prosecutor. that was outside of the department of justice. and as schumer noted, that law sunsetted in part because the political climate back in 1999, it was right after the ken starr investigation of president clinton and. >> was we'-- and everyone was w that. that said there still is authority inside the department of justice to do this, to appoint a special prosecutor outside, independently to take a look at something like this. that's what schumer is calling for. the question is how much pressure does this johnsgenerat republicans to keep going forward with this? i think it significant that chuck schumer did not say i
don't think that jeff sessions perjured himself before congress. it will be interesting to see if others say he did and if that determination is made on capitol hill. >> kasie hunt, thank you very much. talking about those republican reactions and response to a special prosecutor, he's what republican senator lindsey graham had to say about this very subject. >> it is clear to me that jeff sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about trump. so there may be nothing there, but if there's something there that the fbi is believes is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. if that day ever comes, i'll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than jeff. >> that was senator graham. this is the podium where we expect to see nancy pelosi any minute. we will bring it to you live when she addresses reporters about this topic. we have a lot of fast-moving reaction to all of this breaking news.
democrats and some republicans calling for attorney general jeff sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into the russian election interference. we'll be back with much more after the break. american express open cards can help you take on a new job, or fill a big order or expand your office and take on whatever comes next. find out how american express cards and services can help prepare you for growth at open.com. find out how american express [kids cheering]ces [kids screaming] call the clown! parents aren't perfect but then they make us kraft mac & cheese and everything's good again.
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certainly the news that has developed this morning, calls from senator chuck schumer and other democrats from attorney general jeff sessions to resign, calls for some republicans to recuse himself from any investigation into russia's election interference and calls from some republicans to basically leave this alone saying sessions did nothing wrong, arguing that he was speaking during his confirm's hearing when he decide this conversation with the russian ambassador as a person who was involved with the trump campaign, not as someone involved on the senate armed services committee. lots to break down. as we wait for nancy pelosi, congressman, thanks for joining us as you're there on the hill. i want to talk a little about your tweet last night. you said if the attorney general lied under oath, he might resign and face the consequences of committing perjury. we heard senator schumer back off on any distinction of whether he can commit perjury or
not. do you believe the attorney general lied under oath? >> i think it's very clear. this is the chief law enforcement officer of the united states. if he in fact lied to the american people and his colleagues in senate during his confirmation hearing, that is very serious and i think disqualifies him from leading the investigation and calls for appointment of a special prosecutor and makes it difficult for him to remain as attorney general of the united states. it's clear there were contact between the members of the trump campaign, he identified himself as a surrogate of the trump cam pawn -- campaign and had two meetings. what's most important is this is the chief law enforcement officer of the united states. people have a right to expect that he's going to answer these questions under oath. honestly, if it turns out he did not, i think it makes it very difficult for him to remain in that position. i think for sure it's important
we need the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate between the trump administration, the president himself and the russian government. we have seen now four people close to president trump who have had to remove themselves from government because of their ties and contacts with russians during the trump campaign. these are serious issues. the american people have to have confidence that their elected officials are acting in their best interest and free from foreign interference and i think this raises very serious questions. >> so, congressman, given the answer that you just gave to me and your at the same time that, as you said, he did not testify truthfully, i just want to get you on the record on this, did jeff sessions perjure himself in your view? yes or no? >> well, again, i think there's no -- there is no question that he did not answer those questions honestly. i suppose if he said "i forgot"
he could have some defense to a charge of perjury. but we hold him to a higher standard. he is the attorney general of the united states, he was not nor forthcoming, he misled congress. this is while all kind of allegations are swirling about russian involvement in our campaign, the conclusion of 17 intelligence agencies they were involved in a very sophisticated campaign directed by vladimir putin to help elect donald trump. you can't view there in a vacuum. this raises very serious concerns. if as it appears he testified untruthfully to the committee, he would not be in a position to continue as attorney general. if one of my constituents committed that crime, they'd be in prison. we can't have the chief law enforcement officer in the united states making false statements under oath. >> congressman, very quickly, would recusal be enough for you? >> look, there's no question he can't lead an investigation. we had a hearing just in the judiciary committee this week, a
resolution of inquiry asking the attorney general to furnish certain information about the president, furnish financial record and he obviously can't lead that investigation. i think jeff sessions has to look into his heart and say can he federal courtiveeffectively department of justice and i think in the best interest of the american people, resignation makes sense. >> joining me on set, michael steele, former advise r. let's start with you, michael. you put out your share of fires, in your roles with jeb bush and john boehner. talk about the white house response. is this what you would have recommended or do they need to be more forceful on this?
>> there's no question that the attorney general probably wishes he answered that question a little differently but if you look at the context of senator franken's question, i think what we're seeing here -- look, senator schumer knows the attorney general is not going to resign. congresswoman pelosi knows he's not going to resign. this is about democratic leaders in washington scared of a fired up liberal base, russians who try to get in front of the parade they think is grinding away from them. >> does the distinction the attorney general is drawing, his response to that answer wearing the hat of donald trump campaign surrogate versus senate armed services committee member, does that sound as though he's parsing his words? >> it's the reason that senator schumer was not willing to criticize others for meeting with the russian ambassador. it
does he now wish who answered a little more clearly? i'm absolutely certain. but this is at basic level a partisan attack by tired washington democrats afraid of their base. >> you spent time on the hill, how should speaker ryan respond? a couple of minute ago, he did not answer questions to folks. we expect to hear from him in about 45 minutes from now. >> he'll have his usual weekly on camera. i think he'll talk about his impressions that jeff sessions is an honorable man, answered honestly and we need to move on from there. >> does this raise questions in your view? this is continued discussion about the trump campaign's connections potentially with russia, with moscow. what does the white house need to do to put those questions to rest? >> it's a distraction from the things that the white house wants to be talking about. >> what does the white house need to do to refocus the
conversation if that's their goal sp. >> they're going to have to continue pushing -- >> just ignore it? >> i think it's going to be a continuing issue. >> you don't think that is going to inflame -- >> i have trouble thinking of anything that would erase questions in the mind of senator schumer and pelosi because they'll be there as part of a political attack. >> what if the president release his tax returns showing any connection or debts he might owe. >> i'm not aware of any connection with russia. >> the president has denied any connection as well. >> can republicans make this a partisan issue, saying this is democrats calling for blood. that's what the white house is trying to do. but they're running into problems because there are republicans talking out about there. if you didn't have a jason chaffetz talking about this, that message would be easier.
>> what's your message to jason chaffetz? >> i think he needs to talk to the white house and everyone needs to get on the same page. >> is that the right response? shouldn't jason chaffetz say, i'm on the oversight committee -- >> he absolutely has the authority to express his opinion and that's what he's done. >> do you agree with his opinion? >> i don't know enough about the facts of the recusal distinction to know whether that's the right thing to do at this point. >> nancy pelosi is walking up to the podium now. you can see her set to address reporters. >> what a week, huh? last night we learned that jeff sessions, the attorney general of the united states, lied under oath to his colleagues in the senate and to the american people about his communications with the russians. there are standard of professional conduct for attorneys, especially the top law enforcement officer in our country. what is the message that that sends to the country, to the lawyers in the state department,
to the american bar association, which has standards of moral and professional conduct, to the state of alabama, which has standard for professional conduct for its attorneys? the fact that the attorney general, the top cop in our country, lied under oath to the american people is grounds for him to resign. it's grounds for him to resign. he has proved that he is unqualified and unfit to serve in that position of trust. almost every week we discover new evidence of secret communications between senior trump officials and the russian agents. there are two issues here. we've been calling for weeks for him to recuse himself from the investigation into the personal, political and financial connections between the trump operation and the russians. recusing himself because of his connection to the donald trump
campaign. and now we see that he, himself, needs an investigation for lying. it's against the law and the top law enforcement officer should know that. the administration clearly cannot be trusted to investigate itself. there must be an independent, bipartisan outside commission to investigate the trump political, personal and financial connection to the russians. our colleagues have had this legislation for a while. 100% of the house democrats have signed on to it and now they have republican co-sponsorship as well. at the same time, we have a special where i am told, you may know better, that the republicans are hiding their draft of a.c.a. repeal bill in a basement room and planning to
hold a committee markup before the congressional budget office score is available to the public. this is unheard of. even republican senator rand paul is criticizing that he can't even see what their plan is. the republicans know how the american people react when the congressional bill reveals it will raise health bills and put millions out of health coverage. remember, we had three standards, does it lower cost, does it expand benefits and does it increase access? this bill takes it all in the reverse direction. i remind you that this bill is a big transfer of wealth to the wealthiest people in our country. the top 400 families in america, 400 wealthiest families in america get a tax break of $7
million each every year, while costs are increased for low and middle-income families in our country. anyway, in stark contrast to what the republicans are doing, when we did the affordable care act and they criticized this, that and the other thing, there were scores of hearings, hundreds of amendments, some democratic, some republican, some accepted of each, some modified of each or some rejected of both republican and democratic amendments. the finance committee spent eight days publicly marking up the bill, the longest markup in 22 years. and here they are, read the bill, read the bill. yeah, we read the bill. we wrote the bill and we read the bill. here they are hiding their bill in the basement. doesn't talk my word for it. just ask senator rand paul. he says he can't even have access to it. if republicans are too terrified of their constituents to make
their plan to destroy affordable health care public, they shouldn't try to make it law. they don't want to make it public now, they shouldn't try to make it law on tuesday. as you know, this past tuesday the president's joint address -- made his joint address to the joint session of congress. in my view it was a hollow sales pitch. he's a good salesman, you have to give him points for that, radical rhetoric, empty promises. there was no there there. there were no jobs plan, no infrastructure plan, no plan to replace the affordable care act, no plan except a scary outline on immigration reform. the list goes on and on. and so here we are 42 days into the trump administration. republicans have succeeded in putting wall street first,
rushing to help wall street prey on main street and working families' retirement savings, move to make america sick again, have sewn fear into america's communities and get being back to where we began this conference allowed russia's grip on this administration to endanger our security and our democracy. any questions? let me see, chad. go ahead. >> reporter: so obviously you think that attorney general sessions should step aside? >> yes, i said that last night. >> reporter: is there, though, consistency on the democratic side on this when there were issues with attorney general lynch and bill clinton on whether or not she should have stepped aside. >> thank you for your question because there couldn't be a starker difference. attorney general lynch had a social encounter, serendipitous,
some might say, that the former president of the united states came by to say hello and they discussed their grandchildren. she did not have a major role in the hillary clinton campaign. this is a completely different thing. the reason we have been saying that the attorney general sessions should step aside and maybe should never have been confirmed is because he was a surrogate. he was a very important part, one of the first people in the congress to endorse president trump. and now we see that he -- although he has not told the truth about it -- had conversations with russian officials. which why didn't he -- if they were innocuous, why didn't he admit it instead of lying about it? this couldn't be more stark in terms of relationship to the campaign and who the attorney general was