Ahead of DOJ Oversight Hearing, House Judiciary Committee Democrats Put Sessions on Notice
Washington, DC, November 7, 2017
Today, ahead of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on November 14, 2017, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) led a letter signed by every Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The letter was signed by every Democratic member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, including: Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).
The hearing will take place in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building and will be webcast live at judiciary.house.gov. On the day of the hearing, media will be allowed access to the committee hearing room at 9:30 a.m.
Congressionally credentialed members of the media MUST RSVP to their respective Press Gallery no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, November 13. Gallery contact information is below:
November 7, 2017
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
We understand that, more than nine months after the Senate confirmed you as U.S. Attorney General, you will appear before the House Committee on the Judiciary for an oversight hearing. In anticipation of our meeting—and in the hope that you will provide us with answers to our questions that are both responsive and complete—we write to direct your attention to the following matters.
First, as you know, court documents show that George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, communicated with several senior campaign officials about his outreach to the Russia government. The charging document for Mr. Papadopoulos states:
On or about March 31, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS attended a “national security meeting” in Washington, D.C., with then-candidate Trump and other foreign policy advisors for the Campaign. When defendant PAPADOPOULOS introduced himself to the group, he stated, in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.
The meeting in question was a meeting of the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee—a working group that you chaired. According to reports and a photograph of the event, you and President Trump were both present for his remarks.
Mr. Papadopoulos’s communication with the campaign about his work with Russia was not limited to this single event. Court documents show that he was in regular communication with a number of senior campaign officials—including Sam Clovis, Corey Lewandowski, Paul Manafort, and Richard Gates. Those officials determined that the campaign’s interaction with the Russian government should continue to be delegated to “someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal.” In other words, officials at the highest levels of the Trump campaign knew about Mr. Papadopoulos’s interactions with Russian officials on behalf of the campaign and hoped to hide those interactions from the public.
The record also shows that Mr. Papadopoulos was no mere “low level volunteer.” In an interview with the Washington Post, then-candidate Trump listed him by name as one of five individuals advising him on foreign policy. He took an active role in commenting to the foreign press on behalf of the Trump campaign. At a campaign event just weeks before the Republican National Convention, he sat to your left at a table reserved for national security advisers.
These facts appear to contradict your sworn testimony on several occasions.
At your confirmation hearing, Senator Al Franken asked: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” You responded: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it” It was soon shown that you had, in fact, met with Russian officials during the campaign. We wonder if another aspect of your statement may also be inaccurate. You stated that you were “not aware” of any communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government—but you ran the meeting in which Mr. Papadopoulos explained his intent to do exactly that.
More recently, when Senator Patrick Leahy pressed you to clarify your earlier testimony, you gave three different answers: you had no “improper involvement” with Russian officials; you never personally “had a meeting with any Russian officials to discuss any kind of coordinating campaign efforts”; and you “cannot recall” whether or not you have had a discussion with Russian officials about emails stolen from the DNC. Senator Franken then asked you directly: “You don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians?” You responded unequivocally: “I did not—and I’m not aware of anyone else that did. I don’t believe that happened.”
Again, it is difficult to square this statement with the facts. If, as recent reports suggest, you rejected Mr. Papadopoulos’s suggestion that President Trump meet with Vladimir Putin at that March 31 meeting—a fact you appear to have remembered only after Mr. Papadopoulos’s account was made public—it seems likely that you were “aware” of communications between the Russian government and surrogates of the Trump campaign.
When you appear before our Committee, we intend to ask you about these inconsistencies. We are providing you with notice in advance because we expect you to respond. We will urge our Chairman to resort to compulsory process if you do not.
Second, to date, our members have sent more than forty letters to the Administration asking for information necessary to carry out our oversight of the Department of Justice. We have not yet received a single meaningful response to any of the letters—including the following, sent directly to the Department:
The Department’s inability to respond to these letters on a timely basis is unacceptable. We expect a prompt response to every reasonable oversight request—whether or not Chairman Goodlatte has signed his name to the inquiry. At our hearing, we intend to ask you both about the matters described in these letters and about your decision to ignore the letters themselves.
 U.S. v. George Papadopoulos, No. 17-CR-182 (RDM), (D.D.C. Oct. 5, 2017).
 Id. See also Rosalind S. Helderman, Who’s who in the George Papadopoulos court documents, Wash. Post, Oct. 30, 2017.
 President Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter, Oct. 31, 2017, 8:16AM.
 A transcript of Donald Trump’s meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, Wash. Post, Mar. 21, 2016.
 See, e.g., David M. Weinberg, The Donald’s Foreign Policy, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 7, 2016 (“Trump, says Papadopoulos, sees Russian President Vladimir Putin as a responsible actor and potential partner.”); Press Association, David Cameron should “reach out and apologise” to Donald Trump, his advisor says, Telegraph, May 4, 2016 (“George Papadopoulos said it would be ‘wise’ for the Prime Minister to ‘reach out in a more positive manner’ to the Republican front-runner.”).
 Rosalind S. Helderman et al., For ‘low level volunteer,’ Papadopoulos sought high profile as Trump adviser, Wash. Post, Oct. 31, 2017.
 Attorney General Nomination, hearing before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, Jan. 10, 2017 (emphasis added).
 Adam Entous et al., Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose, Wash. Post, Mar. 1, 2017.
 Oversight of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, hearing before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, Oct. 18, 2017.
 Id. (emphasis added).
 Manu Raju and Jim Acosta, Trump didn’t dismiss idea when foreign policy adviser suggested setting up Putin meeting, CNN, Nov. 1, 2017.
 Denis Slattery, Sessions suddenly remembers he rejected Trump, Putin meeting idea, N.Y. Daily News, Nov. 2, 2017.