Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the top law enforcement officer in the country, repeated the words “lock her up” Tuesday that were being chanted, a rallying cry from Donald Trump campaign events calling to jail Hillary Clinton, and then laughed.
Sessions was addressing a conservative group’s high school leadership summit in Washington, where he promoted free speech and conservative principles.
Sessions criticized universities for “coddling our young people” and “actively preventing them from scrutinizing the validity of their beliefs.”
“After the 2016 election, for example, they held a ‘cry-in’ at Cornell. I hope they had plenty of tissues for ‘em to cry on,” he said. “They had therapy dogs at the University of Kansas. Play-Doh and coloring books at the University of Michigan for heaven’s sakes. You know, give me a break. Students at Tufts were encouraged to ‘draw about their feelings.’”
“Well I can tell this group isn’t going to have to have Play-Doh when you get attacked in college and you get involved in a debate,” Sessions told the crowd attending Turning Point USA’s High School Leadership Summit at George Washington University. “I like this bunch, I gotta tell you. You’re not going to be backing down. Go get ‘em. Go get ‘em.”
Then chants of “Lock her up” broke out.
“Lock her up,” Sessions said, chuckling at the brief interruption from the audience as the chant then grew louder.
“I heard that a long time over the last campaign,” he said before continuing with his prepared speech.
“Lock her up” was a staple heard at Trump 2016 campaign rallies in reference to Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state and Trump’s insistence that she be jailed for the offense.
Concluding an investigation into Clinton’s email server, then-FBI James Comey recommended in 2016 that no charges be filed against Clinton, and the US Attorney General at the time, Loretta Lynch, decided not to pursue charges.
Trump has pestered Sessions for not looking into Clinton’s deleted emails and publicly slammed him for being “very weak” on Clinton’s “crimes.” Sessions has assigned a federal prosecutor to look into various matters surrounding Clinton, but stopped short of formally appointing a special counsel earlier this year.
CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
During his confirmation hearing last January, Sessions was asked if he ever uttered that chant during the campaign.
“No I did not. I don’t think. I heard it in rallies and so forth, sometimes I think humorously done,” he replied.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Jason Hoffman and Laura Jarrett contributed to this report.