Trump’s National Security Advisor had to resign because he lied about contacts with the Russians. Now it looks like Trump’s Attorney General also lied about contacts with the Russians. After all the noise from Republicans about how Hillary Clinton should be in jail, not to mention impeaching Bill Clinton for lying, it will be interesting to see how they deal with Sessions lying under oath.
Sessions Looks to Be in Deep Trouble
When Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was nominated by Donald Trump, he—like all nominees—was required to submit extensive supporting paperwork. Included therein was this question:
Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?
Sessions’ one-word answer was, “No.” Then, during his confirmation hearings, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked what Sessions would do if he learned that members of the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the course of the campaign. Sessions’ reply:
I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.
We now learn, thanks to reporting from the Washington Post, that the latter answer (and, quite possibly, the former) was not truthful. In fact, Sessions met at least twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who—his official title notwithstanding—is thought by some people to be one of the Kremlin’s foremost spies and spy recruiters. Those meetings took place in July and September; Sessions was well-ensconced as a Trump supporter and surrogate by the time of the first, and remained so at the time of the latter.
Sessions was, apparently, blindsided by the Post’s revelations, and over the course of the day on Wednesday, managed to sputter his way to several different responses. At one point, he called the story “false;” at another he said that he answered Franken in the manner that he did because he did not consider his conversations with Kislyak to be “relevant” to the committee’s questions. Eventually, Sessions settled on what looks to be his primary defense: That he did have the meetings with Kislyak, but that they were conducted as part of the then-Senator’s job as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and that no election-related matters were discussed. This explanation does not appear to stand up to scrutiny; the Post contacted the 26 members of the Committee, and each of the 20 who had responded as of Wednesday evening—including Chairman John McCain (R-AZ)—said they had not met with the Russian ambassador, and had no particular reason to do so.
Put bluntly, then, Sessions has perjured himself. Again, note his response to Franken: “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Not, “I did not discuss the election with the Russians,” nor, “I spoke to them, but only about the business of the Senate Armed Service Committee.” Even if he’s telling the truth about the content of the meetings (questionable), and truly thought they were not germane, he surely knows that it’s not his privilege—as someone giving testimony before Congress—to decide what is and is not relevant. And If Sessions is guilty of perjury, then he is therefore guilty of a “high crime and misdemeanor,” and so is subject to impeachment and removal from office. This was established, quite definitively, in the case of Bill Clinton, who was impeached for playing precisely the same sorts of word games (albeit in order to cover up for some extracurricular fun, as opposed to a possible conspiracy to manipulate a presidential election). During Clinton’s impeachment, one Republican senator was particularly insistent that, “I have no doubt that perjury qualifies under the Constitution as a high crime. It goes to the heart of the judicial system.” That Senator, of course, was Jeff Sessions.
Of course, politicians on both sides of the aisle are not so great about being consistent when the shoe is on the other foot. So while, by all evidence, Sessions should be impeached (or resign, which is what the Democrats are calling for), that doesn’t mean it will actually happen. Even if he keeps his job, however, it is now entirely impossible for a Sessions-led Justice Dept. to impartially investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. If he is allowed to not only keep his job, but also to run the investigation (as opposed to having an independent prosecutor appointed), then it will be corruption of a sort that we’ve not seen for a very long time, if ever.
Also published on Medium.