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>>> THIS IS AN NBC NEWS SPECIAL
REPORT.
THE SESSIONS HEARING.
HERE'S LESTER HOLT.
>> GOOD DAY, EVERYONE.
WE'RE ABOUT TO WITNESS THE
LATEST TURN IN THE INVESTIGATION
INTO WHETHER THERE ARE TIES
BETWEEN PRESIDENT TRUMP'S
CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIAN OFFICIALS.
IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS ATTORNEY
GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS WILL
TESTIFY BEFORE THE SENATE
INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE IN AN
OPEN SESSION.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ARE
EXPECTED TO QUESTION SESSIONS
ABOUT THE FIRING OF FBI DIRECTOR
JAMES COMEY, ABOUT HIS RUSSIAN
CONTACTS DURING THE CAMPAIGN AND
HIS DECISION BY SESSIONS TO
RECUSE HIMSELF FROM THE RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION.
OUR TEAM IS STANDING BY WITH
FULL COVERAGE OF THIS DAY.
NBC'S PETER ALEXANDER IS IN THE
HEARING ROOM.
PETER, SET THE STAGE.
A WEEK AFTER THE COMEY HEARING.
>> YEAH, LESTER.
THIS IS GOING TO BE ANOTHER
HIGH-TENSION DAY OF TESTIMONY
EXPECTED FROM THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL, JEFF SESSIONS.
TO GIVE YOU A SENSE, THIS IS THE
FIRST TIME THAT HE IS GOING TO
BE TESTIFYING IN AN OPEN HEARING
SINCE HE WAS CONFIRMED.
THAT'S ABOUT FIVE MONTHS AGO.
WE'LL DRILL DOWN ON SOME OF THE
LIKELY QUESTIONS HE'LL FACE.
AMONG THEM, IF HE RECUSED
HIMSELF FROM THE RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION, WHY DID HE STILL
TAKE PART IN RECOMMENDING THE
FIRING OF THE FBI DIRECTOR,
JAMES COMEY.
BEYOND THAT, HIS MEETINGS, HIS
CONTACTS WITH THE RUSSIAN
AMBASSADOR, SERGEY KISLYAK.
HE INITIALLY WAS NOT FORTHCOMING
ABOUT TWO OF THEM.
THERE IS SOME SUSPICION THERE
MAY HAVE BEEN A THIRD MEETING AS
WELL TO HAVE TAKEN PLACE DURING
THE CAMPAIGN.
WHAT WILL HE SAY ABOUT THAT.
BEYOND THAT, HOW DID HE TAKE
JAMES COMEY'S COMMENTS TO HIM
SUGGESTING THAT COMEY DIDN'T
WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE WITH
PRESIDENT TRUMP.
DID HE ACT ON THAT, WHAT ACTIONS
DID HE TAKE.
THOSE WILL BE AMONG THE
QUESTIONS THAT SESSIONS IS
PRESSED ON DURING THE COURSE OF
THIS HEARING TODAY.
>> ALL RIGHT, PETER, AS WE WATCH
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE SLOWLY
FILE IN AND TAKE THEIR SEATS AND
CONFERRING WITH STAFF THERE,
LET'S CONTINUE AROUND THE HORN.
OUR POLITICAL DIRECTOR AND
MODERATOR OF "MEET THE PRESS"
CHUCK TODD IS IN OUR WASHINGTON
BUREAU.
CHUCK, WILL WE LARGELY BE
LOOKING FOR A REBUTTAL TO WHAT
COMEY SAID HERE?
>> WE'LL SEE IF IT'S A
FULL-FLEDGED REBUTTAL.
I THINK JEFF SESSIONS HAS A
COUPLE OF DIFFERENT CHALLENGES
AND THEY MAY BE IN COMPETITION
WITH EACH OTHER.
ON ONE HAND HE HAS TO
RE-ESTABLISH HIS OWN CREDIBILITY
TO LEAD A JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
THAT FEELS LIKE IT'S BEEN BADLY
DAMAGED POLITICALLY, BADLY
DAMAGED BY THE TESTIMONY FROM
JAMES COMEY, BADLY DAMAGED BY
SOME OF THE ACTIONS THAT PERHAPS
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL DID
INADVERTENTLY OR NOT WHEN IT
COMES TO THOSE LACK OF REPORTING
THOSE MEETINGS ON RUSSIA.
BUT HE'S ALSO GOT A CREDIBILITY
PROBLEM WITH HIS BOSS, THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
WHO IS ANGRY AT HIM FOR RECUING
HIMSELF IN THE FIRST PLACE SO
HE'S GOT DIFFERENT MASTERS HE'S
TRYING TO FEED.
HE'S GOT A JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
UNDER SIEGE AND HE'S GOT TO
REPRESENT THE CAREER FOLKS
THERE, AND AT THE SAME TIME
SOMEHOW RE-ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY
WITH HIS BOSS.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU CAN DO BOTH
AT THE SAME TIME.
>> ALL RIGHT, CHUCK.
OUR CHIEF WHITE HOUSE
CORRESPONDENT, HALLIE JACKSON,
IS WATCHING ALL THIS.
HALLIE, AFTER THE COMEY HEARING,
THE PRESIDENT ESSENTIALLY
DROPPED THE MIKE, SAID THAT HE
GOT A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH,
THERE WAS NO INVESTIGATION AND
ALL BUT DECLARED IT OVER.
HOW CLOSELY WILL THE WHITE HOUSE
BE WATCHING THIS PARTICULAR
SESSION?
>> WELL, THE PRESIDENT WON'T BE
WATCHING IT, WE KNOW, LESTER,
FROM HERE AT THE WHITE HOUSE AND
THAT IS BECAUSE HE IS ON AIR
FORCE ONE RIGHT NOW HEADED TO
WISCONSIN.
THAT PLANE DOES HAVE A
TELEVISION, SO IT IS LIKELY THE
PRESIDENT COULD SEE THE
BEGINNING OF THE TESTIMONY
BEFORE HE HEADS TO MILWAUKEE TO
TALK WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT.
I THINK THAT'S SYMBOLIC HERE.
THE PRESIDENT, THIS WHITE HOUSE,
WANTS TO BE TALKING ABOUT
ANYTHING ELSE OTHER THAN WHAT WE
ARE DISCUSSING.
THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT HEALTH
CARE, AS THE PRESIDENT HOSTED
REPUBLICAN MEMBERS OF CONGRESS,
REPUBLICAN SENATORS HERE FOR
LUNCH EARLIER TODAY.
THEY WANT TO TALK TAX REFORM.
THEY WANT TO TALK VETERANS
ISSUES AS WELL.
BUT THIS, WHAT WE ARE WATCHING
NOW ON CAPITOL HILL, CONTINUES
TO BE THE DOMINANT FORCE AND THE
DOMINANT THEME DRIVING A LOT OF
IT.
THAT IS FRUSTRATING TO THE
PRESIDENT.
YOU HEAR ABOUT IT BOTH PRIVATELY
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AND HEAR
ABOUT IT PUBLICLY AS THE
PRESIDENT TWEETS LIKE HE DID
TODAY ABOUT WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS
AN AGENDA OF HATE COMING FROM
MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA.
AS FAR AS THE STRATEGY HERE, A
LOT OF THIS LOOKS SIMILAR TO
WHAT WE SAW JUST LAST THURSDAY.
THERE IS NOT NECESSARILY A
COUNTER STRATEGY IN THE SENSE
THAT WE SAW WITH JAMES COMEY, AN
EXPLICIT SORT OF OPPOSITION TO
WHAT YOU WERE HEARING IN THAT
SEAT.
INSTEAD IT'S GOING TO BE A LOT
OF BACKING UP WHAT SESSIONS HAD
TO SAY FROM ALLIES OF THE
PRESIDENT, POINTING TO HIS
EAGERNESS TO TESTIFY AS AN
INDICATION THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP
HAS NOTHING TO HIDE, LESTER.
>> ALL RIGHT, HALLIE JACKSON.
AGAIN, WE'RE WAITING FOR THE
GAVEL TO FALL, STILL WAITING FOR
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ITSELF
TO FILL THOSE SEATS.
PHOTOGRAPHERS AT THE READY TO
GET A PICTURE OF ATTORNEY
GENERAL SESSIONS AS HE TAKES HIS
SEAT THERE AND PREPARES TO TAKE
THE OATH BEFORE TESTIFYING.
I WANT TO CHECK IN WITH OUR
JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, PETE
WILLIAMS.
PETE, WHAT ARE THE KEY QUESTIONS
THAT THIS COMMITTEE WILL NEED
AND LIKELY WANT TO HONE IN ON?
>> WELL, YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT SOME
OF THEM FROM PETER, ABOUT THE
MEETINGS WITH THE RUSSIANS, WHY
HE -- IF HE WAS RECUSED HE TOOK
PART IN THE COMEY FIRING, WHAT
HE DID ABOUT MR. COMEY'S PLEA
NOT TO LEAVE HIM ALONE WITH THE
PRESIDENT, AND OF COURSE THEN
THERE'S THE QUESTION OF THE
SECURITY OF THE JOB FOR ROBERT
MUELLER.
NOW, MR. SESSIONS IS COMPLETELY
RECUSED FROM THAT.
BUT EARLIER TODAY ON THE OTHER
SIDE OF CAPITOL HILL, HIS
DEPUTY, ROD ROSENSTEIN, WAS
ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT
GIVEN THE FACT THAT SOME OF MR.
TRUMP'S FRIENDS HAVE SAID THEY
THINK HE'S THINKING ABOUT FIRING
COMEY.
ROD ROSENSTEIN SAID AS FAR AS HE
KNOWS THAT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE
CASE.
I'M ASSUMING FROM THE SOUND OF
THE SHUTTERS THAT THERE COMES
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.
>> YEAH, HE'S ENTERING THE ROOM
RIGHT NOW, GREETING A FEW FOLKS,
THE CAMERAS CLICKING AWAY AS HE
PREPARES TO TAKE HIS SEAT THERE.
WE PRESUME WILL BE SWORN IN,
ASSUMING HE WASN'T SWORN IN OUT
OF CAMERA RANGE HERE.
BUT HE'LL BE TAKING QUESTIONS
FOR WHAT WILL PROBABLY -- THE
WHOLE HEARING WILL PROBABLY LAST
AROUND TWO HOURS OR SO FROM THE
GUIDANCE THAT WE HAVE RECEIVED.
I WANT TO BRING IN ONE MORE TIME
CHUCK TODD.
CHUCK, WHAT ARE THE TRAPS THAT
HE HAS TO CONSIDER AS HE TAKES
THIS OATH?
>> I THINK THE BIGGEST ONE IS
HIS ROLE IN THE FIRING OF COMEY.
AND THE -- THE LETTER, WHY DID
HE PLAY A ROLE.
I THINK THAT IS THE MOST
DIFFICULT QUESTION HE'S GOING TO
FACE.
AND IT'S NOT WHAT IS HIS ANSWER,
WHAT DOES HE BELIEVE THE LINE IS
BETWEEN RECUSAL ON THE RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION AND OVERALL
OVERSIGHT OF THE FBI.
I THINK THAT'S GOING TO BE THE
HARDEST QUESTION FOR HIM TO
ANSWER, AND THE ONE I HAVE NO
IDEA WHAT HE'S GOING TO SAY.
>> WE SAW CHAIRMAN BURR A MOMENT
AGO MAKING HIS WAY UP TO THE
PANEL.
HE WILL TAKE HIS SEAT HERE
SHORTLY AND WE WILL BE UNDER
WAY.
TWO WEEKS IN A LOW NOW MARQUEE
PLAYERS IN FRONT OF THIS
COMMITTEE AS CONGRESS TRIES TO
MAP OUT WHAT COORDINATION OR
WHAT RELATIONSHIP THE TRUMP
CAMPAIGN MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE HAD
WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS AND SOME
OF THOSE KEY QUESTIONS, THE
MEETINGS THAT JEFF SESSIONS HAD
WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS THAT WERE
NOT INITIALLY DISCLOSED DURING
HIS CONFIRMATION.
LET'S GO TO PETER ALEXANDER ONE
MORE TIME.
PETER, WHAT'S THE MOOD IN THE
ROOM THERE?
>> LESTER, RIGHT NOW YOU CAN SEE
THE INDIVIDUALS BEHIND US.
THEY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO
GREET JEFF SESSIONS HERE.
ONE THING THAT STRIKES ME THAT
I'LL BE FOCUSED ON --
>> I'LL CALL THIS TO ORDER,
PLEASE.
>> THE GAVEL HAS FALLEN.
LET'S TAKE YOU INSIDE THE
HEARING.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS,
APPRECIATE YOUR WILLINGNESS TO
APPEAR BEFORE THE COMMITTEE
TODAY.
I THANK YOU FOR YOUR YEARS OF
DEDICATED SERVICE AS A MEMBER OF
THIS BODY AND YOUR RECENT
LEADERSHIP AT THE DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE.
AS I MENTIONED WHEN DIRECTOR
COMEY APPEARED BEFORE US LAST
WEEK, THIS COMMITTEE'S ROLE IS
TO BE THE EYES AND EARS FOR THE
OTHER 85 MEMBERS OF THE UNITED
STATES SENATE AND FOR THE
AMERICAN PEOPLE, ENSURING THAT
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IS
OPERATING LAWFULLY AND HAS THE
NECESSARY TOOLS TO KEEP AMERICA
SAFE.
THE COMMUNITY IS A LARGE AND
DIVERSE PLACE.
WE RECOGNIZE THE GRAVITY OF OUR
INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIA'S
INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016 U.S.
ELECTIONS.
BUT I REMIND OUR CONSTITUENTS
THAT WHILE WE INVESTIGATE
RUSSIA, WE ARE SCRUTINIZING
CIA'S BUDGET -- WHILE WE'RE
INVESTIGATING RUSSIA, WE ARE
STILL SCRUTINIZING CIA'S BUDGET,
NSA'S 702 PROGRAM, OUR NATION'S
SATELLITE PROGRAM, AND THE
ENTIRE IC EFFORT TO RECRUIT AND
RETAIN THE BEST TALENT WE CAN
FIND IN THE WORLD.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, THE
COMMITTEE CONDUCTS ITS WORK
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, A NECESSARY
STEP TO ENSURE THAT OUR MOST
SENSITIVE FORCES AND METHODS ARE
PROTECTED.
THE SANCTITY OF THESE SOURCES
AND METHODS ARE AT THE HEART OF
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY'S
ABILITY TO KEEP US SAFE AND TO
KEEP OUR ALLIES SAFE FROM THOSE
WHO SEEK TO HARM US.
I'VE SAID REPEATEDLY THAT I DO
NOT BELIEVE ANY COMMITTEE --
THAT THE COMMITTEE DOES SHOULD
BE DONE IN PUBLIC, BUT I ALSO
RECOGNIZE THE GRAVITY OF THE
COMMITTEE'S CURRENT
INVESTIGATION AND THE NEED FOR
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO BE
PRESENTED THE FACTS SO THAT THEY
MIGHT MAKE THEIR OWN JUDGMENTS.
IT IS FOR THAT REASON THAT THIS
COMMITTEE HAS NOW HELD ITS TENTH
OPEN HEARING OF 2017, MORE THAN
DOUBLE THAT OF THE COMMITTEE IN
RECENT YEARS AND THE FIFTH ON
THE TOPIC OF RUSSIAN
INTERFERENCE.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS, THIS
VENUE IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO
SEPARATE FACT FROM FICTION AND
TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON A
NUMBER OF ALLEGATIONS REPORTED
IN THE PRESS.
FOR EXAMPLE, THERE ARE SEVERAL
ISSUES THAT I'M HOPEFUL WE WILL
ADDRESS TODAY.
ONE, DID YOU HAVE ANY MEETINGS
WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIALS OR THEIR
PROXIES ON BEHALF OF THE TRUMP
CAMPAIGN OR DURING YOUR TIME AS
ATTORNEY GENERAL.
TWO, WHAT WAS YOUR INVOLVEMENT
WITH CANDIDATE TRUMP'S FOREIGN
POLICY TEAM AND WHAT WERE THEIR
POSSIBLE INTERACTIONS WITH
RUSSIANS.
THREE, WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO
RECUSE YOURSELF FROM THE
GOVERNMENT'S RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION.
AND FOURTH, WHAT ROLE, IF ANY,
DID YOU PLAY IN THE REMOVAL OF
THEN FBI DIRECTOR COMEY.
I LOOK FORWARD TO A CANDID AND
HONEST DISCUSSION AS WE CONTINUE
TO PURSUE THE TRUTH BEHIND
RUSSIA'S INTERFERENCE IN THE
2016 ELECTIONS.
THE COMMITTEE'S EXPERIENCED
STAFF IS INTERVIEWING THE
RELEVANT PARTIES.
HAVING SPOKEN TO MORE THAN 35
INDIVIDUALS TO DATE, TO INCLUDE
JUST YESTERDAY AN INTERVIEW OF
FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY
SECRETARY JEH JOHNSON.
WE ALSO CONTINUE TO REVIEW SOME
OF THE MOST SENSITIVE
INTELLIGENCE IN OUR COUNTRY'S
POSSESSION.
AS I'VE SAID PREVIOUSLY, WE WILL
ESTABLISH THE FACTS, SEPARATE
FROM RAMPANT SPECULATION AND LAY
THEM OUT FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
TO MAKE THEIR OWN JUDGMENT.
ONLY THEN WILL WE AS A NATION BE
ABLE TO PUT THIS EPISODE TO REST
AND LOOK TO THE FUTURE.
I'M HOPEFUL THAT MEMBERS WILL
FOCUS THEIR QUESTIONS TODAY ON
THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATION AND NOT
SQUANDER THE OPPORTUNITY BY
TAKING POLITICAL OR PARTISAN
SHOTS.
THE VICE CHAIRMAN AND I CONTINUE
TO LEAD THIS INVESTIGATION
TOGETHER ON WHAT IS A HIGHLY
CHARGED POLITICAL ISSUE.
WE MAY DISAGREE AT TIMES, BUT WE
REMAIN A UNIFIED TEAM WITH A
DEDICATED, FOCUSED AND
PROFESSIONAL STAFF WORKING
TIRELESSLY ON BEHALF OF THE
AMERICAN PEOPLE TO FIND THE
TRUTH.
THE COMMITTEE HAS MADE MUCH
PROGRESS AS THE POLITICAL WINDS
BLOW FORCEFULLY AROUND US, AND I
THINK ALL MEMBERS WOULD AGREE
THAT DESPITE A TORRENT OF PUBLIC
DEBATE ON WHO AND WHAT COMMITTEE
MIGHT BE BEST SUITED TO LEAD ON
THIS ISSUE, THE INTELLIGENCE
COMMITTEE HAS LIVED UP TO ITS
OBLIGATION TO MOVE FORWARD WITH
PURPOSE AND ABOVE POLITICS.
MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, IT'S GOOD
TO HAVE YOU BACK.
I WOULD NOW TURN TO THE VICE
CHAIRMAN FOR ANY REMARKS HE
MIGHT HAVE.
>> THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN.
AND I WANT TO ALSO THANK THE WAY
THAT WE ARE PROCEEDING ON THIS
INVESTIGATION.
MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, IT'S GOOD
TO SEE YOU AGAIN AND WE
APPRECIATE YOUR APPEARANCE ON
THE HEELS OF MR. COMEY'S REVEAL
TESTIMONY LAST WEEK.
I DO, THOUGH, WANT TO TAKE A
MOMENT AT THE OUTSET AND FIRST
EXPRESS SOME CONCERN WITH THE
PROCESS BY WHICH WE ARE SEEING
YOU, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL,
TODAY.
IT'S MY UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU
WERE ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED TO
TESTIFY IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE
AND SENATE APPROPRIATIONS
COMMITTEES TODAY.
I KNOW THOSE APPEARANCES HAVE
BEEN CANCELLED TO COME HERE
INSTEAD.
WHILE WE APPRECIATE HIS
TESTIMONY BEFORE OUR COMMITTEE,
I BELIEVE AND I SPEAK -- I
BELIEVE I SPEAK FOR MANY OF MY
COLLEAGUES THAT I BELIEVE HE
SHOULD ALSO ANSWER QUESTIONS
FROM MEMBERS OF THOSE COMMITTEES
AND THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AS
WELL.
MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, IT'S MY
HOPE THAT YOU WILL RESCHEDULE
THOSE APPEARANCES AS SOON AS
POSSIBLE.
IN ADDITION, I WANT TO SAY AT
THE OUTSET THAT WHILE WE
CONSIDER YOUR APPEARANCE TODAY
AS JUST THE BEGINNING OF OUR
INTERACTION WITH YOU AND YOUR
DEPARTMENT, MR. ATTORNEY
GENERAL, WE HAD ALWAYS EXPECTED
TO TALK TO YOU AS PART OF OUR
INVESTIGATION.
WE BELIEVED IT WOULD BE ACTUALLY
LATER IN THE PROCESS.
WE'RE GLAD TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR
REQUEST TO SPEAK TO US TODAY.
BUT WE ALSO EXPECT TO HAVE YOUR
COMMITMENT TO COOPERATE WITH ALL
FUTURE REQUESTS AND TO MAKE
YOURSELF AVAILABLE AS NECESSARY
TO THIS COMMITTEE FOR, AS THE
CHAIRMAN HAS INDICATED, THIS
VERY IMPORTANT INVESTIGATION.
NOW LET'S MOVE TO THE SUBJECT OF
TODAY'S DISCUSSION.
LET'S START WITH THE CAMPAIGN.
YOU WERE AN EARLY AND ARDENT
SUPPORTER OF MR. TRUMP.
IN MARCH YOU WERE NAMED AS
CHAIRMAN OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN'S
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVIORY
COMMITTEE.
YOU WERE MUCH MORE THAN A
SURROGATE, YOU WERE A STRATEGIC
ADVISOR WHO HELPED SHAPE MUCH OF
THE CAMPAIGN'S NATIONAL SECURITY
STRATEGY.
NO DOUBT YOU WILL HAVE KEY
INSIGHTS ABOUT SOME OF THE KEY
TRUMP ASSOCIATES THAT WE'RE
SEEKING TO HEAR FROM IN THE
WEEKS AHEAD.
QUESTIONS HAVE ALSO BEEN RAISED
ABOUT SOME OF YOUR OWN
INTERACTIONS WITH RUSSIAN
OFFICIALS DURING THE CAMPAIGN.
DURING YOUR CONFIRMATION HEARING
IN JANUARY, YOU SAID, QUOTE, YOU
DID NOT HAVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH
RUSSIANS.
SENATOR LEAHY LATER ASKED YOU IN
WRITING WHETHER YOU HAD BEEN IN
CONTACT WITH ANYONE CONNECTED TO
ANY PART OF THE RUSSIAN
GOVERNMENT ABOUT THE 2016
ELECTION.
YOU ANSWERED, I BELIEVE WITH A
DEFINITIVE NO.
DESPITE THAT FACT -- DESPITE
THAT, THE FACT IS, AS WE
DISCOVERED LATER, THAT YOU DID
HAVE INTERACTIONS WITH RUSSIAN
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS DURING THE
COURSE OF THE CAMPAIGN.
IN MARCH, YOU ACKNOWLEDGED TWO
MEETINGS WITH THE RUSSIAN
AMBASSADOR.
YET THERE'S ALSO BEEN SOME
PUBLIC REPORTS OF A POSSIBLE
THIRD MEETING AT THE MAYFLOWER
HOTEL ON APRIL 27th.
I HOPE THAT TODAY YOU WILL HELP
CLEAR UP THOSE DISCREPANCIES.
WE ALSO EXPECT AND HOPE THIS IS
VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU'LL BE
WILLING TO PROVIDE THE COMMITTEE
WITH ANY DOCUMENTS THAT WE WOULD
NEED TO SHED LIGHT ON THIS
ISSUE, SUCH AS E-MAILS OR
CALENDARS.
THEN THERE'S THE TOPIC OF THE
FIRING OF FORMER FBI DIRECTOR
COMEY.
LAST THURSDAY WE RECEIVED
TESTIMONY FROM MR. COMEY UNDER
OATH.
HE OUTLINED HIS VERY TROUBLING
INTERACTIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT
AS WELL AS THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF
HIS FIRING.
A FEW DISTURBING POINTS STOOD
OUT.
FIRST, MR. COMEY, WHO HAS
DECADES OF EXPERIENCE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND AT THE
FBI, SERVING UNDER PRESIDENTS OF
BOTH PARTIES, WAS SO UNNERVED BY
THE ACTIONS OF THE PRESIDENT
THAT HE FELT, QUOTE, COMPELLED
TO FULLY DOCUMENT EVERY
INTERACTION THEY HAD.
MR. COMEY SAT WHERE YOU'RE
SITTING TODAY AND TESTIFIED THAT
HE WAS CONCERNED THAT THE
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
MIGHT LIE ABOUT THE NATURE OF
THEIR MEETINGS.
THAT'S A SHOCKING STATEMENT FROM
ONE OF OUR NATION'S TOP LAW
ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS.
WE ALSO HEARD THAT DIRECTOR
COMEY TOOK IT AS A DIRECTION
FROM THE PRESIDENT THAT HE WAS
TO DROP THE FBI'S INVESTIGATION
INTO FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY
ADVISOR GENERAL MIKE FLYNN.
FINALLY WE HEARD FROM MR. COMEY
THAT HE BELIEVES HE WAS FIRED
OVER HIS HANDLING OF THE RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION.
THE PRESIDENT HIMSELF CONFIRMED
THIS IN STATEMENTS TO THE MEDIA.
THIS IS DEEPLY TROUBLING FOR ALL
OF US WHO BELIEVE ON BOTH SIDES
OF THE AISLE IN PRESERVING THE
INDEPENDENCE OF THE FBI.
WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK IN ORDER
TO FOLLOW UP ON THESE ALARMING
DISCLOSURES.
MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, YOUR
TESTIMONY TODAY IS AN
OPPORTUNITY TO BEGIN THE PROCESS
OF ASKING THOSE QUESTIONS.
FOR INSTANCE, AGAIN, AND I KNOW
OTHERS WILL ASK YOU ABOUT THIS,
YOU RECUSED YOURSELF FROM THE
RUSSIA INVESTIGATION, YET YOU
PARTICIPATED IN THE FIRING OF
MR. COMEY OVER THE HANDLING OF
THAT SAME INVESTIGATION.
WE'LL WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT HOW
YOU VIEWED YOUR RECUSAL AND
WHETHER YOU BELIEVE YOU COMPLIED
WITH IT FULLY.
IN ADDITION, WE HEARD FROM MR.
COMEY LAST WEEK THAT THE
PRESIDENT ASKED YOU TO LEAVE THE
OVAL OFFICE SO HE COULD SPEAK
ONE ON ONE WITH MR. COMEY.
AGAIN, A VERY CONCERNING ACTION.
WE WILL NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU
ABOUT HOW YOU REVIEWED -- HOW
YOU VIEWED THE PRESIDENT'S
REQUEST AND WHETHER YOU THOUGHT
IT WAS APPROPRIATE.
WE'LL ALSO WANT TO KNOW IF YOU
ARE AWARE OF ANY ATTEMPTS BY THE
PRESIDENT TO ENLIST LEADERS IN
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY TO
UNDERMINE THIS VERY SAME RUSSIA
INVESTIGATION.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, OUR COMMITTEE
WILL WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU ARE
DOING TO ENSURE THAT THE
RUSSIANS OR ANY OTHER FOREIGN
ADVERSARIES CANNOT ATTACK OUR
DEMOCRATIC PROCESS LIKE THIS
EVER AGAIN.
I'M CONCERNED THAT THE PRESIDENT
STILL DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE
SEVERITY OF THE THREAT.
HE, TO DATE, I BELIEVE, HAS NOT
ACKNOWLEDGED THE CONCLUSIONS OF
THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY
THAT RUSSIA MASSIVELY INTERVENED
IN OUR ELECTIONS.
THE THREAT WE FACE IS REAL, AND
IT'S NOT LIMITED TO US.
THE RECENT EVENTS IN FRANCE ARE
AGAIN A STARK REMINDER THAT ALL
WESTERN DEMOCRACIES MUST TAKE
STEPS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.
I BELIEVE THE UNITED STATES CAN
AND MUST BE A LEADER IN THIS
EFFORT, BUT IT WILL REQUIRE OUR
ADMINISTRATION TO GET SERIOUS
ABOUT THIS MATTER.
FINALLY, IN THE PAST SEVERAL
WEEKS WE'VE SEEN A CONCERNING
PATTERN OF ADMINISTRATION
OFFICIALS REFUSING TO ANSWER
PUBLIC UNCLASSIFIED QUESTIONS
ABOUT ALLEGATIONS ABOUT THE
PRESIDENT AND THIS
INVESTIGATION.
WE HAD A HEARING WITH THIS
SUBJECT LAST WEEK.
I WANT TO COMMEND THE CHAIRMAN
WHO AT THE END OF THAT HEARING
MADE VERY CLEAR THAT OUR
WITNESSES -- IT WAS NOT
ACCEPTABLE FOR OUR WITNESSES TO
COME BEFORE CONGRESS WITHOUT
ANSWERS.
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DESERVE TO
KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON HERE.
THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN.
I LOOK FORWARD TO THE WITNESS'S
TESTIMONY.
>> THANK YOU, VICE CHAIRMAN.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS, IF
YOU WOULD STAND, I WILL
ADMINISTER THE OATH TO YOU.
RAISE YOUR RIGHT HAND, IF YOU
WOULD, PLEASE.
DO YOU SOLEMNLY SWEAR TO TELL
THE TRUTH AND THE WHOLE TRUTH
AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SO
HELP YOU GOD?
>> I DO.
>> PLEASE BE SEATED.
THANK YOU, ATTORNEY GENERAL
SESSIONS.
THE FLOOR IS YOURS.
>> THANK YOU MUCH -- THANK YOU
VERY MUCH, CHAIRMAN BURR, AND
RANKING MEMBER WARNER, FOR
ALLOWING ME TO PUBLICLY APPEAR
BEFORE YOUR COMMITTEE TODAY.
I APPRECIATE THE COMMITTEE'S
CRITICALLY IMPORTANT EFFORTS TO
INVESTIGATE RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE
WITH OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES.
SUCH INTERFERENCE CAN NEVER BE
TOLERATED AND I ENCOURAGE EVERY
EFFORT TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF
ANY SUCH ALLEGATIONS.
AS YOU KNOW, THE DEPUTY ATTORNEY
GENERAL HAS APPOINTED A SPECIAL
COUNSEL TO INVESTIGATE THE
MATTERS RELATED TO THE RUSSIAN
INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016
ELECTION.
I'M HERE TODAY TO ADDRESS
SEVERAL ISSUES THAT HAVE BEEN
SPECIFICALLY RAISED BEFORE THIS
COMMITTEE.
AND I APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY
TO RESPOND TO QUESTIONS AS FULLY
AS THE LORD ENABLES ME TO DO SO.
BUT AS I ADVISE YOU, MR.
CHAIRMAN, AND CONSISTENT WITH
LONG STANDING DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE PRACTICE, I CANNOT AND
WILL NOT VIOLATE BY DUTY TO
PROTECT THE CONFIDENTIAL
COMMUNICATIONS I HAVE WITH THE
PRESIDENT.
NOW LET ME ADDRESS SOME ISSUES
DIRECTLY.
I DO NOT HAVE ANY PRIVATE
MEETINGS NOR DO I RECALL ANY
CONVERSATIONS WITH ANY RUSSIAN
OFFICIALS AT THE MAYFLOWER
HOTEL.
I DID NOT ATTEND ANY MEETINGS AT
THAT EVENT SEPARATE.
PRIOR TO THE SPEECH I ATTENDED
BY THE PRESIDENT TODAY, I
ATTENDED A RECEPTION WITH MY
STAFF THAT INCLUDED AT LEAST TWO
DOZEN PEOPLE AND PRESIDENT
TRUMP.
THOUGH I DO RECALL SEVERAL
CONVERSATIONS THAT I HAD DURING
THAT PRESPEECH RECEPTION, I DO
NOT HAVE ANY RECOLLECTION OF
MEETING OR TALKING TO THE
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR OR ANY OTHER
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS.
IF ANY BRIEF INTERACTION
OCCURRED IN PASSING WITH THE
RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR DURING THAT
RECEPTION, I DO NOT REMEMBER IT.
AFTER THE SPEECH, I WAS
INTERVIEWED BY THE NEWS MEDIA.
THERE WAS AN AREA FOR THAT IN A
DIFFERENT ROOM AND THEN I LEFT
THE HOTEL.
BUT WHETHER I EVER ATTENDED A
RECEPTION WHERE THE RUSSIAN
AMBASSADOR WAS ALSO PRESENT IS
ENTIRELY BESIDE THE POINT OF
THIS INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIAN
INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016
CAMPAIGN.
LET ME STATE THIS CLEARLY,
COLLEAGUES.
I HAVE NEVER MET OR HAD ANY
CONVERSATION WITH ANY RUSSIANS
OR ANY FOREIGN OFFICIALS
CONCERNING ANY TYPE OF
INTERFERENCE WITH ANY CAMPAIGN
OR ELECTION IN THE UNITED
STATES.
FURTHER, I HAVE NO KNOWLEDGE OF
ANY SUCH CONVERSATIONS BY ANYONE
CONNECTED TO THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN.
I WAS YOUR COLLEAGUE IN THIS
BODY FOR 20 YEARS, AT LEAST SOME
OF YOU, AND I PARTICIPATE -- AND
THE SUGGESTION THAT I
PARTICIPATED IN ANY COLLUSION,
THAT I WAS AWARE OF ANY
COLLUSION WITH THE RUSSIAN
GOVERNMENT TO HURT THIS COUNTRY,
WHICH I HAVE SERVED WITH HONOR
FOR 35 YEARS OR TO UNDERMINE THE
INTEGRITY OF OUR DEMOCRATIC
PROCESS IS AN APPALLING AND
DETESTABLE LIE.
RELATEDLY, THERE IS THE
ASSERTION THAT I DID NOT ANSWER
SENATOR FRANKEN'S QUESTION
HONESTLY AT MY CONFIRMATION
HEARING.
COLLEAGUES, THAT IS FALSE.
I CAN'T SAY COLLEAGUES NOW, I'M
NO LONGER A PART OF THIS BODY,
BUT FORMER COLLEAGUES, THAT IS
FALSE.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED.
SENATOR FRANKEN ASKED ME A
RAMBLING QUESTION AFTER SOME SIX
HOURS OF TESTIMONY THAT INCLUDED
DRAMATIC NEW ALLEGATIONS THAT
THE UNITED STATES INTELLIGENCE
COMMUNITY, THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE
COMMUNITY HAD ADVISED
PRESIDENT-ELECT TRUMP, QUOTE,
THAT THERE WAS A CONTINUING
EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION DURING
THE CAMPAIGN BETWEEN TRUMP'S
SURROGATES AND INTERMEDIARIES
FOR THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT,
CLOSE QUOTE.
I WAS TAKEN ABACK BY THAT
EXPLOSIVE ALLEGATION, WHICH HE
SAID WAS BEING REPORTED AS
BREAKING NEWS THAT VERY DAY AND
WHICH I HAD NOT HEARD.
I WANTED TO REFUTE THAT
IMMEDIATELY.
ANY SUGGESTION THAT I WAS PART
OF SUCH AN ACTIVITY.
I REPLIED, QUOTE, I REPLIED TO
SENATOR FRANKEN THIS WAY, QUOTE,
SENATOR FRANKEN, I'M NOT AWARE
OF ANY OF THOSE ACTIVITIES.
I HAVE BEEN CALLED A SURROGATE A
TIME OR TWO IN THAT CAMPAIGN AND
I DID NOT -- DIDN'T HAVE, DID
NOT HAVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE
RUSSIANS AND I'M UNABLE TO
COMMENT ON IT, CLOSE QUOTE.
THAT WAS THE CONTEXT IN WHICH I
WAS ASKED THE QUESTION, AND IN
THAT CONTEXT MY ANSWER WAS A
FAIR AND CORRECT RESPONSE TO THE
CHARGE AS I UNDERSTOOD IT.
I WAS RESPONDING TO THIS
ALLEGATION THAT SURROGATES HAD
BEEN MEETING WITH THE RUSSIANS
ON A REGULAR BASIS.
IT SIMPLY DID NOT OCCUR TO ME TO
GO FURTHER THAN THE CONTEXT OF
THE QUESTION AND TO LIST ANY
CONVERSATIONS THAT I MAY HAVE
HAD WITH RUSSIANS IN ROUTINE
SITUATIONS, AS I HAD MANY
ROUTINE SITUATIONS -- MEETINGS
WITH OTHER FOREIGN OFFICIALS.
SO PLEASE HEAR ME NOW.
AND IT WAS ONLY IN MARCH AFTER
MY CONFIRMATION HEARING THAT A
REPORTER ASKED MY SPOKESPERSON
WHETHER I HAD EVER MET WITH ANY
RUSSIAN OFFICIALS.
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT
QUESTION HAD SQUARELY BEEN POSED
TO ME.
ON THE SAME DAY, WE PROVIDED
THAT REPORTER WITH THE
INFORMATION RELATED TO THE
MEETING THAT I AND MY STAFF HELD
IN MY SENATE OFFICE WITH
AMBASSADOR KISLYAK AS WELL AS
THE BRIEF ENCOUNTER IN JULY
AFTER A SPEECH THAT I HAD GIVEN
DURING THE CONVENTION IN
CLEVELAND, OHIO.
I ALSO PROVIDED THE REPORTER
WITH A LIST OF 25 FOREIGN
AMBASSADOR MEETINGS THAT I'D HAD
DURING 2016.
IN ADDITION, I PROVIDED
SUPPLEMENTAL TESTIMONY TO THE
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO
EXPLAIN THIS EVENT.
SO I READILY ACKNOWLEDGE THESE
TWO MEETINGS AND CERTAINLY NOT
ONE THING HAPPENED THAT WAS
IMPROPER IN ANY ONE OF THOSE
MEETINGS.
LET ME ALSO EXPLAIN CLEARLY THE
CIRCUMSTANCES OF MY RECUSAL FROM
THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE
RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE WITH THE
2016 ELECTION.