Trump Cabinet Senate Confirmation Hearings - Live Blogs & Updates - ABCNews

Trump Cabinet Senate Confirmation Hearings

Watch the latest developments in the Senate confirmation hearings of a handful of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks.

    When asked by Sen. Whitehouse if he ever chanted "lock her up!" Sessions says "no I did not...I don't think."
    .@SenatorSessions says NAACP remark taken out of context: "I never accused them" of being un-American……

    Murmurs of another protester, which has stopped Sessions briefly as he talks about the role of the Voting Rights Act.
    Another protester interruption during questioning about immigration.
    As the morning session nears a close, ABC News' MIKE LEVINE in Washington has a round up of some of the biggest topics brought up today.

    Under questioning from other senators, Sessions has now hit on a number of hot-button topics…

    ALLEGATIONS OF RACIAL BIAS: Sessions was asked whether he has changed at all since his nomination to become a federal judge was blocked in 1986, and he was asked how he intends to show people that he can enforce the law equally. Sessions said that he would direct their attention first to the remarks of the late moderate Senator Arlen Specter, who said that the one vote he regretted in the Senate was his vote against Sessions. Specter said he found Sessions to be someone who treats people equally and fairly.

    "This caricature of me in 1986 was not correct."

    “I conducted myself honorably and properly at that time,” and “I did not harbor the animosities … that I was accused of - I did not,” Sessions said strongly. Later asked how the allegations against him make him feel, Session said "it does not feel good."

    At this point, Sessions was interrupted again by protesters. “I hope my tenure in this body shows you that the caricature of me wasn’t accurate -- it wasn’t accurate then, and it’s not accurate" now.

    As a southerner who saw discrimination and had "no doubt" that it hurt many Southerners, "I know that was wrong, I know we need to do better, we can never go back," Sessions said.

    GAY RIGHTS: Sen. Leahy asked Sessions whether the Alabama senator still believes that the LGBT community does not face discrimination like other minority groups (and perhaps therefore does not deserve similar protection under federal law). Sessions said that having discussed the issue at some length, “that does not sound like something I said or intended to say... I’ve seen things taken out of context.” Sessions said he opposed the Matthew Shepard Act because “my view is and was a concern that it appeared that these cases were being prosecuted effectively in state court.” Leahy noted that last year, an FBI report said that members of LGBT community were more likely to be victims of hate crimes than any other minority group in the United States. “That’s a pretty strong fact,” Leahy said. Sessions responded (11:19:51): “The law has been passed, the congress has spoken, you can be sure that i will enforce it.”

    SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Asked whether he believes the issue of same-sex marriage has been settled, Sessions said: “Supreme Court has ruled on that, the dissents dissented vigorously, but it was five to four. And five justices, the majority of the court, has established the definition of marriage for the entire United States of America. And i will follow that decision.”

    ROE V. WADE: Sessions was asked whether it is still his belief – as he said in the past – that Roe v Wade was one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions. Sessions said: “It is.”

    “It violated the Constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law.” However, despite his disagreement with it, Sessions promised to “follow” Roe v Wade.

    “It is the law of the land, it has been so established and settled for some time," so he will "follow it."

    BAN ON MUSLIMS ENTERING COUNTRY? Asked about a ban on Muslims coming into the U.S., Sessions said Trump has made clear that he now is focusing on a “strong vetting” of individuals coming into the country from countries with a history of terrorism. Pressed on why he voted against legislation that would prevent denials to the country based on religion, Sessions said his “view and concern” was that the resolution said religion could not be a factor in the entry decision at all. But, he said "I have no believe and do not support the idea" that Muslims should be denied from the United States. Asked point-blank by Sen. Graham whether he would support a law that says Muslims can’t come to America, Sessions said: “No.”

    IMMIGRATION: Asked whether he believes the Obama administration’s executive order on immigration should be repealed, Sessions said that is something that will need to be reviewed, but he said it "would certainly be Constitutional to end that order," and he said DOJ would have no objection to repealing the executive order, which he said “is very questionable from my opinion constitutionally." Asked what should be done with the hundreds of thousands of undocumented kids in the country, Sessions said "we need to fix this immigration system... we've been placed in a bad situation," and he urged all government branches to work together to stop illegal immigration and come to a "compassionate decision.”

    Nevertheless, he agreed that an act of Congress is the best way to resolve the matter. Later on in the hearing, Sen. Durbin was tough on Sessions, saying Sessions’ time in the Senate has offered no evidence to suggest that he would handle the immigration matter in an equal and humane way. Durbin implored Sessions to “tell me I’m wrong.” Sessions responded: “You are wrong, Sen Durbin. I'm going to follow the laws passed by Congress." But Sessions then insisted that if the country continuously goes through “a cycle of amnesty, you undermine” respect for law and encourage more illegal immigration. Getting more intense, Sessions called it a “good view” and “a decent view... that we create a lawful systems of immigration” allowing people to apply for citizenship, and if they get accepted, then they get in – and if they don’t get accepted, they don’t get in. "The American people are right to ask for it." Sessions acknowledged that the U.S. government does not have the resources to remove everyone who is in the country illegally, and that’s why Trump like Obama has is going to focus most on criminals. The best thing for us to do ... let’s fix this system. And then we can work together after this lawlessness has been ended, and then we can ask the American people to enter into a dialogue" about how to handle the matter compassionately. Durbin, however, expressed concern that Sessions would not answer specifically how he is going to handle the 800,000 children in the country illegally if Obama’s executive order is repealed.

    RUSSIA HACKING AND FBI INVESTIGATIONS RELATED TO TRUMP: Asked whether he believes the Russians are behind the election-related hacking, Sessions said "I have done no research into that, i know just what the media says about it." Sessions said he will have to get briefed on the matter and generally trusts the FBI. He said he is “sure” the FBI’s conclusions in the matter blaming Russia were “honorably reached.” Sessions called the election-related hacking a “significant event,” but noted that, “We have penetration apparently throughout our government by foreign entities.” He cited the massive OPM hack by Chinese hackers. “These, I suppose, ultimately are part of international big power politics. But when a nation uses their improperly gained or intelligence-wise gained information to take policy positions that impact another nation's democracy or their approach to any issue, then that raises real serious matters.”

    Sen. Whitehouse later asked Sessions whether he will allow the DOJ and FBI to continue to investigate Russian connections, even if it leads to the Trump campaign and Trump associates. Sessions said “if there are laws violated and can be prosecuted, you'll have to handle that in an appropriate way.” But, Sessions said, “the problem may turn out to be” that, like the OPM hack, the matter is best handled at a political level. Nevertheless, Sessions said "it is appropriate for a nation to retaliate against" government-sponsored hacks.

    ATTACKS ON POLICE: Noting the sergeant killed in Florida yesterday, Sessions said “there is virtually no defense” for assaulting a police officer. “And I do believe that we are failing to appreciate police officers who place their lives at risk.” Speaking of the sergeant killed yesterday, Sessions said: “That is the kind of thing that too often happens. We need to be sure that when we criticize law officers, it is narrowly focused on the right basis for criticism, and to smear whole departments places those officers at greater risk, and we are seeing an increase in murder of police officers. It was up 10% last year.” He said law enforcement needs to respect the communities they serve, but communities need to respect law enforcement.

    GUANTANAMO BAY: Asked if he supports the continued use of Guantanamo Bay to hold terror suspects, Sessions said that the detention facility “fits that purpose marvelously well … it should be utilized in that fashion.” Sessions said he opposed the closing of Guantanamo Bay. At this point, he was interrupted by protesters.
    .@SenatorSessions: "On the surface" voter ID "doesn't appear to me" to disproportionately affect minority voters.……

    Will Sen. Sessions promise not to jail reporters for doing their jobs? He says today he's "not sure," needs to study issue further. (1/2)
    At same time, Sessions says prosecutors have long recognized a general "deference" to media and sensitivities around First Amendment. (2/2)
    .@SenFranken: "Our country needs an attorney general who doesn't misrepresent or inflate their level of involvement……

    Hearing is breaking for a half hour.
    We're back in action: Sen. Chris Coons, D-DE, is the first questioner of the afternoon session.
    .@rickklein: @SenatorSessions' recusal from possible Clinton-related cases was "important for senators to hear"……

    Sen. Ted Cruz is interrupted by the first protester of the afternoon break, includes individuals shouting "Black Lives Matter."
    Sen. Cruz started his remarks by praising Sessions: "You are a friend, a man of integrity and you and I have worked closely on this armed services committee and I have every confidence you are going to make a superb attorney general."

    He then went on to list a number of times when "Democrats on this committee were silent," citing specific initiatives and issues raised during the Obama administration.
    When asked about background checks for gun ownership, Sessions specifically cited situations where guns are inherited from family members, and said such instances "I'm not sure should require that kind of universal background check."
    Sen. Mike Crapo just gave a summary of the plot of the Tom Cruise film "Minority Report."

    Here's the moment Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, was sworn in on Capitol Hill this morning. Credit: Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

    Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-HI, is asking for clarity on Sessions' views on "extreme views" that would be "problematic" for people coming into the United States during the vetting process.

    "If they -- their interpretation of their religious views encompasses dangerous doctrines and terroristic attacks they should deserve more careful scrutiny than someone's views who are less problematic," Sessions said.
    From ABC News' Ben Siegel and Veronica Stracqualursi in Washington:

    Tomorrow, Se. Cory Booker, D-NJ, plans to give testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as to why he believes Sen. Sessions should not be the next attorney general. He will be the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague at a Senate confirmation hearing for a member of the president's cabinet, according to his office.

    "I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague," Booker said in a statement. "But the immense powers of the Attorney General combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience."

    Booker will be joined by civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., among others, in testifying on the second day of Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

    Read more about Booker's decision here.
    From ABC News' Mike Levine in Washington:

    In a striking exchange just now at the confirmation hearing for Sessions, Sen. Leahy brought up the Access Hollywood tapes of private vulgar conversations between Trump and the show's then-host Billy Bush, and he asked Sessions point blank: “Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent, is that sexual assault?”

    Sessions was unequivocal: “Clearly it would be.”

    Sessions also indicated it would be “appropriate” to investigate a sitting president or other senior official who is accused of doing what Trump described on the tapes.
    Questioned about 2005 Trump audio, @SenatorSessions says grabbing a woman without consent "clearly" sexual assault……

    Sessions just said that his view of the Freedom of Information Act is that it "is law ... the policies of the country need to be followed."
    Recess just called for a brief break.
    Sessions just now: "We as a nation are reaching a level where truth is not sufficiently respected."
    Q: Who will you trust when it comes to questions about climate change?

    A: "I don't deny that we have global warming, in fact the theory of it always struck me as plausible..." but Sessions said that it would be a matter of how much global warming is taking place.
    The confirmation hearing for former Gen. John Kelly has also started this afternoon, and more updates are coming soon from that hearing.

    Kelly is nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security.

    Homeland Security Secretary-designate John Kelly testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

    From ABC News' Geneva Sands in Washington:

    Retired Gen. John Kelly was asked about his views on a number of hot-button issues during the first segment of his confirmation hearing, which started this afternoon.

    The Wall:

    “A physical barrier will not do the job, it has to be a layered defense,” Kelly said.

    He added that if one were to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, you would still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, sensors, observation devices.


    Kelly shared with the room that he had a friend who died of an overdose.

    "Most Americans don't realize, but 100 percent of the heroin produced is coming from Mexico," Kelly said.

    “We are a very overly medicated society,” Kelly said.

    “Huge problem, getting worse and profits are unbelievable for the cartels.”


    Kelly told Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, that he would “absolutely” follow Geneva Convention rules.

    INTEL Report:

    Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, asked if Kelly accepted the conclusions of the intel community regarding the Russian hacking report?

    “With high confidence,” he said.
    Sen. Al Franken is now questioning Sessions about Trump's tweet where he claimed that there were "millions" of fraudulent votes. "

    I dont know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he [sent that tweet," Sessions said.

    Sessions said that Trump did not share any facts or evidence of those claims with him.

    "I do believe we regularly have fraudulent activities [during elections]," Sessions said.

    There has not been any evidence to support Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud.

    Sen. Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., welcomes Homeland Security Sec-designate John Kelly before the start of his confirmation hearings, Jan. 10, 2017. Sen. Tom Carper and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates look on. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

    Sessions just said he does not support the creation of a Muslim registry.
    From ABC News' Geneva Sands in Washington:

    In the second hearing of the day, Kelly just said “I’ll follow the law” when asked if he would use “limited resources of law enforcement community” to deport DACA recipients.

    DACA -- or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- recipients are those undocumented immigrants to the United States who were allowed to receive a two-year deferred deportation which can be renewed.
    From ABC News' Geneva Sands in Washington:

    Kelly also just made a similar statement to Sessions when asked about a possible Muslim registry.

    "I don't agree with registering people based on religion or ethnicity," Kelly said.

    He also drew on his military experience in Iraq, saying that "outreach to the community" was one of the keys to the Marines' success in the country.
    Gen. Kelly: Not appropriate "to focus on something like religion as the only factor" for counterterrorism, law enfo……

    Sessions: "None of us are perfect but we should strive to get it right every time."
    Gen. Kelly at DHS confirmation hearing: A border wall alone "will not do the job"

    From ABC News' Mike Levine in Washington:

    When asked whether he will have Department of Justice investigate and prosecute medical marijuana users in states that have deemed it legal, Sessions said:

    "Well, I won't commit to never enforcing federal law...But absolutely it's a problem of resources for the federal government."

    From ABC News' Mike Levine in Washington:

    Session commented on Trump's "bogus claims of voter fraud" when asked by Sen. Franken, particularly the tweet saying he even won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally:
    “I don't know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he made that comment or what facts he may have had to justify his statement. I would just say that every election needs to be managed closely and we need to ensure that there is integrity in it. And I do believe we regularly have fraudulent activities occur during elections cycles.

    From ABC News' Mike Levine in Washington:

    Sessions said he would not favor a registry of Muslims in the United States.
    From ABC News' Mike Levine in Washington: 

    On Waterboarding: Sessions said the current law passed by Congress "does not appear to be clear" in prohibiting waterboarding.

    "I would enforce that law," Sessions said.

    Sen. Franken Accuses Sen. Sessions of Misinterpreting His Record on Civil Rights

    During today's Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, accused Sen. Sessions, R-Alabama, of misrepresenting the number of desegregation cases he filed as United States attorney in Alabama.

    “Our country needs an attorney general who doesn't misrepresent or inflate their level of involvement on any given issue,” Franken said.

    Read more from ABC News' MEREDITH MCGRAW here.

    Credit: Alex Brandon/AP Photo 

    From ABC News' Devin Dwyer:

    Franken mentioned a CNN story that was just published that alleges President-elect Donald Trump was provided documents last week that included information that "Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Trump."

    The documents also allege that "There was a continuing exchange of information throughout the campaign between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government."

    When asked what he will do if evidence emerges that anyone involved in the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the campaign, Sessions replied:

    "Sen. Franken, I am not aware of any of those activities, and I have been called a surrogate a time or two during the campaign, and I did not have any communications with the Russians, and I am unable to comment on it."

    The Senate hearing has now ended.
    Please check back with ABC News in the morning to for the hearings for upcoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, upcoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions and upcoming Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
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