WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee where he was questioned on everything from President Donald Trump’s possible collusion with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to Hillary Clinton’s involvement in the scandal known as Uranium One.
Sessions, who testified before the panel for the first time since newly released court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office suggested Sessions knew of campaign staffers George Papadopoulos and Carter Page’s efforts to set up a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he “never lied” when he testified in previous hearings that he was unaware of any contact between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian officials.
“I had no recollection of this [March 31] meeting until I saw these news reports,” Sessions told the panel. “I do now recall the March 2016 meeting that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting.”
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler grilled Sessions about what he did following Papadopoulos suggestion that Trump meet with Putin.
“After March 31 meeting, did you take any steps to prevent further outreach to the Russians?” Nadler asked.
“I pushed back at the meeting…I don’t believe I had any knowledge of any further contacts, and I was not in regular contact with Mr. Papadopoulos,” Sessions said, insisting that his story had “never changed,” and he has “always told the truth.”
Nadler then asked whether “anyone else at that meeting,” including Trump, reacted to Papadopoulos’ proposal.
“I don’t recall,” Sessions replied.
After a second round of grilling over the issue during which New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries accused him of lying under oath, the Attorney General became visibly angry and said he would not sit back and be accused of perjury.
“Mr. Jeffries, nobody – nobody – not you or anyone else should be prosecuted – not me – or accused of perjury for answering the question the way I did in this hearing,’ Sessions said, referencing his earlier statements.
“I’ve always tried to answer the questions fairly and accurately. But to ask did you ever do something, you ever meet with Russians and deal with the campaign?” Sessions continued.
“You’re saying Mr. Carter Page, who left that meeting according to the press reports and I guess his deposition or interview, has been reported as saying ‘I’m going to Russia.’ I made no response to it – didn’t acknowledge it. And you’re accusing me of lying about that? I say that’s not fair Mr. Jeffries,” Sessions said.
When asked about recent allegations against GOP Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Sessions said he had “no reason to doubt” claims by 5 women who have come forward to allege that Moore had sexually harassed or assaulted them when they were underage. Sessions stopped short, however, of saying that Moore should step aside.
“They (ethics officials) advised me that the attorney general should not be involved in this campaign,” Sessions told the Committee. “I have steadfastly adhered to that view, and I think I should continue to do so.”
Despite intense grilling by Rep. Barbara Jackson Lee, Sessions refused to say whether or not the Justice Department would play any role in investigating Moore , 70, over the allegations.
“We will evaluate every case as to whether or not it should be investigated. This kind of case would normally be a state case,” he said.
Meanwhile, published reports suggest that the embattled Attorney General has directed senior federal prosecutors to examine whether a special counsel is needed to investigate Hillary Clinton over a host of wrongdoings allegedly carried out by the Clinton Foundation, including the controversial sale of uranium to the Russians through a company known as Uranium One.
A letter dated November 13 from an assistant attorney general to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reads:
“These senior prosecutors will report directly to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel. This will better enable the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to more effectively evaluate and manage the caseload.”
Sessions’ decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate Clinton comes after a verbal tongue lashing by the president over the Justice Department’s failure to investigate a host of reported wrongdoings by the Clinton Foundation.
Just before leaving for a 12-day trip to Asia earlier this month, the president told reporters he would like to see Sessions look a bit harder at his former Democratic rival.
“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department I’d like to let it run itself. But, honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats,” Trump said, adding, “And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me.”