Tuesday on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' the host asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions about a Fox News report that Deputy AG Rosenstein threatened to subpoena GOP lawmakers' email and phone records in response to an attempt by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to acquire documents relating to the origin of the Russia investigation. The attorney general told a stunned Tucker Carlson that he doesn't believe Rosenstein did anything wrong. A relevant report from the DOJ inspector general is due out this week.
"On January 10 of this year, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein went up to the Hill, met with Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee, had a dispute with them, and threatened them with a subpoena of their emails and phone records," Carlson explained, citing the Fox News report alleging "Rosenstein threatened to 'subpoena' GOP-led committee in 'chilling' clash over records, emails show"
"The Department of Justice, on background, has confirmed that something like that happened," Carlson said. "What is that about?”
"Well, I don't know that they've confirmed that exactly," Sessions said. "In fact, the FBI director, the senior ethics attorney for the Department of Justice who was in the room say that is a mischaracterization, really, of what occurred. And it also, I think indicates that there’s been a breakdown of relationships when in fact, since January a great deal of progress has been made."
"We understand in this department that we are accountable to the president," he explained. "We are accountable to Congress, and we need to be cooperative with them to produce as many documents as rationally and as legally and properly as can be produced, to produce them."
"And we've made tremendous progress in that regard really," he added.
"Did the deputy attorney general threaten to subpoena the email or phone records of members of the House Intel Committee?" Carlson asked again.
"Well, I was not in the room and I can't speak to what occurred," the attorney general said. "All I can say is that the people – Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, and our senior ethics attorney was there and others and did not see it in that same fashion."
"OK," Tucker said. "So, as a factual matter, you don't think that that happened?"
"I'm confident that Deputy Rosenstein, 28 years in the Department of Justice, did not improperly threaten anyone on that occasion," Sessions stated. "We do believe that we have tried to be cooperative with them and made progress [getting the House Oversight and Intelligence Committees the documents they require] as the months have gone by."
Sessions also discusses illegal immigration and immigrant detention.
CARLSON: Attorney General Jeff Sessions occasionally endures Twitter criticism from his boss, but that has not frozen him into inaction.
Just yesterday, the attorney general reversed an Obama-era policy that granted asylum to migrants who claimed they feared gang violence or domestic violence in their home countries. It turns out the overwhelming majority of those applications were false.
The attorney general joins us tonight. Mr. Attorney General, thanks for coming on.
SESSIONS: Hey, thank you, Tucker.
So, I want to ask you about this. But, first, I have to ask you about a piece of breaking news. Our Catherine Herridge just has out saying that, in January of this year, January 10, Deputy General Rosenstein went up to the Hill and met with Republican members of the House Intel Committee, had a dispute with them and threatened them with a subpoena of their emails and phone records.
This is what one of them said. "I read it as a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us." DOJ on background has confirmed that something like that did happen. What is that about?
SESSIONS: Well, I don't know that they have confirmed that exactly. In fact, the FBI director, the senior ethics attorney for the Department of Justice who was in the room, say that's a mischaracterization really of what occurred.
And it also, I think, indicates that there's been a breakdown of relationships when, in fact, since January, a great deal of progress has been made.
We understand in this department that we are accountable to the president, we are accountable to Congress and we need to be cooperative with them to produce as many documents as rationally and legally and properly as can be produced – to produce them and we've made tremendous progress in that regard really.
CARLSON: Did the deputy attorney general threaten to subpoena the email or phone records of members of the House Intel Committee?
SESSIONS: Well, I was not in the room and I can't speak to what occurred. All I can say is that the people – Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, and our senior ethics attorney was there and others and did not see it in that same fashion.
CARLSON: OK. So, as a factual matter, you don't think that that happened?
SESSIONS: I'm confident that Deputy Rosenstein, 28 years in the Department of Justice, did not improperly threaten anyone on that occasion. But we do believe that we have tried to be cooperative with them and made progress in months – as the months have gone by. And, in fact, have had some good relationships with the top members of Congress.
CARLSON: OK. So, you have made news recently by undoing an Obama-era rule about asylum-seekers. Give us the overview. I think most Americans like the idea that this would be a haven for people suffering around the world. Lots of people claim asylum. What do we know about the veracity of their claims?
SESSIONS: That's a good question. Seven years ago, 5,000 people applied for asylum claiming a credible fear of being at home in their home country and they needed to flee that country.
That number jumped to 94,000 in just seven years. It's overwhelming our system. Over 80 percent of those claims are being denied by the immigration judges as being not meritorious.
So, it is a big problem for us. Each one of those is requiring trials and factual decisions by our judges. We're going to add 100 judges, and that may yet not be enough judges to handle the cases.
We need to give the judges better guidance. They need to go back to the fundamental principles in laws and rules of the Immigration and Nationalization Act. And if we do that, then we are in a position where some of these cases can be promptly decided.
You do not get to come to America if you have a private threat or someone personally attacks you. You do not get to have asylum for that based on your race, your religion, your nationality.
If you are part of some special identifiable group that's being persecuted in your home country, that's what it takes to have an asylum and we need to get this straight. And I think it will help us, the decision I made.
I believe it's right legally and I'm totally confident it's consistent with the intent of the drafters of the INA, our law, and I believe it will help us manage our caseloads better and give more focus to the people who deserve to be given asylum and help us eliminate those that are not worthy of this asylum.
CARLSON: With over 80 percent of the applications are fraudulent, there's obviously a problem.
So, the DOJ has also recently weighed in on the question of speech on campus. What can the federal government, the Department of Justice do to ensure that people's First Amendment rights are protected? And why has it taken until 2018 to get DOJ involved in this?
SESSIONS: It's one of the big challenges of our time, I have come to believe, and it's almost unbelievable that major colleges and universities would be taking action that restricts the right of free speech on a college campus. It's just got to be confronted.
We have the authority under law to file a statement of interest in an ongoing litigation. So, cases are being filed against the universities by students who complain. And if we think their complaints are meritorious, then we can file a statement of interest joining with them and explaining why we, at the Department of Justice, think these concerns are real and justified and a court relief is appropriate.
So, we've had some success. We've had two cases where there has been a major change in the college and university's actions, and two cases where the judge has dismissed or rejected a motion to dismiss these cases by the universities, and allowing the trials to go forward.
We think it's a very important thing. Students should be participating in robust debate. They ought not to be intimidated. They ought not to be driven by political correctness to where you can't even speak up in class or on campus.
CARLSON: It's just amazing what an upside down world it is when a conservative attorney general is defending the First Amendments against liberals. It's like things have changed almost too much.
Mr. Attorney General, thank you. I appreciate it.
SESSIONS: Thank you. Good to be with you.