Klein: Hearing Was More About Trump than Sessions

ABC News' Rick Klein provides analysis on Sessions confirmation hearing.
16:24 | 01/11/17

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Transcript for Klein: Hearing Was More About Trump than Sessions
I think I know the answer to this but as attorney general just what would like her verbal commitment here to continue to do what you as always done. And that's put to safety and security of the American people first and you'll continue to work with us. In a cooperative fashion to make sure that all the needs of all the stakeholders. Are being met. Including the brave men and women who defend us each and every day. In the intelligence and law enforcement community where you do that. How well senator cornyn and thank you for your hard work and leadership on these important issues. Let me ask you. About the freedom of information that I don't know whether senator Grassley had a chance to ask you about this or not. As you may know senator Grassley and I are accused Meeks Leahy and higher kind of the odd couple on a Freedom of Information Act reforms. As a conservative I've always felt that the best antidote. To abuse. Or waste is sunlight. Where possible and you don't have to pass another law are another regulation where people change their behavior because they know people are watching. And senator Leahy and I have worked closely that together to. C a number of reforms passed and signed into law many of which I know you have supported her and consulted with a song. It's not a blank slate it's sometimes you have to be careful. About disclosing information that ought not to be public information or to law enforcement sensitive or classified or the like. But edged I would hope that you would continue to work with us and I'm confident you will but I was like to picture verbal commitment to continue to work with us. To make sure that the public's right to know. Is protected. I'm not suggesting that the public has right to know everything because frankly as I said classed by law enforcement sensitive information. He's super be protected for important policy reasons. We you continue to work with us. To make sure that we. Protect. The public's right to note to the extent feasible. How well senator Cardin and our very your judgment inside the south importing nation and operation that you work thank you. Thanks mr. Thank you mr. chairman of foreign move on a mighty my questions I'd like to respond very briefly to what. Senator Cruz said earlier. Is important in in my view that the members of this committee. Get clarity but regard to the nominee's record that's our job. And its board. Now let's be clear senator sessions said in his questionnaire. That he quote personally handled. For civil rights cases. Some lawyers who worked on those cases disputed that. Characterization. And senator sessions himself after his questioner was in felt the need. To file a supplement in which he clarified. That he merely provide a quote assistance and guidance. Two civil rights division attorneys. On these four cases now if that's a distinction without a difference. I'm not sure why. Senator sessions felt the need to clarify but I want to move on. Senator sessions. In late November president elect trump tweeted quote in addition to winning the Electoral College a landslide. I won the popular vote. If you deduct the millions of people who voted to illegally. Now let's be clear. President elect trump lost the popular vote. By more than two point eight million votes so what he's saying ear. Is that more than two point eight. Fraudulent votes were cast. Do you agree with president trump that millions. Of fraudulent votes were cast in the presidential election. Senator Franken now know what president elect man hours thinking when he made that comment on what facts he ma'am add. To justify his statement. I would decide that every election he should be managed closely and we need to ensure that there's integrity in it. And on their ability we regularly have. Fraudulent activities. Occur during. Election cycles. Department of Justice is ten ounces. With protecting voting rights and prosecuting fraud. So if millions upon millions of fraudulent votes I would imagine that the next attorney general. Would be quite concerned about that. The the president elect tell you. Anything about what cause in the come to this include. I am not now in about. Particulates. So it in Alabama senator Jeff Sessions there are taking questions from his colleague Al Franken. During his confirmation hearing at the nominee for. Attorney general I want to bring in our political director Rick Klein down in Washington DC he's been keeping an eye. On this hearing which we think is coming to a close at some point suit this evening Rick. And doesn't holding up pretty well he's been added in a marathon today taking questions from his colleagues there anything. Still out to you over the course of this day at the constant theme something you think he handled particularly well. That last exchange actually emblematic of the day today is being. About trump weighed more than it is about Jeff Sessions trying to explain the truck behavior and senator sessions have not sure but the president elect meant. By talking about winning the popular vote I think that he is is or is it ally that you're gonna hear again. Not just in senator sessions were from other nominees throughout the week and maybe throughout the administration. Because citizens of this fight that to stay away from some of the politics here this is the evolution. Senator sessions going to be essentially become attorney general sessions you know another striking moment involving trump senator Leahy asking senator sessions explicitly. What would it be sexual assault if someone were to do what Donald Trump said that he did that now famous eight with Billy bush of where that Boston. Senator sessions although he equivocation that that during the campaign said yes it would be assault so I I think senator sessions knows he's he's walking that tightrope I think he's done it successfully. Today in navigating what what was coming at him he has to show that he is deference person formal civil law. And not to his new boss. And break it you mentioned you know there are things they came up during the election cycle he is now having to. Answer for he did explicitly addressed that as well in regards to one comment I think it was about appointing a special prosecutor. To look into secretary Clinton's email server he said you know. I don't entity that claims that thing about things got heated or things got X Hannibal during the election cycle. And moving Ford as attorney general I would have to put those things behind me. But in winning the trusted his colleagues is is that is that gonna work can you do that can you move beyond things that were said in the heat of the moment. Not entirely I think what he said he is that he would. He would take himself out of any investigation involving Hillary Clinton to try to remove politics as much as possible because right. It's not possible to it to take away what said it's all on tape in and senators know that. But but here's the thing on the it if this just is about politics than senator sessions will be fine because. There are 52 Republican senators only 48 democratic senate there's. He will become attorney general if this just becomes a trump wanted this vs Hillary want it that because popular vote notwithstanding elections have consequences and Donald Trump is going to be the president intended spot. If this becomes about protecting vulnerable populations if this becomes about someone who's faced charges of being a racist in the past that this becomes someone. Who there was reason to question whether he can show fidelity to the law actually executing the law as it's written. That's how you run it's a concern so if this is just about. Senator sessions you said this before how do you square that with doing this I think you'll be fine that you could very well today the question for for lawmakers and as they pressed the case against him in. S that was a much of markers for the for the of administration. Today find something that goes to the other level they did not buy that today and I think senator sessions on a glide path it to be confirmed. Well on that one point you mentioned this is the man has now been a lead the agency that's responsible. For securing and protecting the constitutional civil rights of all Americans so. Four members of those communities who RD expressed concern with that we don't know that this man speaks for our best interest or is empathetic to our concerns and vulnerabilities. Is there any thinking he can catered to you over the next 24 hours that would make them come around Tuesday. Maybe they sky can change. Now and we're gonna hear more tomorrow from from people that are committed against and there are going to be against him. Regardless the question is you start to sway other people that might be decided given the deference that you have to United States and other. And they get on the theme of this being about tropical these lawmakers are as curious as you and I are about what the apparent going to be even when it comes now the policy and I think. You heard senator sessions begin to flesh out his vision of what the extreme vetting would look like. Of people coming from tip that countries with terrorists ties we know that it started. As a total in the please shut down on Muslims entering the United States and the session saying. That really isn't the policy anymore but he is allowing for religion to be used this as part of a test as part of that qualifications or that the considerations that people might however for immigration authorities deciding whether to admit someone. Or not I thought that was pretty striking from that the soon to be administered to be attorney general. Even down to tell levels. Immigration reform. What it means for the millions of folks who haven't been. Deported under the Obama administration they have to look over their shoulder under trump you start to see some details frankly though there's a lot of things he doesn't now because as he said he doesn't really know what the president elect was thinking when he said a lot of these. And that's very and you mentioned the evolution. He's had on on some of these issues with the clarity gotten on some of them. In the hearing today back here in New York still with us former mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings Blake we were talking a little bit about how. This prosecutorial. Discretion planes in two whenever the agenda is moving full tell me a little bit about that. Well he's he's talking about the things that he cares. He's talking about that for example we took we heard a lot about immigration. Where it's it's unclear how he's going to deal with how he is going to prosecute what resource is he's going to put there. They're concerned with many people about his civil rights record. What is he going to do with the civil rights division is it going to be an aggressive. Civil rights division isn't going to be civil rights of division. That has maintained a tradition up to this point. Or is it going to be one that has bids is much more Latin American. So a lot of the things when you meet it we talk about prosecutorial. Discretion but it's also the discretion in hiring. The people who will be be enforcers he is the chief enforcer. And that the hires that he makes bold reflect his values across the board so whether it's the cops office. What you know he says that he believes in community policing but it we we even heard from the chief he was not clear what that means so what's the cops office and a look like. How much money as the cops office gonna get who's he gonna you know put in that office to insure that we are building bridges between the police and the community. So. We're talking about prosecutorial discretion but it's also about judgment and it's about priorities. And getting some clarity about the things that he values. A lot of details hadn't meant to be filled and he's got a hold another day of hearing. For him Samara but Rick back to you it's a busy day down there in Washington. The Senate Intelligence Committee was also holding a very rare all been hearing today with some of the top. Government intelligence officials and that was something we thought come up. Both in senator factions hearing as well as general Kelly's hearing has that potential credit Department of Homeland Security. Anything worth noting that came out of that hearing today. I was fascinated by something that happened that the intelligence committee and senator Ron white neo liberal Democrat from organ ask director homey from the FBI directly. Is the FBI investigating. Any links between the trump campaign from campaign operatives and the Russian government. And Conte he gave an answer that. Normally would seem rather on remarkable thing I can't comment on the potential for an investigation. You provide it there was some Sparky commentary even from senators giving call these history of commenting on pending investigations of the past. But senator -- went on to say that he's worried that if this information about those potential links is it out before January 20. The pump will we'll never know about the strong suggestion from senator widen again he's gotten intelligence briefings he presumably knows a lot more. About what the FBI's investigating and he's letting on a strong suggestion. That there actually is an investigation into links between the the Russian government. And operatives of the trump campaign and explosive allegation and again you have Democrats saying there when they're worried if it doesn't come out the next ten days it's gonna get watch. By the incoming top administration. More rate on it. Berry related notes on the and they came up in senator sessions hearing I wanted to ask you about. Mayor senator Durbin was asking him. Along the same lines of his has pledged to recuse himself from any potential investigation into Secretary Clinton email servers senator Durbin asked him. Would you recuse yourself from a potential investigation. Into a member of the count campaign if anything came up and he did not give as definitive an answer to that he that we have to wait and see. So how did you take that cancer. What that song from the sessions. Confirmation hearing is. Hit in trying to make a distinction between candidate trump and president. All I don't know what he was saying. You know when he said that the campaign was heated well we need to know how he is going to respond react. And deal with the president found because what if he says the same thing and act that same way as president you can't you can't he's been very dismissive. Of some of the really outrageous things that. President electron has set Olena ads again explaining away locker room Tom. It heated campaign what happens when he reveals that he's the same person after he takes the how is. Then attorney general sessions but a square. You know his beliefs his his feelings and what he's told the public about what he's going to do with standing when he sees something wrong. Well it's hard to believe but he still has another day. Of crushed today. Did face from his senate colleagues there Rick to get at the quick preview what's up tomorrow what's been paying attention to count. But the opening act may be the most dramatic of the day because you'll have several members of congress including John Lewis the civil rights icon testifying explicitly. Against. A senator sessions about several minority groups. NAACP among them making a similar case but the most ranking need to get senator Cory Booker Democrat from new Jersey's deciding to break with senate president we've been checking. With historians office they can't find another instance in the history of of the United States. Where a sitting United States senator testified against another city United States and they voted yes and all the time but actually going up there at saint. I don't think my colleague is qualified for this job that's an aggressive move and it's a move. That dust and the poker his office knows it they're breaking with precedent to do it a lot of folks are talking about 20/20 political implications never too early for that conversation. On the but I like it it's meant to draws much attention. As possible on these on these attempts to block senator sessions is as last days as long shot as they are. As wondering hourly we can start making it funny funny rapper that the turns out before the next president and even this morning. We can do that hate Rick Klein out of Washington DC our political act different you be if they eat that much for being with us but check back with our or us. And back here in New York former mayor Paul the second on my thanks for being here it's been my pleasure it's been a great day.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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