Congressman Nadler Grills AG Sessions on Information Related to George Papadopoulos and Possible Obstruction of Justice

Nov 14, 2017 Issues: Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, used the Committee’s oversight hearing of the Department of Justice to question Attorney General Jeff Sessions after revelations in the George Papadopoulos guilty plea showed inconsistencies in Sessions’s earlier testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Under questioning from Rep. Nadler, Attorney General Sessions confirmed his meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos, and that the subject of communications with the Russian government was discussed at a March 31, 2016 meeting of the Trump campaign National Security Advisory Committee.  Asked if anyone else at the meeting reacted to the information presented by Mr. Papadopoulos, the Attorney General responded, “I do not recall.”  Rep. Nadler then asked about the potential obstruction of justice, and whether Attorney General Sessions had taken any action based on information concerning Trump campaign communications with the Russians.

A transcript of Congressman Nadler’s questions and Attorney General Sessions’s responses can be found below, with a link to the full video here:

Rep. Nadler: "Attorney General Sessions, thank you for being here. 

"I want to show you an image from March 31, 2016 of a meeting of the Trump campaign National Security Advisory Committee—which you chaired—with yourself in attendance, along with then-candidate Donald Trump, and Mr. George Papadopoulos.

"Mr. Papadopoulos pled guilty on October 5, 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.  His charging papers, filed by Special Counsel Mueller, describe the March 31st meeting where Mr. Papadopoulos told the group that he had “connections” and could help arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.  After the meeting, Mr. Papadopoulos continued to communicate with the Russian government on behalf of the Trump campaign, and appears to have told several senior campaign officials about it.

"Now here is the problem…  On October 18, 2017, you said under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, 'a continuing exchange of information between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government . . . did not happen, at least not to my knowledge, and not with me.”  Senator Franken asked, “You don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians?' to which you responded, 'I did not – and I’m not aware of anyone else that did.'

"This is a problem.  We know now that (1) the campaign had communications with the Russians, through Mr. Papadopoulos and others, and (2) you seem to have been aware of this fact at the time.

"So, let’s try and correct your earlier testimony now, for the record: Did you chair the March 31, 2016 meeting of the Trump campaign National Security Advisory Committee?

A.G. Sessions: “I did chair that meeting.”

Rep. Nadler: “Thank you. Yes or no, did Mr. Papadopoulos mention his outreach to the Russian government during that meeting?

A.G. Sessions: “He made some comment to that effect, as I remembered after having read it in the newspaper.”

Rep. Nadler: “I asked for yes or no, I don’t have time…there are reports that you ‘shut George down’ when he proposed that meeting with Putin. Is this correct, yes or no?”

A.G. Sessions: “Yes. I pushed back, I’ll just say it that way, because it was, um—”

Rep. Nadler: “Yes, your answer is yes. So you were obviously concerned with Mr. Papadopoulos’ connections, and his possibly arranging a meeting with Putin.

Now again, yes or no: did anyone else at that meeting, including then-candidate Trump, react in any way to what Mr. Papadopoulos had presented?”

A.G. Sessions: “I don’t recall.”

Rep. Nadler: “Okay. So your testimony is that neither Donald Trump nor anyone else in the meeting expressed any interest in meeting the Russian president, or had any concerns about communications between the campaign and the Russians?”

A.G. Sessions: “I don’t recall it.”

Rep. Nadler: “Okay. Now we know from multiple sources, including the Papadopoulos guilty plea, Carter Page’s interview with the intelligence committee, and Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, among others, that contrary to your earlier testimony, there were continued efforts to communicate with the Russians on behalf of the Trump campaign. We’ve established that you knew about at least some of these efforts; they caused you such concern that you ‘shut George down.’ I want to know what you did with this information.

Yes or no: after the March 31st meeting, did you take any steps to prevent Trump campaign officials, advisors, or employees from further outreach to the Russians?”

A.G. Sessions: “Mr. Nadler, let me just say it this way. I pushed back at that; you made statements that he did in fact – at the meeting, I pushed back.”

Rep. Nadler: “I know that. But did you, after the meeting-”

A.G. Sessions: “No, I’m not – I have to be able to answer. I can’t be able to…be put in a position where I can’t explain.”

Rep. Nadler: “I only have five minutes. I’m asking you—”

A.G. Sessions: “I’m not going to be able to answer if I can’t answer completely.”

Rep. Nadler: “Well you said you pushed back, we accept that. After the meeting, did you take any further steps to prevent Trump campaign officials, advisors, or employees from further outreach to the Russians, after you stopped it or pushed back at that meeting?”

A.G. Sessions: “What I want to say to you is, you alleged there were some further contacts later. I don’t believe I had any knowledge of any further contacts, and I was not in regular contact with Mr. Papadopoulos.”

Rep. Nadler: “So, your answer is no, because you don’t think there were any such contacts.”

A.G. Sessions: “I’m not aware of it.”

Rep. Nadler: “Okay, so I was going to ask you a question of, did you raise the issue with various people, but your answer is no.”

A.G. Sessions: “To the best of my recollection.”

Rep. Nadler: “Okay. So your testimony today is that you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the March 31st meeting, because nothing happened.”

A.G. Sessions: “Repeat that?”

Rep. Nadler: “Your testimony, therefore, is that you communicated with nobody in the campaign about this matter after the March 31st meeting—”

A.G. Sessions: “I don’t recall it.”

Rep. Nadler: “You don’t recall. At some point, you became aware that the FBI was investigating potential links between the FBI and the Russian government. After you became aware of the investigation, did you ever discuss Mr. Papadopoulos’ effort with anybody at the FBI?”

A.G. Sessions: “Did I discuss the matter with the FBI? To ask them questions about what they may have found?”

Rep. Nadler: “Did you discuss the Papadopoulos question with the FBI?”

A.G. Sessions: “I have not had any discussions with Mr. Mueller, or his team, or the FBI, concerning any factors with regard to this investigation.”

Rep. Nadler: “And nobody else at the FBI either?”

A.G. Sessions: “No.”

Rep. Nadler: “At the department of Justice?”

A.G. Sessions: “No.”

Rep. Nadler: “At the White House?”

A.G. Sessions: “No.”

Rep. Nadler: “Any member of Congress?”

A.G. Sessions: “Well…I don’t know if these conversations may have come up at some time, but not to obtain information in any…with regard to your broad question, I don’t recall at this moment, sitting here, any such discussions. That’s important for me to say.”

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