Attorney General Jeff Sessions Opening Statement on Russian Vote Interference & Comey Firing (VIDEO)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions categorically denies Russian collusion and rips Senate Committee …
Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls out the Senate committee and the individual political hack senators who would suggest that after his 35 years of service to the United States that he would collude with the Russian government in the 2016 election. Good for Jeff Sessions. He came out of the box swinging at these ridiculous accusations.
Let me state this clearly, colleagues. I have never met with 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 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 an appalling and detestable lie.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: 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. As I advise you, Mr. Chairman, with long standing Department of Justice practice, I cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications I have with the president. Let me address issues directly. I did 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 separately prior to the speech 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 I had during that pre-speech reception, and I do not have 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 in 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. Whether I 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 with 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 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 an appalling and detestable lie. Relatedly, there is the assertion that I did not answer Senator Franken’s question honestly in my confirmation hearing.
Colleagues, that is false. I can’t say colleagues now. I’m no longer a part of this body, but a former colleague. 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 “That there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” I was taken aback by that explosive allegation which he said was being reported as breaking news that very day, in which I had not heard. I wanted to refute that immediately. Any suggestion that I was part of such an activity.
I replied to Senator Franken this way. “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 have communications with the Russians and I’m unable to comment on it.”
That was the context in which I was asked the question and in this that context my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as I understood it. I was responding to the allegation That surrogates had been meeting with Russians on a regular basis. It simply did not occur to me to go further than the context and to list any conversations that I may have had with Russians in routine situations as I had many routine meetings with other foreign officials.
So please hear me now. It was only in March, after my confirmation hearing, that a reporter asked my spokesperson whether I had ever met with any Russian officials. This was a 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 had had during 2016. In addition, I provided supplemental testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain this event. So I readily acknowledged these two meetings and certainly not one thing happened that was improper in any one of those meetings. Let me also explain clearly the circumstances of my recusal from the investigation into the Russian interference with the 2016 election. Please, colleagues, hear me on this. I was sworn in as Attorney General on Thursday, February 9th. The very next day as I had promised to the judiciary committee I would do at least at an early date, I met with the career department officials including a senior ethics official to discuss things publicly reported in the press that might have some bearing on whether or not I should recuse myself in this case. From that point, February 10th until I announced my formal recusal on March 2nd, I was never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation. I received only the limited information that the department’s career officials determined was necessary for me to form and make a recusal decision.
As such, I have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been reported. I don’t even read that carefully. I have taken no action whatsoever with regard to any such investigation. On the date of my formal recusal, my chief of staff sent an e-mail to the heads of relevant departments including by name to director Comey of the FBI to instruct them to inform their staffs of this recusal and advise them not to brief me or involve me in any way in any such matters. In fact they have not. Importantly I recuse myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing or any that I may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation. 28 cfr 45.2 I felt required it.
That regulation states in effect that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they served as a campaign adviser. So the scope of my recusal however does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the Department of Justice, including the FBI which has an $8 billion budget and 35,000 employees. I presented to the president my concerns and those of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the ongoing leadership issues at the FBI as stated in my letter recommending the removal of Mr. Comey along with the Deputy Attorney General’s memorandum on that issue, which have been released by the White House. Those represent a clear statement of my views. I adopted Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s points he made in his memorandum and made my recommendation. It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various department of justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations.
Finally, during his testimony, Mr. Comey discussed a conversation he had with the president. I’m happy to share with the committee my recollection of that conversation that I had with Mr. Comey. Following a routine morning threat briefing, Mr. Comey spoke to me and my chief of staff. While he did not provide me with any of the substance of his conversation with the president, apparently the day before, Mr. Comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the white house and with the president.
I responded. He didn’t recall this, but I responded to his comment by agreeing that the FBI and the department of justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the white house. Mr. Comey had served in the department for better than two decades and I was confident he understood and would abide by the well established rules limiting communications with the White House, especially about ongoing investigations.
That’s what is so important to control. My comments encouraged him to do just that and indeed as I understand it, he in fact did that. Our Department of Justice rules on proper communications between the department and the White House have been in place for years. Mr. Comey well knew them. I thought and assumed correctly that he complied with them. I will finish with this. I recuse myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations.
At all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General, I have dedicated myself to the highest standards. I have earned a reputation for that. At home and in this body, I believe. Over decades of performance. The people of this country expect an honest and transparent government and that’s what we are giving them. This president wants to focus on the people of this country to ensure they are treated fairly and kept safe. The trump agenda is to improve the lives of the American people.
I know some have different ways of achieving that and different agendas, but that is his agenda and one I share. Importantly as attorney general, I have a responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation to protect this country from its enemies and I intend to work every day with the fine team and the superb professionals in the department of justice to advance the important work we have to do. These false attacks and innuendos and the leaks, you can be sure will not intimidate me. These events have only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty. My duty to reduce crime and support the federal, state, and local law enforcement who work on the streets every day.
Just last week it was reported that overdosed deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. Last year was 52,000 and The New York Times just estimated next year will be 62,000 overdose deaths. The murdis up over 10%. Together we are telling the gangs and cartels and the fraudsters and the terrorists we are coming after you.
Every one of our citizens no matter who they are or where they live has the right to be safe in their homes and communities. I will not be deter and allow this great department to be deterred from its vital mission. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and ranking member Warner. I have a great honor to appear before you today and will do my best to answer your questions.