Sessions said Tuesday that he and Rosenstein had a “clear view” that the FBI had “problems” and needed a fresh start. They were asked their opinions and felt comfortable putting them into writing, the attorney general said.
Their full exchange is below:
WYDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing in the open, in full view of the American people where it belongs. I believe the American people have had it with stonewalling. Americans don’t want to hear that answers to relevant questions are privileged and off-limits or that they can’t be provided in public or that it would be “inappropriate” for witnesses to tell us what they know. We are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable and General Sessions has acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. It’s not a question.
Last Thursday, I asked Director Comey about the FBI’s interactions with you, General Sessions, prior to your stepping aside from the Russian investigation. Mr. Comey said that your continued engagement with the Russian investigation was “problematic” and he, Mr. Comey, could not discuss it in public. Mr. Comey also said that FBI personnel had been calling for you to step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you finally did so.
Now, in your prepared statement, you stated you received only “limited information … necessary to inform [your] recusal decision,” but given Director Comey’s statement, we need to know what that was. Were you aware of any concerns that the FBI or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the Russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the Russian investigation.
SESSIONS: Sen. Wyden, I am not stonewalling. I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice. You don’t walk into any hearing or committee meeting and reveal confidential communication with the president of the United States — who is entitled to receive confidential communications and your best judgment about a host of issues — and have to be accused of stonewalling for not answering them, so I would push back on that.
Secondly, Mr. Comey — perhaps he didn’t know — but I basically recused myself the day, the first day I got into office because I never accessed files. I never learned the names of investigators. I never met with them. I never asked for any documentation. The documentation, what little I received, was mostly already in the media and was presented by the senior ethics public responsibility-professional responsibility attorney in the department
SESSIONS: And I made an honest and proper decision to recuse myself as I told Sen. [Dianne] Feinstein and the members of the committee I would do when they confirmed me.
WYDEN: General Sessions, respectfully, you’re not answering-
SESSIONS: Well, what is the question?
WYDEN: The question is Mr. Comey said that there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and that he couldn’t talk about them. What are they?