Attorney General Sessions quizzed on Russia investigation

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, D-N.Y.: You understand sir, I get to ask the questions and you provide the answers in this capacity. You're no longer in the United States Senate.

You voted in 1999 to remove Bill Clinton from office on charges of perjury -- correct?


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. I would say that's not fair, colleagues. That's not on any indication that I in any way participated in anything wrong.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The Attorney General Jeff Sessions up on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee. As we bumped in there, you saw the live picture of our town hall, starting in just minutes.

Also in that day-long testimony from the Attorney General, some questions about whether he's going to appoint a special prosecutor, a special counsel on some other investigations.


REP. JIM JORDAN, R-OHIO: What's it going to take to actually get a special counsel?

SESSIONS: It would take a factual basis.

JORDAN: Then it sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government to then turn an opposition research document equivalent of some National Enquirer story into an intelligence document, take that to the FISA court so that they could then get a warrant to spy on Americans associated with President Trump's campaign. That's what it looks like --


SESSIONS: And I would say "looks like" is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, D-ILL.: Are you going to appoint one as he promised during the campaigned? He has reminded you a couple times in a few of his tweets that that's what he wants.

SESSIONS: I will fulfill my duty as attorney general.


BAIER: So there you have it. Let's bring in our panel. From the Washington bureau: Charles Hurt, opinion editor for The Washington Times; Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News; and Byron York, chief political correspondent of The Washington Examiner.

Ok. Byron -- overall, on balance, the Attorney General on Capitol Hill today.

BYRON YORK, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: You know, on balance, there was that first clip you showed, it was a five and a half hour attempt by Democrats to catch Jeff Sessions in a lie about Russia. We heard a lot of questions about the George Papadopoulos affair, the man who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was the informal Trump advisor on foreign policy. We heard a lot about that.

We heard more about Carter Page, whom Sessions had had a very, very cursory encounter with -- didn't even remember.

Then we heard more about Sessions' meeting with a -- with the Russian ambassador back during the campaign.

And the bottom line was it didn't really move the ball very far. And if you believed Jeff Sessions going into this hearing, you believe him now. And if you didn't believe him, you don't believe him still. It just really didn't change a lot of opinions.

BAIER: Shannon -- the Attorney General did have, you know, some issues. He obviously was pressed numerous times by Democrats on the various testimonies he's given on this issue. And he pushed back saying it was not a deliberate effort to evade. But his description on a number of fronts has changed over time.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG NEWS: And his defense has been, listen, you're asking me about a meeting that happened a year ago, 18 months ago. It was a crazy campaign. How am I supposed to remember all of this?

But I will say over the course of these hearings and investigations, I've talked to other witnesses who testified. I have talked to their lawyers about what goes into preparing for one of these hearing so you don't get caught in a situation where you don't recall something and you make a statement that's misleading or factually incorrect.

Typically people hire a lawyer. They pay them $20,000 or $30,000 or $50,000 to go through every e-mail, every meeting record. The lawyer grills them on who was in the meeting, what happened there. They go through notes, text, phone records so something like this doesn't happen.

So these meetings that Sessions omitted or forgot, they were public meetings, documented meetings. They were things that he could've known about and had his memory refreshed on before coming before committees previously.

BAIER: Right -- Charlie.

CHARLES HURT, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: I was just kind of struck by the fact that it was a fascinating five and half hours where he really wasn't just taking incoming from Democrats. He was also taking a lot of tough questions from fellow Republicans who were demanding to know, are you going to launch an investigation into the Clintons and into all of these other things that I would argue there's probably a whole lot more ripe territory for finding wrongdoing.

As far as the questions from the Democrats, you know, questioning about the varying statements, if you go back to the original statements where they are claiming that he misled them or he lied, there were exchanges between Senators Al Franken and Pat Leahy

And if you -- those questions were specifically asked in terms of where you part of this conspiracy to conspire with Russia to rig the election? And each of those questions, he answered factually correctly at the time.

And so for that -- you know, now it's all theatrics. They are just trying to make him look bad in trying to sort of do everything they can to associate the Trump campaign with Russia.

BAIER: Right. And well, obviously in the interim here we have had the Paul Manafort indictment, we had the guilty plea from Papadopoulos, and we've had the release of Carter Page's deposition or testimony up on the Hill. Here's sound bite number two asked about those two.


SESSIONS: -- asking me today explicitly, did you meet with any other Russians. I am prepared to say I did. I met with the ambassador in my office with at least two of my staff, senior, respected patriots, a colonel who's retired in the army. And nothing improper occurred at all.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF.: Once and for all, can we answer the question.

SESSIONS: I am once and for all answering the question -- Congressman. I don't understand why you won't take my answer.

SWALWELL: We're on the third edition, Mr. Attorney General.


BAIER: Byron.

YORK: Well, he just keeps getting at him and it keeps coming back. And it goes back, by the way, to that Al Franken exchange that Charlie was talking about during his confirmation hearing.

His story, by the way, is that he felt like he was not required to disclose every meeting he had with an ambassador or a foreign official in the normal course of business as a U.S. Senator. And he did not actually disclose that.

There's also other explanations. He didn't completely understand Franken's question which did wander around a little bit. So his story is not changing all that much.

BAIER: Yes. Panel -- thank you from Washington.

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