Rep. Johnson Questions AG Sessions in Judiciary Hearing

November 14, 2017
Press Release

Rep. Johnson Questions AG Sessions in Judiciary Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about why he recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in U.S. elections, the sale of CNN as part of the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger and whether DOJ was conducting a review of cyber-security measures to prevent future meddling in U.S. elections. Below is a transcript and video link of the exchange:

Video: Rep. Johnson Questions AG Sessions in Judiciary Hearing:

Chair: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Johnson, for five minutes.

Mr. Johnson: Thank you. (Attorney) General, you have led a remarkable and notable career over the last 42 years as an attorney in private practice, as the Attorney General of Alabama, then the U.S. Attorney in Alabama, later the U.S. Senator of Alabama and now the Attorney General of the United States of America. And you have made a professional judgment call when you recused yourself from the investigation of the Russian interference in the 2016 elections. You have caught a lot of flak for that decision. What I want to know is why did you recuse yourself?

Mr. Sessions: Thank you very much. I told the Senate Judiciary Committee when I was confirmed that I would evaluate those matters. I would seek the counsel of the senior ethics advisor.

Mr. Johnson: My question is why did you recuse yourself?

Mr. Sessions: I’ll get to that. I evaluated that. They showed me something I was not familiar with. Code of federal regulations said if you participate in a substantial role in a campaign, Department of Justice employee should not participate in investigating that campaign. I felt that was correct. It was not because I had.

Mr. Johnson: I agree.

Mr. Sessions: Not concerned about anything I had done previously. It was to me if I were not bound by that I don't see how other people in the Department of Justice could be expected to follow the rules of the department either.

Mr. Johnson: Thank you, sir. After you recused yourself you did participate in the firing of the FBI director who was leading the investigation into the Russian interference with the 2016 elections. Prior to Jim Comey’s termination, were you contacted by the Donald Trump Administration, anyone in that administration, Donald Trump himself or any of his political or campaign officials about their quest to fire Jim Comey?

Mr. Sessions: I am not able to and cannot reveal conversations with the president of the United States or his top advisors.

Mr. Johnson: Let me ask you this question. With regards to the AT&T proposed acquisition of Time Warner, which owns CNN, it appears to be a vertical merger much like the Comcast-NBC-Universal merger that DOJ approved. But unlike its treatment of Comcast-NBC-Universal, DOJ has suggested strongly that it will not approve the AT&T-Time Warner merger unless Time Warner sells off CNN’s parent company -- Turner Broadcasting. It’s well-known that your boss, President Trump, has great disdain for CNN, which he calls fake news. What I want to know is has the White House or any individual in or on behalf of the Trump Administration or the Trump political team or campaign excluding staff from FCC or DOJ, has anybody contacted you, your office, or your assigns regarding that AT&T-Time Warner acquisition?

Mr. Sessions: First, I would say that I don’t accept and cannot accept the accuracy of that news report. We have a professional.

Mr. Johnson: Your department has not told Time Warner that and AT&T that they must shed Turner Broadcasting?

Mr. Sessions: Will I work. They do meet.

Mr. Johnson: Is that a false report or a true report?

Mr. Sessions: I tell you I don’t think I’m able to accept as accurate a news report.

Mr. Johnson: Let me ask you this question. On October 18 when testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Sasse asked you if the department had taken adequate action to prevent election meddling in the future. You stated there was no review under way of the cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Have you requested a review of what laws need to be updated to protect our elections from foreign influence?

Mr. Sessions: We have discussed those matters, but no completion has been done.

Mr. Johnson: Are you conducting a review at this time?

Mr. Sessions: Yes. Our team is looking at that. The FBI has real skills in that area. I think we're not anywhere near where I would like us to be yet.

Mr. Johnson: What individual with your department is leading that inquiry?

Mr. Sessions: We would be working with our voting rights section. Our criminal section. National security section. Probably is the most knowledgeable in the hacking and -- area. As well as the expertise in the FBI.

Chair: The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. Johnson: Thank you.


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