On CNN's New Day Thursday, co-host Alisyn Camerota interviewed Wisconsin Republican Representative Sean Duffy about the developing news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions interacted with the Russians during the Trump presidential campaign, depsite then-Senator Sessions testifying during his confirmation hearing that although he served as a campaign "surrogate," he "did not have any communications with the Russians." Camerota pressed the Tea Party congressman about whether the Attorney General should recuse himself or resign and cited a tweet from a Democratic senator as "the best resource" to criticize Sessions.
Camerota quoted a tweet from Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. "I've been on the Armed Services Com for 10 years.No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of Foreign Rel Com [sic]." After Duffy questioned the credibility of such a partisan source, Camerota replied: "Why not? Since she is on that committee, why wouldn't she be the best resource?"
Also during the interview, Camerota asked Duffy, "What does happen next? You know there's calls for Jeff sessions to resign." Duffy replied, "Listen, Nancy Pelosi, I think, she would ask for Donald Trump to resign too and for Donald Trump to be impeached but again this is jumping to conclusions that a U.S. Senator on Armed Services met with a foreign government."
"That happens all the time, Allison, and in the house a lot of House members on these committees meet with foreign governments all the time," he added.
Camerota brushed off Duffy's response and said, "I hear you, but then they disclose it and, given that you're saying let's get to the bottom of it, let's find out the truth, should he recuse himself as the attorney general overseeing any investigation into the trump team in Russia?"
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Duffy answered that if the conversations between Sessions and Kislyak were related to the campaign "that would be appropriate."
He added, "But if he is only having conversations as a U.S. Senator then the answer would be no."
Camerota was not assured. She asked, "You think that he is still independent minded and qualified to oversee these investigations though he for whatever reason didn't disclose his contact?" To which Duffy concurred and stressed that meetings with foreign officials are part of serving on the Armed Services Committee.
As her final question Camerota asked Duffy, "So just to wrap this up, you do not think it's time yet for attorney general sessions to recuse himself?"
Here is the March 2nd exchange:
7:06:17 AM – 7:14:18 AM [8 min., 1 sec.]
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for explaining that. Joining us now to talk about it is the Republican congressman Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. He the Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Good morning, congressman.
REP. SEAN DUFFY: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. So let's talk about this revelation that Attorney General Sessions, when he was senator, met twice with the same Russian ambassador that Michael Flynn, who has re-signed, and he didn't disclose it. What do you make of this?
DUFFY: First off, there's a lot of congressmen and senators that meet with leaders of foreign governments and ambassadors, especially on committees like the one Jeff Sessions served on. It gives me some pause and I think as he is going through the campaign with Mr. Trump though he acted in his capacity as a senator. You want to disclose that information and it should have been more clear during his confirmation process that he did have the meetings. I’m going to take him at face value now. These meetings took place, I think it was July and September. There's a lot of work and at that time there wasn't a lot of people in America that thought Donald Trump was going to win. I highly doubt there was a correlation between those means and any campaign activity.
CAMEROTA: Why, congressman, are you so confident about that and given pretty unequivocal there was no communications. Let me just remind our viewers and you exactly how this went down when he was questioned. Listen to this.
[ROLL HIGHLIGHT OF SESSIONS CONFIRMATION HEARING]
SENATOR AL FRNAKEN: If there is any evidence, anyone affiliated with the trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign. I did not have communications with the Russians.
CAMEROTA: He said, “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Yes he did. Twice.
DUFFY: He should have been far more clear with the panel. I would note the question did come to him about the campaign and sometimes when you're getting a question lobed at you and in a campaign capacity.
CAMEROTA: I do think that. He even says I have been called a surrogate a time or two. I didn't have any communications. Even gave that misleading response.
DUFFY: Meetings don't take place in a cubby hole in some garage they're very public. And that's why it gives me some pause that he one more clear on the answer. And upon reflection, he should have been and upon reflection he should have actually gone back and clarified the record if he got the answer wrong in the hearing because if you don't Allison then you create scenarios and news stories about what we're talking about today. Again, I think we have to have a harder look at what was taking place with regard to Jeff Sessions and the Russians. I would assume there's nothing there but I think as Lindsey Graham said last night in your town hall, if there is, and the FBI presents us information you'll see the Congress act.
CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that. What does happen next? You know there's calls for Jeff sessions to resign.
DUFFY: Listen, Nancy Pelosi, I think, she would ask for Donald Trump to resign too and for Donald Trump to be impeached but again this is jumping to conclusions that a U.S. Senator on Armed Services met with a foreign government. That happens all the time, Allison, and in the house a lot of House members on these committees meet with foreign governments all the time.
CAMEROTA: I hear you but then they disclose it and given that you're saying let's get to the bottom of it, let's find out the truth, should he recuse himself as the attorney general overseeing any investigation into the trump team in Russia?
DUFFY: If there's closer ties and information exchanged about campaign that would be appropriate. But if he is only having conversations as a U.S. Senator then the answer would be no.
CAMEROTA: You think that he is still independent minded and qualified to oversee these investigations though he for whatever reason didn't disclose his contact?
DUFFY: Yeah. I do at this point. I don't have any information to say listen Jeff Sessions won't be someone that can adequately oversee it. Again a U.S. Senator that's on this committee that meets the government, it happens all the time, so that in and of itself, doesn't give me pause. That he wasn't clear on the hearing that gives me some concern but as I look at it Allison they're not meeting in a garage or a dark space. These are very open meetings that the senator had with the Russians. And so I don't know why he wasn't more clear. This is public information. People know these meetings happen. That's why I wish he would have been more clear. At least clarified his answer.
CAMEROTA: It does arouse suspicion but listen to this congressman. It's what you're talking about. The democratic senator Claire McCaskill just tweeted moments ago and I'll read it. We'll be hearing it at the same time. “I have been on the Armed Services Committee for ten years. No call or meeting with Russian ambassador, ever.” Period. Ambassadors call members of the foreign relations committee. So there you have Claire McCaskill saying it's actually unusual that Jeff Sessions as a member of the armed services committee would be having this meeting with this Russian ambassador.
DUFFY: As a House member I know that those individuals on these committees whether it's Armed Services or Foreign Relations committees often times have meetings with foreign governments. When I was on the Foreign Relations Committee, that’s a differnet committee, obviously, you see a lot of governments come through and want to talk to you. That doesn't give me much pause and frankly I don't know that he's going to be the best resource for us about those meetings.
CAMEROTA: Why not? Since she is on that committee, why wouldn't she be the best resource.
DUFFY: Well, Alisyn, I think you're seeing politics being played hard here. Even a couple of nights ago most Americans look at Donald Trump's address to the nation and say the content and the delivery was good, but there's a lot of Democrats that say “I just don't like the guy.” He's an affront to my person so I hope this isn't becoming partisan and political and a dislike for Donald Trump as why she is saying this. So, let's take Clare's tweet for what it is, but I'd like to hear from other senators to go -- those that served on that committee say you never hear from a foreign government well that would give me pause but I don't think that's the case.
CAMEROTA: So just to wrap this up you do not think it's time yet for attorney general sessions to recuse himself?
DUFFY: That's right. No. Am I saying there wouldn't be additional information that came out in the future that would give me pause and say yeah you shouldn't be a part of any investigation. That's possible if new information came to light but again this information about this meeting that wasn't discussed with a panel in his confirmation hearing but was very public, I don't think so yet.