Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he has “no basis to dispute” the intelligence committee’s assessment that Russia sought to interfere with the 2016 election.
“I do think they have said that they don’t believe that votes were changed,” he added.
His comment comes after President Trump yet again cast his own doubt on the conclusion, in telling reporters Saturday that he “believes” Russian President Vladimir Putin “means it” when he says there was no Russian election meddling. Trump also called some of the previous leaders of the intelligence community, including former FBI director James Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “political hacks.”
Sessions was asked by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) if he agreed that the leaders of the intelligence community were political hacks.
“I would say to you the President speaks his mind as he chooses,” Sessions said at first, before Jayapal pressed him again.
“I’m saying to you I respect and value our intelligence community,” Sessions said.
Yet, throughout the hearing, Sessions indicated that preventing Russian interference in future elections was not among his top priorities.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) asked him what he was doing on the cybersecurity side to protect from future foreign interference.
“I believe that this is a danger, that I believe investigations have been ongoing, and it’s being considered,” he said. “But, congressman, I have to say, I’m not up to date on the latest of that and I would be pleased to try to get you something in writing as to what we need to do, or at least what we are doing and what we may need to do to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Rep. Bradley Schneider (D-IL) brought up the concerns Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) raised with Sessions at an October Senate Judiciary hearing about preventing future election interference.
“With the 2018 elections less than one year away and given your acknowledgment this is a serious, complex matter that’s deserving a real review, specifically what steps have you taken to protect our elections next year?” Sheneider asked.
“You’ve raised a good point. I have not followed through to see where we are on that,” Sessions said. “And I will personally take action to do so. A lot of things been happening. We are working on a lot of great agenda items. But this one is important and I acknowledge that. And I should be able to give you better information today than I am.”