AG Sessions Testifies Before House Judiciary Panel - Part 1 CSPAN November 15, 2017 2:25am-4:12am EST
college. this year we have a little over 525 authors. anything you can think of, we are representing at the miami book far. watch live coverage saturday and sunday starting at 10:30 a.m. eastern on booktv, .-span two >> now to the house judiciary committee, where attorney general jeff sessions testified at an oversight hearing this morning. questioning focused on the investigation into russia's role in the 2016 election. this 4.5 hour hearing is chaired by virginia congressman bob goodlatte. >> the judiciary committee will
come to order. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare recess at any time. we welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on oversight of the department of justice. we begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement. good morning. today, we welcome jeff sessions, to the annual department of justice oversight hearing. mr. attorney general, you have a long and distinguished career of service. you continued that service by leading the department of justice, an agency that by its very nature is prone to controversy because of the varied opinions on what it means to seek and obtain justice. however, you clearly understand the department you need must have confidence of the american people even when your decisions are not always well deceived. -- received. your first year leading the department of justice has not been without difficulty, which is expected at the outset of a
new administration. while much has been done to correct the improper administration of justice under the obama administration, more work must be done to make sure the department is operating to impartially administered justice. our last doj oversight hearing was beyond disappointing. attorney general loretta lynch gave the least transparent testimony i can recall in my time in congress. it was plainly a disservice to the american people. ms. lynch failed to respond substantively to almost every question. and, the attorney general was held in contempt for his own stonewalling for the reckless operations.
i expect mr. attorney general that you will be more willing to candidly answer questions from members on both sides of the aisle. you're going to hear question after question today concerning your knowledge of or involvement with russia and its alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. whether it concerns your work on behalf of now president trump during the campaign or your service in the senate, i suspect this theme will be a constant refrain from my friends on the other side of the aisle. while you understand your effort to recruit yourself was your effort to do the right thing, and believe you as a person with integrity would of been impartial and fair and following the facts wherever they lead. i have chosen as chairman of to let special counsel robert mueller do his job, free from undue political influence. time, however, this committee will do its duty and conduct oversight. we sent two letters to, when in july and another in september calling on you to name a second special counsel to restore the public's confidence in our
justice system. numerous matters remain unresolved. date, the department has not appointed a second special counsel. this committee had no choice but to open our own joint investigation with the house oversight and government reform committee to review doj and fbi's handling of the investigation into former secretary hillary clinton and her mishandling of classified information. as we said earlier this year, it is incumbent on this committee with oversight capacity to ensure the agencies we oversee are above reproach and the justice department in particular remains immune to accusations of politization. the department must evenhandedly you administered justice. administer justice.
you have recused yourself from matters stemming from the election, but there are concerns the partisanship of the fbi and the department has weakened the come these investigations are but a few of the important issues we need to discuss. for instance, we just overwhelmingly reported the usa the act out of committee last week. this i partisan legislation would reauthorize section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act. the administration has chosen to oppose any reform of the law. i understand the desire for a clean reauthorization of this program. i believe this stance is in the speculation that risks further eroding trust in our intelligence apparatus. we hope you can work with you now that the usa and the act which reauthorize the law that is vital to our nation's battle against terrorism while protecting american civil liberties has been reported out of the committee.
this is important given the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in the united states. as we all know, not two weeks ago, eight people were killed and a dozen injured when an isis inspired jihadist drove a rented pickup truck into a credit path to the world trade center in new york. the terrorist threat is real and ongoing. we cannot afford to play politics with national security. i also look forward to continuing to work with you on efforts to reform our nation's criminal justice system. there is bipartisan support to do this and with your help, we can make changes that crackdown on violent offenders while also doing more to rehabilitate federal prisons and curb abuses of the system, as well as excessive punishment. to your credit, since you assumed leadership, there has been a significant increase in the prosecution of firearm offenses in the united states.
for years i have criticized lacks enforcement of the law already on the books, enforcing these laws are the most effective way to combat violent crime and other cities. under leadership, the number of defendants -- defendants charged has increased by nearly 25%. number of defendants charged with armed in drug trafficking has increased 10%. i commend you for your focus on these prosecutions because they will help make our streets safer. there are many matters on which we share common ground, especially when it comes to rectify the failures of the obama administration. earlier this year, the house passed legislation to ban settlement payments to non-victim third parties following your policy directive to shut down the use of such mandatory donations. these reform initiatives followed a concerted effort by the obama administration to use settlements to benefit its political allies. allies. we commend your efforts to
combat illegal immigration, protect our citizens from criminal aliens, and to fight back against so-called century cities. more than two years have passed since kate steinle was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times. we have addressed this issue head on by moving legislation to combat century cities and find and remove criminal gang members. mr. attorney general, our country is at a crossroads. our constituents are concerned our justice system does not work for them. under your leadership, the justice department has taken strides to mitigate the harms done in the prior administration. i am for you to work with us to continue that trend and i think you sincerely for your appearance here today. i know recognize the ranking member of the committee, the gentleman from michigan, mr. conyers, for his statement. mr. conyers: thank you. top of the morning.
in the ordinary course of business, anyone of a dozen topics related to the department of justice would be worthy of its own hearing. and to be clear, i would rather spend our time today discussing the upkeep of the criminal justice system, the enforcement of civil rights, and the work we must all do to ensure access to the ballot box. we must spend our time debating the troubles of a wayward administration. mr. conyers: although this is
the attorney general's first appearance before the house, he has already made three visits to our colleagues in the senate. at his confirmation hearing, he did not havet he communications with the russians. that anth, he testified continuing exchange of information between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government did not happen, at least to my knowledge, and not with me. we now know, of course, that neither of these statements is true. shortly after the attorney general made the first comment, the washington post reported that he met with the russian and twicet are at least during the campaign. in the past month, we have
learned the attorney general must have been very much aware of a continuing exchange of information between the trump campaign and the russian government. in charging documents unsealed last month, george papadopoulos, a foreign-policy advisor to the admits extensive communications with russian contacts. at a march 31, 2016 meeting of the campaign's national security attendede committee, -- advisory committee, chaired by senator sessions, mr. sumdopoulos stated, in and substance, that he had
connections that can help arrange a meeting between then candidate trump and president putin. it does not matter, and has been that the attorney general remembers this meeting after the fact. remembers it so vividly, in fact, that two unarmed sources, the senator shot george down. under oath, knowing in advance that he could be asked about this subject, the attorney general give answers that are at best incomplete. the attorney general can provide some clarification on this problem in his remarks today. uslso hope that he can sure assure us that the department's weathering near daily attacks on its
independence by president trump. and that no office of the toartment is being used pressure the president's political enemies. in recent months, president trump has attacked the beleaguered attorney general and criticized his very weak position on hillary clinton's crimes. the president has talked openly about firing the leadership of the department, including the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the former acting director of the fbi, and special counsel robert mueller. he did fire former fbi director .omey in his own words, "because of that russia thing with trump and russia."
as well as acting attorney and all 46ly yates sitting united states attorneys. last year, he denigrated a federal judge because of his "mexican heritage." was born inriel indiana, by the way. month, in a radio interview, president trump said he was very unhappy with the .ustice department hours later, he proclaimed the military justice system a complete and total disgrace. the one that six with me is the president's july interview with the new york times. , begins byerview once again attacking the attorney general's credibility.
never should have recused himself, the president complains. then, the conversation takes a sinister turn. along, out ofe courtesy, the fbi started reporting to the department of justice, but the fbi person really reports directly to the president of the united states. he goes on. i could have ended the flynn investigation just by saying "they say it cannot be obstruction because you can say it has ended, it is over." case, then the president requires some correction. the fbi reports directly to the attorney general. the founding of
the bureau, it can be obstruction of justice if the president orders an investigation closed with a corrupt motive. what strikes me about these comments is the president's view that the criminal justice system serves him and not the public. believet trump seems to that on a whim, he can bring pressure to bear on his enemies, dismissed charges against his himself andinsulate his family from any consequence. i cannot overemphasize the poses of this perspective to our republic. i have served on this committee long enough to remember another president who shared this view.
myself up on richard nixon's enemy list. we worked to hold that administration accountable, our work is not complete. remember our common responsibility to prevent that kind of abuse from happening again. look to the attorney general's partnership in this effort, but i have begun to worry about his resolve. last night, in a letter sent from the department to chairman as aatte, without so much copy to the ranking member, by theway, they insisted attorney general seems to hold the door open to appointing a new special counsel to cater to the president's political needs.
the fact that this letter was to the majority without the customary and appropriate notice to me indicates that the charge given to the department officials to evaluate the issues has political motivation. now, in his own words, the attorney general's recused from any questions involving investigations that involve secretary clinton. cannot refer an investigation to a second counsel if we lack the evidence to predicate a criminal investigation in the first place. virtually, every clinton related that president trump complains about has been well litigated. andfully examined
completely debunked. still, to quote former attorney ,eneral michael mukasey "putting political opponents in jail for offenses committed in a political setting is something that we do not do here. the thread alone resembles a banana republic -- threat alone resembles a banana. republic" in the -- the now republic." attorney general is generally come to see us within two or three months of taking office. no attorney general in recent memory has taken more than six months before making an appearance here. attorney general sessions has broken that norm. he has had more than 10 months to settle in, making our
communications with the department between hearings that much more important. i date, my colleagues and sent more than 40 letters to the trump administration asking for information necessary to carry out our oversight responsibilities. we have sent more than a dozen of these letters directly to the attorney general. to date, we have not received a single substantive response. we can disagree on matters of ,olicy, mr. attorney general but you cannot keep us in the dark forever. reasonablee a request, we expect you to reply in a prompt and responsive manner, and i hope you can
explain why your department has chosen to ignore these letters. more importantly, i hope that you will be more forthcoming with your answers, both in your testimony today, and in the weeks to come, and i look forward to your testimony and mr. chairman, i think you and your back the balance of my time. >> all other members opening statements will be made part of the record. we welcome our distinguished witness. if you will please rise, i will begin by swearing you in. hand. raise your right do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? thank you. the witness answered in the affirmative. mr. jeff sessions was sworn in as the 84th attorney general of the united states on february 9,
2017, from 1996 to his confirmation to lead the department of justice. mr. sessions served as the united eight senator for alabama. served -- mr.zens sessions served as the united states attorney for the southern district of alabama. alabama attorney general and captain in the united states army reserve. attorney general sessions is a graduate of huntington college and the university of alabama law school. sessions, yourl entire written statements will be entered into the record. we asked you summarize your testimony in five minutes. the ranking member took a few more minutes than that. feel free to do that as well. veryessions: thank you much. mr. chairman, it is an honor to be before this thing wished committee, having served 20 years as your counterpart in the senate judiciary committee. i must note with regret that your announcement of retirement
that our relationship has been good in the past, and i hope it will continue to be good. you have done a fabulous job in leading this committee. on my first day as attorney general, i spoke about "the critical role we as a department play in maintaining and strengthening the rule of law, which forms the foundation of our liberty, our safety, and our prosperity. in this rule of law, we are blessed beyond all nations." i truly believe that. at this department, we must you always can to ensure that it is .reserved and advanced such ideals transcend politics. from that day to did a, we at -- have worked to be faithful to that mission. let me share things we have done initially. the president set up an order to
reduce crime, not to allow crime
to continue to increase. .nd we embrace that mission the violent crime rate has risen, and the homicide rate has risen by more than 20% in just two years. years of violent crime. after a careful review, we have established a reinvigorated initiative. it has been proven to get results in the first years of implementation and reduce violent crime by 4.1%. case studies showing reductions in certain areas where it was intensely applied of up to 42%. we are also focusing on criminals with guns. mr. chairman, we have seen a 20% increase in gun prosecutions.
i am honored to lead the superb men and women of the fbi, the drug, atf, and the united eight marshals service, who work together every day with our state and local partners in this crime-fighting mission that is a responsibility in the department. increasestaggering 61% and the number -- in the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. 150 officers were assaulted every single day. these numbers are on. fortunately, the president understands this, and has directed us to back our men and women in blue. we are making it clear that we stand with our law enforcement partners 100%. they are the solution to crime.
we also protected the rule of department.wn we prohibited so-called third-party settlements, being used to bankroll professional interest groups. we have settled civil cases regarding the affordable care act, birth control mandate that settled the cases of many groups of tax-exempt on groups. the status was wrongfully delayed by the internal revenue service. we also provided legal counsel to this administration in favor of ending several other unlawful policies. this includes president trump's order ending billions in funding for insurance companies that were not appropriated by congress under the affordable care act. lawsuition was filing a against one of the most dramatic erosions of the congressional
appropriations power in our history. house members, you are correct to challenge that. you won in the district court. we believed you were correct. we reversed the policy and had that matter withdrawn. . we put an end to actions by the previous administration to circumvent congress's duly passed immigration laws on the daca. it gave individuals that were here illegally certificates of lawful status, work permits, and the right to participate in social security. now, the issue is in the hands of congress where it belongs. .e have filed briefs lawful redistricting plans, religious liberty, and free speech on college campuses. mission tot is our
restore the american people's confidence in the department of justice by defending the rule of law and enforcing the laws as you have passed them. and it is a mission we are honored to undertake in response to letters from this committee and others. i have directed senior federal prosecutors to make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be open, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources or whether any matters under consideration may merit the appointment of a special counsel. and as you all are aware, the departments general has enacted a review of fbi policies and procedures, which were not followed in a number of matters you addressed. mr. chairman, the letter was addressed to you because it was
andsponse to your letter, that is how it was sent. we will make such decisions hear me, without regard of politics, ideology, or bias. as many of you know, the department has a long-standing policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigation. this policy can be frustrating, i understand, especially when there is great public interest about a matter, but it enhances we act under the law with professionalism and discipline. this policy necessarily precludes any discussion on cases i may be recused from because to do so would confirm the existence of underlying investigations. to the extent a matter comes to thatttention of my office, may warrant consideration of recusal. i review the issue and solve it
with the appropriate ethics officials and make my decision as i promised the senate committee when i was confirmed. lastly, i would like to address the false charges made about my previous testimony. my answers have not changed. i have always told the truth, and i have answered every question as i understood them to the best of my recollection as i will continue to do today. to address recent reports regarding meetings during the campaign attended by papadopoulos and carter page among others. frankly, i had no recollection of this meeting until i saw these news reports. i do not recall that the march 2016 meeting at the trump hotel that mr. papadopoulos attended, but i have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. after reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, i believe i wanted to make clear
to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the russian government or any other foreign government for that matter. but i did not recall this event which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and i would gladly have reported it had i remembered it, because i pushed back against his mayestion that i thought have been improper. as for mr. page, while i do not challenge his recollection, i have no memory of his presence at a dinner at the capitol hill club or any passing conversation he may have had with me as he left the dinner. campaigns,e been in let me just suggest, is that most of you have not participated in a presidential campaign, and none of you in the trump campaign, and it was a
brilliant campaign, i think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one. we traveled sometimes to several places in one day. sleep was in short supply. i was a full-time senator with a very full schedule. i spent close to 20 hours testifying before congress before today. i have been asked to remember details from a year ago, such as who i saw on what day, in what meeting, and who said what, when. and all of my testimony, i can only do my best to answer your questions as i understand them, and to the best of my memory. but i will not accept and reject accusations that i have ever lied. that is a lie. let me be clear. i have at all times conducted myself honorably and in a manner
consistent with the high standards and responsibilities of the office of attorney general, which i revere. i spent 15 years in that department. i have loved that department. i honor that department and will do my best level -- level best to be worthy of your attorney general. story hasbefore, my never changed. i have always told the truth. i answered every question to the best of my recollection and will continue to do so today. with that, mr. chairman, i am honored to take your question. >> thank you, general sessions. we will continue with questions. i recognize myself. under your leadership, the prosecution of firearms offenses have increased over the same period of the previous year. furthermore, the number of defendants charged with using a ofearm is violent crimes drug trafficking rose 10% over the previous year. we have a slide which shows the
increase as compared to the obama era numbers. what do these increased prosecutions of firearms offenses indicate about the department of justice's commitment to fighting violent crime, particularly with the use of firearms, in this country. ? chairman, as ar. formal federal prosecutor who emphasized gun prosecutions, i there is aelieved significant impact in reducing violent crime. professors earlier this year explained that they share this view based on scientific analysis. it will be a high priority of hours. you are correct. if prosecutions fell, one incident that was raised during the texas shooting at the church texas,h sutherland in was the ability of an individual to get a firearm and whether or not they filed correctly their
form before you get one. a question about criminal convictions and court-martial's. prosecutions, i noticed, have jumped by over 50% in the last three or four years. i think those were the worthy prosecutions. when a criminal is carrying a gun during a criminal act of some other kind, that is a clear presentent -- and danger to the public, and those are important and impact reduction of crime. >> as you are anywhere, i and a majority of the members of this committee have requested a special counsel to investigate her secretary ha hillary clinton smith classifying of information with respectynch to former fbi director comey's decision not to prosecute former secretary clinton. i am in receipt of the trenton's
letter from yesterday stating that senior federal prosecutors will review our letters and make recommendations as to whether any matter is not currently under investigation should be opened, require further resources, or marriage a special counsel. do i have your assurance these matters will proceed fairly and expeditiously? mr. sessions: yes, you can, mr. chairman. you can be sure that they will be done without political influence, they will be done correctly, and properly. rep. goodlatte: you also reference an ongoing inspector general investigation into many of the matters we have raised. will you ensure that the ig briefs this committee if necessary? mr. sessions: i will do my best to comply with that. the inspector general is able to announce investigations in a way that we do not on a normal side of the department of justice. i assume you would be able to do that. rep. goodlatte: over the past
year, we have seen numerous apparent disclosures of unmasked names in intelligence reports during which crimes are violated when these unmasked names are disclosed, for example, to the press? how does the department of justice investigate such unauthorized disclosures? mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i could implicate a number of legal prohibitions, and it could clearly be a release of classified information contrary to law. it is a very grave offense and certainly goes against a core policy. government to protect those matters from disclosure. the second part of your question was -- rep. goodlatte: how the department investigates such unauthorized decisions? mr. sessions: we have members of the committee, about nine open investigations of classified leaks in the last three years.
we had 27 investigations opened today. we intend to get to the bottom of these leaks. it has reached epidemic proportions. it cannot be allowed to continue, and we will do our best effort to ensure that it does not continue. rep. goodlatte: and on april 11, you assured a memorandum -- issued a memorandum saying they would make prosecution a higher priority. to your knowledge, the number of federal prosecutions increased asionwide for offenses such harboring aliens, improper entry, and illegal reentry? mr. sessions: i do not have the statistics on that, but i believe there has been some increases in those cases. one thing we have seen is a reduction of attempts to enter the country illegally. that is good news and should result in some decline in some prosecutions. rep. goodlatte: this committee did a great deal of work to
enact legislation last congress. will you continue to work in good faith for me and the members of the committee on both sides of the aisle to craft responsible reforms? mr. sessions: i certainly will, mr. chairman. rep. goodlatte: thank you, general sessions. i recognize the ranking member of the committee, mr. conyers, for five minutes. mr. conyers: thank you, mr. chairman. welcome again mr. attorney general. i would like to put a few statements by the president on the screen. 2017.rst from july 24, so why aren't the committee's and investigators, and of course, our beleaguered attorney general, looking into crooked hillary crimes in russia relations? from november 3,
everybody is asking why the justice department and the fbi isn't looking at all of the dishonesty going on with crooked hillary and the dems. the third. also from november 3. "pocahontas just stated that the the legendary by rigged hillary clinton, the primaries. let's go to the fbi and justice department." i believe he is referring to senator elizabeth warren and that last one. when richard nixon spoke about us that way, at least he had the courtesy to do it behind closed doors. mr. attorney general, a few questions for you. yes or no.
democracy -- in a functioning democracy, is it normal for the leader of a country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents? mr. sessions: is that a question? mr. conyers: yes, that is a question. mr. sessions: is it proper, is that what you're asking? mr. conyers: you answer to me whether it is yes or no. your response? mr. sessions: i did not quite catch the beginning of the question. mr. conyers: in a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents? mr. sessions: mr. conyers, i would say that the department of totice can never be used
retaliate politically against opponents, and that would be wrong. mr. conyers: i interpret that as no. mr. sessions: the answer stands for itself. that would make it a little easier if you just responded yes or no, if you can. here is another. should the president of the united states make public comments that might influence a pending criminal investigation? takeonyers: he should great care and know the issues. mr. sessions: could you respond yes or no? mr. conyers: i don't know exactly the facts of what you're raising and what amounts of the concern you have. i would say it is improper to , aluence -- it would be
president cannot improperly influence an investigation. mr. conyers: ok. mr. sessions: and i have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced. the president speaks his mind. he is bold and direct about what he says. daywe do our duty every based in the laws and facts. mr. conyers: reclaiming my time, i am not impugning these comments as to what you would do in advance. last night, sir, the assistant attorney general sent the chairman a letter suggesting that the attorney general is directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain -- like the sale of uranium in 2010. at your confirmation hearing, you said "i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions
involving those kinds of investigations that involve and that wereton raised during the campaign or to be otherwise connected to it." now, from a yes or no question. are you recused from investigations that involve secretary clinton? mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i ,annot answer that yes or no because under the policies of the department of justice, to announce recusal in any investigation, would repeal the in the existence of that investigation, and the top ethics officials have advised me i should not do so. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from wisconsin for five minutes. >> thank you very much, mr. attorney general.
we are debating whether section 702 should be reauthorized. i would like to talk about that issue. poster that my a campaign committee put up by the university of whitewater campus in the 2014 election very a debate by the u.s. liberty act. it says the government did what government knows what you did last night. the nsa has grabbed your phone calls, facebook polls, and emailed. sensenbrenner think that is an outrageous violation of your policies. i asked the students to vote for me. it worked. my presented on that campus went up 20 points from the previous election. now, we are talking about many of the same issues in terms of section 702, and the foreign intelligence surveillance act
was designed to collect foreign intelligence, not domestic intelligence. in reality, we know that a vast number of americans communications are also collected. the committee took a great cap in trying to balance security and privacy last week when we the usa liberty act, which made significant changes to the program. notably, this legislation specifies two ways a government can query the information under either foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime. the usa liberty act injures the government does not abuse 702 by requiring a warrant to be necessary to access content after querying information for evidence of a crime. now, attorney general sessions, you have stated that several occasions that you believe that a warrant requirement would hinder the government's ability to stop terrorists, yet this
bill already provides the government the move forward foreigna warrant on intelligence in emergency situations. why can't the usa liberty act be the compromise? can't we allow the intelligence community to stop terrorists while protecting the constitutional rights of americans? mr. sessions: we can. the constitutional rights of americans should be protected. actworked on the patriot when it came up with senator hatch, leahy, and others. you are a champion of civil liberties. i would just say that we can do that. the act, as written, as in law today, has been approved by the been found to not be in violation of the law. is first and foremost. i know the committee has decided to put some additional restrictions on the way the act is conducted. we did not think that was lawfully required.
congress can make its own decisions, and we will continue to be able to share our thoughts about how the legislation should be crafted. rep. sensenbrenner: mr. attorney general, the day before the committee marked up this bill, the justice department was actively lobbying members of the committee to oppose the measure, stating it would dismantle section seven of two -- 702. it expires at the end of the year. we have a very short timeline. i want to ask you, whether yes or no, following my friend from us again, do you want to risk the real possibility this program will expire by insisting upon a clean reauthorization without a sunset? mr. sessions: no, we don't want to commit that risk. rep. sensenbrenner: will you commit to working with congress and not against us to ensure to rise,ion 702 israel either the way you wanted or the way we want it?
i almost said mr. chairman. i know you held that office. dispose, tos to give our opinion. i believe the act, as past, that has been reauthorized with an even larger vote last time, is constitutional. , and i amit works worried about additional burdens, particularly a warrant requirement, which could be exceedingly damaging to the effectiveness of the act. youre willing to talk to about some of the concerns that exist out there. hopefully, we can work our way and accept the concerns and fix the concerns you have without going too far. rep. sensenbrenner: with all the respect, there is an emergency exemption in the usa liberty act, which is reported from the committee. that should take care of the problem, and yet, people in your department are saying that this was no good.
offer at face value, if i will let you know hear members of your department actively lobbying to defeat the bill rather than to work something out. i yield back the balance of my time. mr. sessions: i know you will let us know, mr. sensenbrenner. rep. goodlatte: the chair recognizes the gentleman from new york. >> thank you. following up on the questions from mr. conyers, you said "i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to accuse myself." many questions that involve secretary clinton were to be otherwise connected. you stand by that statement, yes or no? mr. sessions: yes. >> thank you. i want to show you of an image of a committee you chaired with than--- then candidate donald trump.
the charging papers filed by special counsel bob mueller described the meeting. mr. papadopoulos told the group he had connections and could help arrange a meeting between donald trump and vladimir putin. papadopoulos continued to communicate with the government on behalf of the campaign and told officials about it. here is the problem. on october 18th of this year, you said under oath in front of the senate judiciary committee, "a continuing exchange between intermediaries did not happen, at least not to my knowledge." you responded "i am not aware of anyone else that did." one, they hadhat p communications with the russians. two, who seem to have been aware. theor no, did you chair
march 31, 2016 meeting of the national security advisory committee? mr. sessions: i did chair that meeting. rep. nadler: is on a, did mr. papadopoulos mention his outreach to the russian government during that meeting? mr. sessions: he made some comments to that effect as i remember after having read it in the newspaper. rep. nadler: i asked you yes or no. i don't have time. there are reports you shut george down on the meeting with putin. is this correct, yes or no? mr. sessions: yes, i pushed back. i will say it that way -- rep. nadler: your answer is yes. so you were obviously concerned by mr. papadopoulos's connections and his possibly arrange a meeting with putin. yes or no, did anyone else at that meeting including then candidate trump, react in any way to what mr. papadopoulos had presented? mr. sessions: i don't recall. rep. nadler: ok, so your testimony is that neither donald trump nor anyone else at the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the russian president
were any concerns about communications between the campaign and the russians? mr. sessions: i don't recall. rep. nadler: we know from multiple sources, including the papadopoulos guilty plea, part of the interview with the intelligence committee, and donald trump's email's, among others, that contrary to your earlier testimony, there were efforts to communicate with the russians on behalf of trump's campaign. we have established the new about some of these efforts, and they cause do such concern that down."ut george i want to know what you did with this information. yes or no, after the meeting, did you take any steps to prevent officials, advisors, or employees from further outreach to the russians? nadler,sions: mr. let me say it this way. i pushed back. i pushed back. i have to be able to answer. i cannot be able to -- rep. nadler: i made -- i only have five minutes. mr. sessions: i am not going to
be able to answer it if i cannot answer completely. rep. nadler: you said he pushed back. we accept that. after the meeting, did you take any further steps to prevent trump campaign officials come advisers, or employees from further outreach to the russians after he pushed back at that meeting? mr. sessions: you alleged there was some further contacts later. i don't believe i had any knowledge of further contacts, and i was not in radial or contact with mr. papadopoulos. rep. nadler: your answer is no? mr. sessions: i am not aware of it. to askdler: i was going you a question of "did you raise the issue with various people?" but your answer is no. mr. sessions: to the best of my recollection. rep. nadler: your testimony is you communicated with no one in the campaign after the meeting because nothing happened. isr testimony therefore it you committed with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the march 31 meeting. mr. sessions: i don't recall. rep. nadler: at some point, you
became aware that the fbi was investigating potential links between the trump campaign manager russian government. of theou became aware investigation, did you ever discuss mr. papadopoulos' effort with anybody at the fbi? mr. sessions: did i discussed the matter with the fbi? ask them questions about what they may have found? i have not had any discussions with mr. mueller or his team or the fbi concerning any factors with regards -- rep. nadler: nobody else at the fbi either? mr. sessions: no. rep. nadler: at the department of justice? mr. sessions: no. rep. nadler:?at the white house know. mr. sessions: rep. nadler: any member of congress? mr. sessions: i don't know if the some stations may have come up at some not to obtain the information. with regard to your blog question, i do not recall at this moment, sitting here, any such discussion. it is important for me to --
rep. goodlatte: the time with the gentleman has expired. we have a lot of people waiting to ask questions. mr. shabbat, five minutes. >> thank you. does your recusal from investigations related to the interference by russian 2016 presidential campaign apply to any investigations regarding efforts by the democratic national committee and the clinton campaign to secretly fund a scoreless and what -- scu rrilous dossier on president trump? anything that arises in this nature that may be or may not be connected to my recusal on the question of the campaign and russia would be discussed between me, the senior ethics advisor, at the department of justice, and that is how i make my decision. that is what i promised to do when i was confirmed before the
senate judiciary committee, and that is what i will do. i am unable to provide information to you as to what decision would -- has been made in this matter. rep. shabbat: -- mr. chabot: thank you very much. i'm not and never was a prosecutor but did criminal defense work back in the day when i practiced law for almost 20 years. it seems to me that a presidential campaign using a law firm as a conduit to pay for activities with which the campaign itself doesn't want to be directly associated is more than just dirty politics, it's also quite possibly illegal. to me it seems that this is at least a violation of campaign finance laws for failure to accurately disclose the actual recipients of campaign disbursements. however, this type of arrangement is not illegal if
it's not illegal under current law, i fear we're risking opening pandora's box with all sorts of underhanded activities by campaigns being laundered through law firms and shielded under attorney-client privilege. as the chief law enforcement official in this country, do you share a similar concern? in your opinion, is it legal under current law for a presidential campaign to hide its funding of the compilation and dissemination of political dirt on its opponent by using a law firm to directly pay for the work? mr. sessions: i would think that those matters are worthy of consideration. you but as to the details of them and me express a comment today i'm unable to do so. mr. chabot: thank you. let me shift to something different. federal law currently still cites marijuana as a dangerous drug, still illegal under federal law, yet a number of states have -- for both medical purposes, now even for recreational purposes, have basically made it legal.
what is your department's policy on that relative to enforcing the law? mr. sessions: our policy is that the same, really, fundamentally, as the holder policy. which is that the federal law remains in effect and a state can legalize marijuana for its law enforcement purposes, but it still remains illegal with regard to federal purposes. mr. chabot: it seems to me there's always been a tremendous amount of gray area in that whole field which i think as a nation we need to look much more closely at, both from the state's point of view and the federal government point of view. that's just my feeling on that.
running out of time. i have four other things. let me go to one final thing here. i have been very involved in the area of victims' rights. i was the following henry hyde's leadership on this introduced the victims rights constitutional amendment years back. various pieces of legislation on victims' rights. and i have also worked closely with the parents of murdered children. and when you talk about something that affects one's family, there is nothing that affects a family more adversely than something like that happening. we still have capital punishment on the books, both at the federal level and many of our states. yet these families are dragged left and right up, up and down, back and forth into hearing after hearing. cases can drag on for more than 20 years before the imposition of capital punishment actually occurs. in many instances it never does. while these people are behind bars, oftentimes they attack, sometimes kill guards, attack, sometimes kill other inmates. i would be interested to see what is your intentions relative to capital punishment if in
country? mr. sessions: let me state capital punishment, federal government has capital punishment for a number of offenses. we have within the department a recommendation process through appointed committee to seek or not to seek a death penalty when a case is charged. sometimes it's a complex thing. but i believe the death penalty, the federal death penalty, is a part of our law. i think it's a legitimate penalty. it's constitutional. and we will do our duty even if those circumstances that require the imposition of the death penalty. mr. chabot: thank you very much.
my time expired. >> the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from california, mrs. lofgren, for five minutes. ms. lofgren: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. attorney general, for being who are today. former national security advisor michael flynn is under investigation because of his work and ties to foreign governments. according to various reports, much of his work with these foreign governments went unreported when mr. flynn was required to make certain disclosures by law. as chairman of the trump campaign, national security advisor committee and lead advisor on the trump transition team, i think you worked closely with mr. flynn. i'd like you to answer a few yes or no questions about mr. flynn. knowing that mr. flynn is under investigation, i'm going to stick to subject matter that predates both the special counsel investigation and your appointment as attorney general. the foreign policy platform at the republican national convention undertook dramatic changes. did you discuss changes to the republican foreign policy platform with mr. flynn at any point during the campaign? mr. sessions: i don't recall it. i was not at the convention when
the platform committee met. ms. lofgren: you were the lead of the campaign, but you don't recall discussing it with him? mr. sessions: that may be a bit of a stretch. i was asked to lead, inform, and find some people who would join and meet with mr. trump to give him advice and support regarding foreign policy. and i did so. although we were not a very effective group, really. ms. lofgren: you met with ambassador kislyak in november of 2016. did you discuss your meetings kislyak with mr. flynn? mr. sessions: did i discuss mr.
flynn with him? ms. lofgren: did you discuss your meeting with the ambassador with mr. flynn? mr. sessions: i met, i think, some 25 ambassadors that year. i did meet once in my office with mr. kislyak, and do i not recall and don't believe i communicated any of that information to mr. flynn. ms. lofgren: are you aware of any meetings between the ambassador and mr. flynn that might have occurred around the time of your meeting with the ambassador? mr. session: i do not. ms. lofgren: former acting attorney general sally yates testified one week into the trump administration she notified the administration that mr. flynn had lied to vice president pence about discussing sanctions with the ambassador. as part of the transition team and the president's pick for attorney general, in january, were you notified when the administration was notified of mr. flynn's lie and his susceptibility to russian blackmail?
mr. sessions: i don't believe so. ms. lofgren: we now know that you were aware of the efforts of carter page and george papadopoulos to meet and establish communications with the russian government. did you at any -- mr. session: not necessarily so at least from what mr. carter page says. i don't recall that. ms. lofgren: all right. did you at any point discuss with michael flynn the possibility of then candidate trump or his surrogates meeting with the russian government? mr. sessions: i do not recall such a conversation. ms. lofgren: did you know that flynn was working for the turkish government while acting as a surrogate for the trump campaign? mr. sessions: i don't believe i had the information to that effect. ms. lofgren: did you know he was working for the turkish government at any point after the election? mr. session: i don't believe so. ms. lofgren: were you or anyone on the trump campaign aware of mr. flynn's efforts to extradite turkish cleric gulan?
mr. sessions: i read that in the paper recently. but i don't recall ever being made aware of that before this recent release. ms. lofgren: you read about it in the newspaper afterwards. after the inauguration, you did not know that the fbi was requested to conduct a new review of turkish 2016 extradition requests for mr. gulan? did you know about that? mr. sessions: i'm aware that the turkish government continued to press the federal government with regard to seeking the return of mr. gulan to turkey. ms. lofgren: did you know -- mr. sessions: my department had a role to play in that although
i am not at liberty to discuss the details. ms. lofgren: did you know the turkish government allegedly offered $15 million for mr. flynn to kidnap mr. gulan? mr. sessions: absolutely not. you mean -- it -- no. ms. lofgren: on -- >> the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from iowa, mr. king, for five minutes. mr. king: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, general sessions, for your testimony today and service to the country over the years you have been front and center. a number of things i wanted to discuss. one of them is the daca situation. and it seems as i recall made a public statement some time back about the constitutionality of the policy that was implemented by president obama. would you care to reiterate that position today? mr. sessions: well, the president, president obama, indicated multiple times that he felt that daca, he didn't have the power to do daca in the way
it was done. and eventually they must have changed their mind and executed this policy to make persons in -- take persons who were in the country unlawfully and give them lawful status, work permits, and even participation in social security. i felt for some time that was not proper. a federal district court in texas so held. and the fifth circuit court of appeals also so held that it was unlawful. so, what happened was we worked on the research but the department of homeland security withdrew the policy because it was not defensible, in my view. mr. king: and established a date to close it down of march 5 of next year? mr. sessions: that's right. the homeland security asked for time to wind this program down. and i thought that was appropriate. mr. king: there's a lot of public dialogue about what kind
of legislation might be passed in conjunction with the daca policy. that's up in the air right now. i'm noticing the democrats are saying we're going to have everything we want on daca or we'll shut the government down. it causes me to think about what should happen if congress reaches an impasse and there is no passage of any legislation to extend the daca policy. if the president should decide to honor -- on or before that march 5 date that he wants to extend the policy, what would your position be? mr. sessions: that's hypothetical, i don't think i should speculate on that. i do think congress will have to give it thought. we have a law now. it's in place. congress passed. and congress would have to change it. mr. king: i would just remark that i'm watching a lot of people be rewarded for violation of the rule of law. i appreciate your emphasis on the rule of law in your testimony today. multiple times coming back to that point.
mr. sessions: mr. king, i would say it is correct in my view, i think you probably share it, that something is lost whenever you provide an amnesty. it's a price that will be paid if that's done, but sometimes circumstances are such it may need to be done. but we need to be careful. mr. king: thank you. we have been made aware here in this committee there is a significant backlog in immigration cases. have you presented any request to congress or statement that could inform us as to how many resources you might need. how many judges you might need to get that backlog caught up? and idea how many we might need to maintain an anticipated level? mr. sessions: that's a very good question. yes, we worked on it. we have some preliminary information. we're seeking a total of about 360, 370 judges. we have added about 50 to the total. we have shortened the time process for selecting people. not shorting the training program. and we're adding judges. i would say on the backlog it's gone up dramatically. it's now the 600,000. but the last two or three months we're almost not adding to the backlog. i'm told by the additional work
we're doing by january we will not be adding to the backlog but hopefully reducing it. that would be a real change in the trends that we were heading on. mr. king: thank you. i ask you to reflect as this committee anticipates the potential of a special counsel to broaden this look that i think is forced upon us in a reluctant way. i certainly support the special counsel. to look back at some times here that i believe should be incorporated into this and that is, i look back at october 16, 2015, when barack obama was speaking of hillary clinton and whether she might have violated any security clauses in our statute, in particular the 18 u.s.c. 793, when he said that no impression that mrs. clinton had purposely tried to hide something or to squirrel away any information. made the point of intent behind that, in april after that, april 10, a similar statement, she would never, meaning hillary clinton, she would never intentionally put america in any kind of jeopardy. those words of intent caught my attention when i heard james comey use that very word july 5, 2016, and it seems as though he latched on to the statements made by president obama and a more or less implied and implemented an end to interpretation of the statute
that word "intent" as if it were a condition before there could be any prosecution for a violation of 18 u.s.c. 793. i don't know that i've question on that. i want to make sure i put that into the record so it's under consideration. >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentlewoman from texas, ms. jackson lee, for five minutes. ms. jackson lee: i thank you very much. mr. general, do you believe in this book, the constitution of the united states? mr. sessions: yes. ms. jackson lee: and will abide by it, all of your intention? mr. sessions: that's exactly correct. ms. jackson lee: i thank you so very much. i took the liberty of reviewing federal crimes against children, particularly those dealing with sexual or physical abuse. as you well know, lee coffman, wendy miller, debi watson gibson, and beverly young nelson, these young women have accused this individual, judge moore, who is running for a federal office, the united states senate, child sexual activity. do you believe these young women? mr. sessions: i have no reason to doubt these young women. ms. jackson lee: with that in
mind, if you believe these young women, do you believe judge moore should be seated in the senate if he wins? and will you introduce investigations by the d.o.j. regarding his action? mr. sessions: we will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated. this kind of case would normally be a state case. i would say, representative jackson lee, that the ethics people at the department of justice, i have talked to them about that when this campaign started, it's a seat i used to hold, they advised me that the attorney general should not be involved in this campaign. i have friends in the campaign. ms. jackson lee: thank you, mr. general. mr. sessions: i have adhered to -- ms. jackson lee: i want to make sure if he comes to the united states senate that there would be the possibility of referring his case for at least a federal review by the department of justice.
mr. sessions: we will do our duty. ms. jackson lee: let me also refer you back to the meeting on march 31, 2016, with mr. papadopoulos. you well know that mr. papadopoulos in addition to his comments in the meeting regarding a meeting between trump and mr. putin had a series of meetings dealing with, as you can see trump, mr. papadopoulos, and you leading that committee. i can't imagine your memory would fail you so much. moving on, he was in that meeting. you also had steven miller, a senior policy advisor, who was noted in the stipulated statement of defense to receive conversation from mr. papadopoulos about his constant interaction with the russians to intrude in the 2016 election. you continued in the october 18 meeting before the judiciary committee in the senate to not answer the question. now in light of the facts that are now part of the record, do you wish to change your testimony before the senate
intelligence committee on june 13, 2017, where you said i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or foreign officials? let me jump to the final part, "i have no knowledge, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the trump campaign." do you want to admit under oath that you did not tell the truth or misrepresented? or do you want to correct your testimony right now? mr. sessions: you're referring to my testimony -- ms. jackson lee: before the senate intelligence committee. my time is short and i have two more questions. mr. sessions: i'm not able to respond because i don't think i understand -- ms. jackson lee: i'm asking your intelligence committee testimony -- do you want to change it where you indicated you had no knowledge of the involvement of the trump individuals in involved in conversations regarding the trump campaign and russia? mr. miller gave -- supported mr. trump's press conference where he said russia, if you're listening, i hope you will be able to find the 30,000 emails. do you want to change your
testimony that was where you said, "i have no knowledge of any such conversation about anyone connected to the trump campaign regarding russians involved in the campaign"? that was a testimony on june 13. mr. sessions: i'm not able to -- ms. jackson lee: let me move forward. mr. sessions: let me say this, mr. chairman. ms. jackson lee: let me move to a document. the gentleman keeps saying can he not recall. he cannot recall. >> the gentlewoman will suspend. the witness wants to answer the question she asked him. ms. jackson lee: i should be given extra time. do i not have extra time. >> the gentlewoman will suspend. the witness will answer the question. ms. jackson lee: yes or no. does he want to change his testimony in the intelligence committee? mr. sessions: i would say this. i stand by this testimony at the intelligence committee.
i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with the campaign or election in the united states. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations. by anyone connected to the trump campaign. ms. jackson lee: thank you very much for that. mr. sessions: what i did say in my opening statement, what i explained in october just a few weeks ago when i was asked about the matter, did i have any knowledge of anyone who had talked to the russians, i indicated that hi not recalled -- that i had not recalled that buting when that occurred, would have been pleased to have responded and explained it if i recalled it. i have tried to be honest about that. give you my best response. and did throughout all the testimony i have given. ms. jackson lee: you stand by your testimony. thank you very much. are you familiar with the names
eric garner, walter scott, tamir rice? my question is as i hold up the poster dealing with the report under your jurisdiction, black identity extremists, it is interesting to me that you are opposing individuals who are posing lethal force, similar to the attack on reverend dr. martin luther king, but there seems to be no record with the tiki torch parade in charlottesville. "jews will not replace us. " why is there an attack on black activists versus any reports dealing with the alt right and white nationalists? answer that question quickly. is anyone investigating that? mr. sessions: when was that report completed? ms. jackson lee: august of 2017. mr. sessions: i have not studied that report. ms. jackson lee: i ask you to because it's an attack on individual who are simply trying to get grievances. we have found mandatory minimums and over incarceration has been the history of criminal justice. we were moving toward criminal justice reform which you oppose as a united states senator. now you intend to return toward discredit law and order policies going to make america great.
dollars.taxpayer do you have any interest in rehabilitating those incarcerated, recognizing that mandatory minimums created the opportunity for over incarceration rather than telling your prosecutors to prosecute on every single crime? is there any opportunity to work with your office to deal with progressive ways of dealing with criminal justice reform at this time? yes or no. mr. sessions: yes. i would just respond and cite senator durbin and i worked together to reduce the crack cocaine penalties some years ago. it probably -- ms. jackson lee: would you -- >> the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the witness is allowed to answer the last question. the time of the gentlewoman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from california, mr. issa, for five minutes. mr. issa: thank you, mr. chairman. general sessions, it's good to see you again. i don't speak russian and i
don't meet with the russians and i don't really want to ask about those questions today. but i do have some very important questions. mr. sessions: congressman issa, you way that but i bet you have met with some russians. and if you in your lifetime, and taking those words at face value, somebody might accuse you of not being honest. that's what they have done to me. mr. issa: you are absolutely right. that is the challenge as a member of the foreign affairs committee i meet with lots of ambassadors. i don't want to try to remember everyone and everything that was discussed in what i thought was a pro forma meeting. there were a couple of areas left over from previous administration i would like to talk to you about. one is we sent loretta lynch, general lynch, a letter related to sober homes. a predicament. the predicament is straightforward. if -- her answer, to be honest, to chairman goodlatte and the rest of us, was not satisfactory. we have given your staff a copy of it. essentially sober living homes are nothing but boarding houses.
they are required to provide no care whatsoever to the alcoholic or recovering drug abuser because that has to be done somewhere else. they don't qualify as sober homes. and yet currently there is in the ninth circuit decision that cause cities to be unable to regulate them in a way that would prevent people from simply buying houses in a row in a very prestigious neighborhood and turning them into these, if you will, sober living homes, which are again boarding houses with 15 or more people. would you agree to work with us to try to find and appropriate way to align your enforcement of the americans with disability act, and your enforcement of the fair housing act with the necessity for cities to be able to, essentially, regulate how many people live in a home? mr. sessions: yes, i would be pleased to do that.
these are important issues because a lot of money something spent and some of it's not wisely in these areas. mr. issa: a lot is federal dollars being squandered to the benefit of people that are speculating. the second one is the army corps of engineers case, are you familiar with it? mr. sessions: i'm not. mr. icy: i'd like you to become familiar. during your administration an assistant u.s. attorney on your behalf argued that the waters of the u.s., which is not a valid regulation delivered to congress and eligible under c.r.a. to be considered or rejected, continued to argue that that was law. would you agree that your attorneys on your behalf should not argue regulations have i -- which have not been delivered to congress and as a result are not eligible for c.r.a. review? mr. sessions: mr. issa, i now recall the case. i didn't recall it by name. that matter was intensely
reviewed by a new assistant attorney for the -- acting, for the environment and natural resources division. after great consideration, we felt -- it was advised to me and i approved going forward with that position in court. i will take responsibility for it. but i got to tell you we did look at it very hard. mr. issa: in general, you would agree if a regulation is created or some other words of the executive branch, they don't have the weight of law unless they are delivered to congress so we have an opportunity to review them under the congressional review act. mr. sessions: that would sound correct. mr. issa: my last question is less of a softball. neither one of these are softballs, very important to california. but in a previous congress the ways and means committee of the united states house voted for and referred criminal charges against lois lerner.
i also was involved in investigating her wrongful activity. they referred criminal charges and they did so under a statute, that says, i'll paraphrase it, that the u.s. attorney for the district of columbia shall present to the grand jury the following. and then they played out the criminal charges. the previous attorney general ordered the u.s. attorney or u.s. attorney and district made a decision not to enforce that. now, the statute as we understand it is not a statute that says you will look at this and decide independently. it actually says it shall be presented to the grand jury. will you commit to review that and if you agree with us as to what the statute says, we think it's pretty plain english, order a u.s. attorney to present you a -- to a grand jury. and if they no bill it, fine. but present it consistent with congressional and statutory law? mr. sessions: i will review that more personally. but the department of justice
view has been it takes a full vote of the house to accomplish that act. and i'm not sure where that leaves us. i will give it a personal review which i have not done. mr. issa: if you can stop the clock for one second. if the entire house voted to the time -- >> the time of the gentleman has expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from tennessee, mr. cohen. mr. cohen: thank you, sir. mr. attorney general, first i noted you went to the 50th anniversary of the selma, alabama, march. i commend you for that. you were a sponsor of the gold medal for the folks that marched. having done that, i would like to ask you what have you done as attorney general to see to it that fringes and others who have been discriminated for years in voting have more access to the ballot box? mr. sessions: we will
absolutely, resolutely defend the right of all americans to vote. including our african-american brothers and sisters. it cannot -- never be suggested that people are blocked from voting. we have done a number of things in the department of justice -- mr. cohen: let me ask you this, mr. attorney general. it's a fact, there have been studies that show that voter i.d. is more discriminatory in its effect on african-americans and latinos than anything else. will you stop defending voter i.d. law cases? mr. sessions: no.will you stop e id law cases? the supreme court has approved photo id. a can be done in discriminatory way, which is not proper and should not be approved. it is federal law that, properly handled and written voter id law is lawful. cohen: we have a greater
responsibility than anyone else in this country to see to it that african-americans get a chance at the ballot. they were slaves for 200 plus years. they were under jim crow and were not allowed to vote. and they are still being discriminated against. i would ask you to look out voter day laws come election day voting, early voting's, and other indices that allowed people to vote that have been stopped. on marijuana, you said you are doing the same as holder alledge -- folder and lynch. -- holder and lynch. will you abide by congressional appropriations limitations on marijuana when it conflicts with sick laws? mr. sessions: i believe -- with state laws? mr. sessions: i believe we are bound on that.
your -- replieve cohen: i believe your work on cocaine was good. that hearing it to discriminate against the disparity against african-americans and minorities and you ought to look at that. mr. sessions: the net effect of that legislation was to significantly -- cohen: it was good, sir. it may be the better analysis of the 18 to one. it is generally considered a more dangerous drug. cohen: heroine is a much more dangerous drug than marijuana. would you agree? mr. sessions: yes.
rep. cohen: 29 states have legalized it for medical purposes. brandeis famously said that the states are the laboratories of democracy. i would hope you will look at marijuana and look at states as laboratories of democracy and see how they have helped. in states where they have medical marijuana, they have 28% lower opioid abuse. i would hope you would take a look at that. mr. sessions: we will be looking at some rigorous analysis on the marijuana usage and how it plays out. i'm not as optimistic as you. cohen: you said was a good people don't smoke marijuana. mr. sessions: let me explain.
cohen: are any of these not good people? mr. sessions: let me tell you how that came about, congressman. the question is what do you do about drug use, the epidemic we are seeing in the country, and how do you reverse it? part of that is a cultural thing . i explain how, when i became united states attorney in 1981 and the drugs are being used widely, over a period of years, it became unfashionable, unpopular, and people were saying -- it was seen assets that good people did not use marijuana. -- subtexte subtests of that statement. rep. cohen: one last question.
alabama or auburn? [laughter] did the fbi paid christopher steel. mr. sessions: where i am? >> the author of the dossier? mr. sessions: those are matters you will have to direct to may be the special counsel. >> why is that? i am not able to reveal internal investigatory matters that is under the investigation of anybody, but particularly i think -- >> this happened in the summer of 2016. the democratic national committee take to produce a dossier. we know that the author was christopher steel. he was on the payroll of the fbi. i want to know that is the case. mr. sessions: i am not able to provide an answer. >> did the fbi provide the dossier? mr. sessions: i am not able to
answer that. >> do you know if the fbi did the established process, protocol command evaluating claims made in the dossier? mr. sessions: i am not able to answer that. comeyn fbi director james briefed president-elect trump up in new york about the dossier. shortly thereafter, the fact that that meeting took place in the subject of the meeting was the dossier was late to cnn. do you know who leaked that information? mr. sessions: i do not. >> do you know who leaked that information? mr. sessions: that would be under the powers of the special counsel.
>> i appreciate your service in the senate and the justice department. ,rankly, i appreciate yesterday the letter saying you were considering appointing a special counsel, that you sent us. my concern is we sent you a letter three and a half months spread -- afor a second special counsel. if you are just now considering it, what will it take to get a special counsel? we know that james comey misled the american people in the summer of 2016 when he called the clinton investigation a matter. we know fbi director was drafting an exoneration letter before the investigation was complete. met withoretta lynch former president bill clinton on the tarmac in phoenix. after that meeting, when she was corresponding with public relations people at the justice
department, she was using the name elizabeth carlyle. as i said before, if you're just talking golf and grandkids, you can probably use your real name. we know mr. khan they publicized of the investigation and we know he made the final decision on whether to prosecutors or not. and then, when he gets fired, he links a government document through a friend to "the new york times" and what was that all? to create a special counsel. and it cannot be any special counsel. it has to be bob mueller who was his friend and mentor and special counsel -- special counsel. main question is what will it take -- not to mention the dossier information -- what will it take to get a special counsel? mr. sessions: it will take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of
a special -- sen. jordan: is that analysis going on right now? mr. sessions: it is in the manual and the department of justice, what is required. we have only two. the first was the waco, janet reno, and mr. mueller. those are factual situations and we will use the proper standards and that is the only thing i can tell you, mr. jordan. butcan have your idea, sometimes we have to studied what the facts are and do -- and evaluate whether the standard requires a special counsel. mr. sessions: connotative clinton campaign and the democratic national committee paid for the dossier. we know that happened. it sure looks like the fbi was paying the author of that document. and it sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government to then turn in opposition research
a national quilt enquirer story. that's what it looks like. and i'm asking you doesn't that warned, in conditions -- in addition to we know about james comey in 2016 doesn't that warrant a special counsel? mr. sessions: mr. comey is no longer the director of the fbi. we have an excellent man of integrity and ability and i think he will do an outstanding job and i am very happy. sen. jordan: he is not here. and you are. say looksns: i would like it not enough basis to appoint a special counsel. johnson: thank you. general, you have led a remarkable career over the last an attorney in
private practice, as the attorney general of alabama, than the u.s. attorney in alabama, later the u.s. senator of alabama, and now the attorney general of the united states of america. you made a professional judgment yourself you recused from the investigation of the russian interference in the 2016 election. you have caught a lot of flack for that decision. what i want to know is why did you recused yourself? mr. sessions: thank you very much. i told the senate judiciary committee when i was confirmed that i would evaluate those matters. i would seek the counsel of the senior ethics advisor -- rep. johnson:: my question is why did you recuse yourself? mr. sessions: i will get to that. that.uated they showed me something i was not familiar with. the code of federal regulations says, if you participate in a
substantial role in a campaign in -- a department of justice employee should not participate in that investigation. i felt that was correct. x not because i had any concern about anything i had done previously. nott were to me, if i were bound by that, i don't see how any other people in the department of justice could be expected to follow the rules of the department either. for johnson: you did dissipate in the firing of the fbi director who is leading the investigation of the russian interface and -- russian interference in the 2016 election. for you contacted by the donald trump administration? donald trump himself or any of his political or campaign request tobout their fire jim comey?
mr. sessions: i am not able to and cannot reveal conversations with the president of the united states or his top advisers. to. johnson: with regards the at&t proposed acquisition of time warner, which owns cnn, it appears to be a vertical merger, much like the comcast-nbc-universal merger that doj approved. treatment ofts comcast-nbc-universal, doj has suggested strongly that it will not approve the at&t time warner merger unless time warner sells off cnn's parent company, turner broadcasting. your boss-known that has a great disdain for cnn,
which he calls fake news. has i want to know it is the white house or any individual in or on behalf of the trump administration or the trump political team or campaign , excluding staff from sec or doj, has anybody contacted you, your office, or your signs regarding that at&t-time warner acquisition? mr. sessions: first, i would say that i don't accept and cannot accept the accuracy of that news report. your department has not told time warner that -- and at&t -- that they must shed turner broadcasting? mr. sessions: our work is professional. rep. johnson: is that a false report or a true report? mr. sessions: i'm able to accept
as accurate news reports that have come out on that. rep. johnson: testifying before the senate judiciary committee, senator sass asked you if the department had taken adequate action to prevent election meddling in the future. you stated there was no review underway of the cyber security vulnerabilities. have you requested a review of what laws need to be up dated in order to protect our elections from foreign influence? mr. sessions: we have discussed those matters, but no completion has been done. rep. johnson: are you completing a review at this time? mr. sessions: yes. our team is looking at that. the fbi has real skills in that area. we are not anywhere near where i would like is to be yet. rep. johnson: what individual in your department is leading that inquiry mr. sessions: we would
be working with voting rights section, criminal section, ,ational security section probably is the most knowledgeable in the hacking area as well as the expertise in the fbi. rep. johnson: thank you. mr. attorney general, first of all, i want to thank you for all your efforts to restore the rule of law. nothing could be more important to our justice system and nothing could be more important to protecting the lives of frankly keeping all americans safe. in particular, many of us appreciate your efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities that blatantly ignore federal immigration laws, to combat federal gangs that prey on our communities, to return to robots prosecutions of drug -- robust
prosecutions of drug cases, and to safeguard religious liberties enshrined in her constitution. i would like to go to sanctuary cities. i have an waiting for 20 years for a president and an administration that will enforce current immigration laws. thatroduced a bill in 1996 outlawed sanctuary cities. the law is there and i want to thank you for you -- are being willing to enforce the law to save lives. like toerally, i would ask you if you feel that there are any immigration laws, and if so, which ones, that need to be better enforced? mr. sessions: they're absolutely improved. even some i know you worked on that and the chairman has worked on that with some excellent legislation. that isy believe
professional legislation. it would be tremendously helpful. we have to deal with numbers. when you create a mechanism by people ine had 5000 fearwho claimed a credible . last year, it was 95,000. this is creating hearings and backlogs that were never intended to be part of the system. it did not happen before. there are so many things out there that burn our law enforcement officers, make it more difficult, more expensive, more lengthy to complete these things. we just got to make up our mind. we have to make up your mind. do we want a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest. or do we want open borders and we are not going to enforce it?
thank you for your leadership, mr. smith. i know you will be leaving this body also and i have enjoyed so much the honor of working with you. i will end with that. >>. we will take a break the committee will stand in recess for 10 minutes. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017]