Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, was asked during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday about the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which the now president-elect boasted about grabbing women's genitals without their consent.
"Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent, is that sexual assault?" Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, asked.
"Clearly it would be," Sessions replied.
The Vermont Democrat then asked Sessions if he would be able to prosecute a sitting president or high-ranking official who grabbed a woman's genitals without her consent, to which he replied: "The president is subject to certain lawful restrictions and they would be required to be applied by the appropriate law enforcement official. If appropriate, yes."
The Alabama senator previously defended Trump when the tape was first revealed in the last month of the 2016 presidential campaign by seemingly saying he would not characterize the behavior as sexual assault.
"I don't characterize that as sexual assault," he told The Weekly Standard in October following a presidential debate. "I think that's a stretch."
Sessions later said his initial comments had been inaccurately portrayed, blaming his confusion in the post-debate room environment.
"My hesitation was based solely on confusion of the contents of the 2005 tape and the hypothetical posed by the reporter, which was asked in a chaotic post-debate environment," he said.
“I regret that it resulted in an inaccurate article that misrepresented my views. Of course it is crystal clear that assault is unacceptable. I would never intentionally suggest otherwise.”
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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