House Judicial Committee grills Sessions on Russia, Trump and Uranium One

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had testy exchanges with several representatives from both sides of the aisle in the first part of the hearing.
3:00 | 11/14/17

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Transcript for House Judicial Committee grills Sessions on Russia, Trump and Uranium One
Nearly two hours after years beginning an attorney general Jeff Sessions is getting a little bit of a break now after a series of questions from number of members. On that House Judiciary Committee take I'm not from watching this hearing alongside with you live as it happened. Mike let me my colleague down in Washington DC cover is the DOJ it's also keeping an eye on it. Are right nearly two hours and now he still probably got about two hours to go out to the man has earned a break Mike. What I stood out to you so far. Well certainly is big defense of his previous testimony we are coming into this hearing. Trying to see how Democrats are trying to hammer sessions the first previous testimony on Russia and what he knew and when he knew it. About contacts are possible contacts between trump associates and even intermediaries of the Russian government. But another moment that I want to know just happened only minutes ago which was a testy exchange between sessions and a Republican member of the committee. Congressman Jordan kept pressing he was itching for sessions to say that he would appoint another special counsel related to Hillary Clinton. And so he kept on asking sessions White House in the special counsel been appointed why hasn't special counsel be appointed and then asked point blank what will it take for a special counsel be appointed. Concessions responded by saying. That there needs to be factual basis and then toward the end he split it was in passing he's lifted that there that he believes there is no factual basis for a special counsel here. I think in in that moment he was talking about. The dossier they sent the controversial dossier. And whether. An error of links between what links there are between the Clinton Campaign and the production of that dossier. But all sorts of salacious and now still unfounded accusations against don't. Yeah and make it's important to point out here that section is really holding the line he's been consistent year. When he says what he cannot answer and that has to do with issues relating to his recusal or issues relating to any ongoing investigations he said look at its. If it's something going on right now I cannot talk about it so whether it coming from or Democrat. Or republic and he is being consistent on this one front. Yes he he has repeatedly said that he can't talk about the but he also is that he can't or call. He said more he's of that phrase I can't recall more in this hearing. I can recall. It since since he's become attorney general so it'll be interesting to see how that plays out in the days to come. Well and that I don't recall answer comes a lot of questions about that march 2016 meeting I think he chaired it was a trunk campaign needing. George pop a topless was and there we know it's been reported he suggested meetings with the Russians. It's worth pointing out sessions says he doesn't look hall pushing back. Against the suggestion that there should be meetings with the Russians he does seem to McCall back and he says. As reports have come out they jog his memory he then remember that this was product in that meeting. I need might look if it was eighteen months ago. As he mentioned a lot has happened since then it's a fair answer for him to keep saying I really don't remember but if some things reported that might jog my memory. Well in this instance the truth is right after these reports first came out that was the Justice Department's defense of the attorney general they challenged I called up one DOJ official and they challenged me. To remember conversations I had with people a year and a half ago now travels or communications. So that is remained consistent since these first reports came out. And the attorney general certainly can get hearing today ready to make that same challenge publicly. He there there was one moment where he studies are out basically said how can I be expected to remember these conversations in detail. There was another series of questions it got quite heated with representative Sheila Jackson Lee and I'll I'll still are she's been the only one who has brought out the current. Alabama senate race in Jeff Sessions name has been thrown around when it comes to this because of course some people say well if Roy Moore who has been accused now by multiple women of sexual misconduct years ago many of them with teenagers at the time. The people we're thing they meet at sessions would be asked to go a step back into that seat that has act. No official comment on any of that so far but it's actually asked him. About that his answer actually certainty with which he's that it sort of caught me off guard Mike she asked him if he believed the women wore Roy Moore. That's right and his answer was I have no reason to doubt their accounts. Yeah it for some reason it surprised me that he said that so bluntly. But then he was asked whether by Sheila Jackson Lee whether that means that. War more worry more should he win the election should he be seated and sessions of course didn't go near that he just kept its DOJ and said the DOJ itself would. Move slower lit by the rule of law. And that there's something up I want to get your take on I found a little confusing I'm not sure anyone else did too there is a series of back and forth. We it's I've represented Hank Johnson from Georgia he was asking about the circumstances surrounding the firing of then FBI director. James coney annual session answered with something east before you know at their private conversation in the president tonight. I can't die involved in but this he included in that phrase. If there conversations between the president or his top advisors and I I can't talk about it is an extension of executive privilege in some way. It'll I don't see it that way if you remember there are other officials within the administration NSA director. Others that that came. To congress in their own testimonies and basically said the same thing that I'm not prepared or I'm not going to talk about testimony. Talk about conversations and I had with the president. They basically implied. That that was due to executive privilege though technically speaking the White House has not invoked executive privilege here. And months ago actually was told that the White House was still reviewing for months they've been reviewing whether to. Officially invoke executive privilege in these matters. We've got a couple more hours of questioning had it and it's worth pointing out though this format. It's so fraught because these are represented as fighting to get many questions and as many answers in. During an allotted time there's one portion of one every play here. This back and forth with representative Sheila Jackson Lee because she was trying very very hard to cover all lot of ground in her allotted time but for those if you missed it. This happened just a little while ago this was attorney general Jeff Sessions. In an interaction with representative Sheila Jackson Lee take a lesson. Now in light of the facts that are now part of the wreckage that you wish to change our testimony. Before the senate intelligence committee on June 13 two NE seventeen where you say it. I have never met with or any conversation many Russians or any part of this let me jump to the final part I don't knowledge I don't dollar. You want to admit. Under oath that you did Matt. Tell the truth or misrepresented. Or do you want to correct your testimony right now. You're referring to in my testimony on for the senate intelligence gimme my time is short amp two more questions please well. I'm not able to respond because the don't think on stand what you were saying I'm asking your intelligence committee testimony to you wanna change it where you indicated you had no knowledge of in of the involvement of the truck. Individuals involved in conversations regarding the truck campaign wretched and mr. Miller. Gave. Supported. Mr. Trump's. Press conference where he said Russia if you're listening I hope you'll be able to find the 30000 email you want him change your testimony. That was. A what you said I have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to charm campaign regarding Russians involved in the campaign. That was eight testimony on June 13. I'm not able done all right and move forward to the let me say this mr. chairman can armor. Black identity let me move to ain't got out it if prepares. That got the gentleman keeps any cannot recall can Africa also mentally in my time in almost suspend the eyewitness. Wants to answer the question she asked and I should be given extra time and I do not have extra time let me move with a black and almost as bad I was when it lands the question. Yes or no does he want to change his testimony in the intelligence committee. I'll just say this. A stand by this testimony at the intelligence committee. I have never met ripped RA any conversation. With a any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with the campaign. All election in the United States further I have no knowledge of any such conversations. By anyone connected to the trump them kind. Mike bezel lip and amid a gamesmanship going on here you see some of that shuffling of the papers the looking for the glass says I don't quite understand the question this is not. Jeff Sessions first time at a congressional hearing. Yes but I think part of what's going on here is nuance there is a lot of nuance here right. In that in those last few moments these summit the attorney general there he made clear that he was saying that he was unaware of any contacts with Russians related to interference in the campaign. That's a cab via. But more importantly I think what also was going on here with the Jeff Sessions they as he came to defend himself to insist that he did not lie to congress. He did not commit perjury because as those of the act those are the accusations against him. It's important to remember. And it is not a crime to lie to it to give false testimony to congress is a crime to knowingly give false testimony to congress to know that you're doing it. And so sessions. One of one of the defense is that he hats. Is that even if he gave false testimony he didn't realize it was false he didn't know was falsely think that's that's the gamer that's the nuance he's trying to work with today. And that's a crucial distinction I'm glad you pointed that out because it's also important to point out that coming up. In future questioning on that panel there is a Democrat who had outwardly an explicitly accuse Jeff Sessions. Up perjury that's our presented its Hadley of California he's bullet missed most outspoken critics of president trump and members of his administration he tweeted before. That he believes that sections has perjured himself. So who knows what's gonna come up in his line of questioning. That's right I just think this is a statement. Of what's out there of the record I'm not aware of any information suggesting that sessions knew that what he said was. Win the ISP air it has been an incredible back and forth for the last two hours. Jeff Sessions has a number of questions ahead what stood out to you so far. I think that the citizens came. Since Don Sweeney and I would say vigorously defend his name he's maintaining that he did not make. Intentional false statements to congress essentially if you want to bringing it down this way he's basically saying that he never had any knowledge that. Some campaign officials. Were communicating. With the questions to collude. Or to affect the outcome of the election. He's now saying that no it's possible that he could not call certain. Things including the pop adopt those. Meaning in which there was some push back into the weather popped up was would go. And try to arrange a meeting with directions so he's trying to make it to six distinction that there were many different things happened over the course to campaign. And that obviously there was some things that he failed to recollect. And here there at this ongoing question when it comes to this particular president. And how he views many of the federal agency that's come up again and again from a couple of Democrats. On the comedian that is. Has there been any political influence when it comes to the department of justice's priorities where the decisions that it makes sessions is an. Very consistent in his answers on this so far. I think this is the area that substances tried to treat. In the most delicate offense he was asked point blank is appropriate for the president of the United States to essentially be pressuring the Justice Department. And he made the statement in generic. I said basically that the president should use great care. But he never outright directly criticize president other than to say that. He has not felt in Iraq pressure from present himself saying that the president is outspoken person. But clearly the Democrats are putting up sweep for the president. Where he's demanding pushing forward DOJ to investigate. Former Secretary Clinton and you could see assesses trying to say that maybe isn't the greatest things were present to but being careful not to specifically an outright criticized president you stick. And here that were there specifically ME needs are specifics that Democrats in particular are looking for they're asking about. Very specific dates conversations. And meetings as he recollect this ever being brought up again at any time in the campaign. You can just imagine that sessions has only one responds that he can eat and eat these questions and that is I don't look all I don't believe so we just expect more of that. For the rest of blunt questioning. That is clearly what he's bringing forth at this hearing that. On matters where he does not have a specific recollection is simply going to say I don't Ricard. Because that gets at the issue intent is he intentionally misleading congress and he's being very careful to lay out what he can remember and what he can. All right Pierre Thomas live for us there outside the hearing room in Washington DC peer thanks so much I was good to talk to you. My point being you're going to be watching the rest of this hearing win that's at. And it's worth saying I know there have been a number of other issues. Back have come up at hasn't been all Russia focused from the democrats' voter ID laws have come up as you mentioned the Alabama. Senate race has also come up as well. What other issues you think that are under the purview of the Department of Justice right now. Could present themselves in in more lines of questioning coming up ahead. You know one thing that came up today than I was surprised. Came up so much was the issue of marijuana enforcement how the federal government is using. Federal laws tax and its resource to actually go after. Marijuana users of marijuana traffickers who obviously is an issue right now because so many states have passed laws. Making meant a medical marijuana or even recreational marijuana legal in the Justice Department has been grappling with what to do about that. Many weeks ago we had heard that the Justice Department might be issuing new guidance to authorities out in the field. About how to prioritize the resource is when it comes to marijuana enforcement. And has yet to happen. And the deputy attorney general Ahmad Reza Stein even said that that is something that the just sperm is in the process of trying to determine what to do about. And we're still waiting for but they're going to do. So I think we might hear more about marijuana in this hearing. And it looks like they're getting under way again this is the abreast of the hearing at a House Judiciary Committee. Questioning attorney general Jeff Sessions on Capitol Hill let's go back to Erie residents that. It's rather a member of a executive branch and I worked for the American people.

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

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