Interviews

Strange: I'm glad Sessions took the step of recusing himself

The senator who replaced the attorney general speaks out on 'Your World'

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 2, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  I want to go to Alabama Republican Senator Luther Strange.  Of course, he replaced Jeff Sessions.  

Senator, very good to have you.  

What do you make of...  

SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, R-ALABAMA:  Thank you for having me.  

CAVUTO:  What do you make of this?  Do you think that that omission of a meeting is the same as lying about that meeting?  

STRANGE:  Well, I think Senator Sessions did a great job in his press conference clarifying the situation that occurred and correcting the record.  

I have known Jeff an awful long time.  And I'm more than certain that he would never intentionally mislead anyone.  And I think he made that clear. In the context of the question he was asked, it was all about the campaign. And so I think it's -- as he understood the question, it was truthful.  

And I'm glad he clarified it today.  And I'm glad he took the step of recusing himself.  I think that was prudent, based on the advice of the professionals at the Justice Department.  

CAVUTO:  All right, how do you think it goes, though?  You might be right. There might be a distinction between meeting with the Russian ambassador in the senator's role at the time as a prominent senator on armed services, foreign policy, intelligence matters.  That, I can see.

STRANGE:  Right.  

CAVUTO:  But a lot of people look at this say, all right, now you have to recuse from all of these matters that come up about Russian Trump, alleged or otherwise, to the Trump campaign at the time of which you were a surrogate.  

Is that surrogate role that he played going to come back to bite him?  What do you think?  

STRANGE:  I don't think so.  

I mean, on the Democrats' side, many senators, countless Democratic senators were acting as surrogates for Hillary Clinton and meeting with, not only the Russian ambassador, but ambassadors around the world.

CAVUTO:  Very true.  Very true.  

STRANGE:  So, I mean, as a member of the Armed Services Committee now, it's our job to meet with foreign officials.  It's part of our duty to the American people.  

Jeff, I think, made it very clear that his meeting with the Russian ambassador was held in his official office with his official staff talking about official business.  And, again, I go back to the question that Senator Franken asked him.  It was in the context of breaking news and in the context of the Russians interfering with an election and election- related contacts.

And he had no such contacts.  And I think that was the intention, maybe inartfully expressed, of his answer in that context.

CAVUTO:  Well, I get -- I think you're right.  And I do understand it. That's why, Senator Strange, we played the full question, because I think people, when they hear the shorter version of that question, they wonder, like, wait a minute.  I mean, there's a difference here.  

STRANGE:  Right.  

CAVUTO:  But much of what had been the minute before this was about surrogates and their role and their discussions with the Russians.  

And that would be, if I were being asked the question, I would be thinking, all right, now, he's asking as a campaign operative here what I did.  

So, that, I understand.  But -- but that is a big meeting not to recall or at least add on, and just to say, well, I did meet with the Russian ambassador in my office not very far from here on other matters, as you all do, as my colleagues on the left and right do all the time.

STRANGE:  Right.  

CAVUTO:  But he didn't do that and he didn't clarify that.  

And even later on, as he could have, he didn't provide an addendum even in writing or a report or a file.  And that's what sort of is feeding this call for him to go way beyond recusing, to stepping down.  

Now, that is probably extreme.  That's political.  I understand how your town works.

STRANGE:  Yes.  

CAVUTO:  But do you think he gave them the ammunition for that by not doing the kind of things that you would think, being considered for the highest legal office in the land, you do?  

STRANGE:  I really don't -- I don't think he did, Neil.  

I think he was very clear in his written comments when he had time to reflect on it.  This was a breaking news story at the time. And so I don't think that's the case at all.  

What I would point out, because I sat through the entire day of these hearings before the Judiciary Committee as a private citizen and a friend of Senator Sessions, the attitude and the methodology of going after Senator Sessions has been well-established by the Democrats.  

They said certain things about his record that were totally untrue and really mischaracterized his record as a senator and as a person, frankly. And I think it was very unfair to him.  I think this is a continuation of that effort.  And it goes way beyond Senator Sessions.  

It really goes at trying to undermine the Trump presidency.  

CAVUTO:  All right.  

STRANGE:  And I think that's apparent to me, and I hope it will be apparent to the American people.  

CAVUTO:  All right, and speaking of the Trump presidency, President Trump standing by him, and even urging against recusal.  

But, obviously, to the better part of valor for the attorney general was to recuse himself from any of these ongoing investigations into potential ties with Russian officials and the Trump campaign, something that, by the way, hasn't even been proven or let alone remotely examined.  But we will see.

END

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