I know this is old news, as the story first broke last night, but sometimes it helps me to write this stuff down… So, with that said, here’s what I think is going on. Please correct me if I get anything wrong.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the new Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the United States, had, during his sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, not told the truth in response to questions about whether or not he’d had any interactions with representatives of the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign, when, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, the Kremlin was actively attempting to influence the outcome of the election.
Senator Al Franken, during Sessions’ confirmation hearing, asked him what he would do if he were to learn that a member of the Trump team had been in communication with the Russians during the campaign. Sessions, after acknowledging that he himself was a Trump “surrogate” during the campaign, said, “I did not have communications with the Russians.”
As a part of the confirmation process, Franken and the other Senators on the Judiciary Committee were also able to submit questions in writing to Sessions. Senator Patrick Leahy asked the following. “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 responded with a single word. “No.”
But now, thanks to the reporting of the Washington Post, and whatever breadcrumbs may have been left by the previous administration, in hopes that the facts would eventually get out, we know Sessions perjured himself in his responses to both Franken and Leahy.
We know that, despite his comments to the contrary, Sessions met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, a man thought widely to be one of Putin’s top spies and recruiter of spies, twice in the past year. [Kislyak is the same man that Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had lied about talking with during the campaign.] According to the article in the Washington Post, Sessions and Kislyak met on at least two occasions — once during the Republican National Convention last July, when, as you might remember, the Trump campaign introduced Russia-friendly language into the Republican platform, and again in Sessions’ Senate office this past September, at the height of the Kremlin’s hacking campaign.
Sessions acknowledged both meetings in a statement issued late yesterday, but added that the they had nothing to do with the campaign. He said that he met with Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Sercices Committee, not as a surrogate of Donald Trump. The Washington Post, however, contacted all 26 members of the Committee and asked if any of them had, like Sessions, met with Kislyak during 2016 on Committee business. Of the 20 that have respondedd thus far, none had.
So, last night, as you might imagine, people starting calling for his head. Richard Painter, the chief ethics officer under George W. Bush said, “Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one’s own contacst with the Russians is a good way to go to jail.” And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Bill Clinton was impeached for “something so far less.”
Speaking of the impeachment of Bill Clinton, here’s something Sessions said back in 1998, during those hearings: “I have no doubt that perjury qualifies under the Constitution as a high crime,” he said. “It goes to the heart of the judicial system.”
While I didn’t see much evidence today of Republicans demanding that Sessions follow in Flynn’s footsteps and step down, a number of them did begin to speak out, suggesting that Sessions should probably recuse himself from the ongoing investigation into the role Russia played during the 2016 election. Trump, however, stayed supportive, saying that the Attorney General still had his “total” confidence. Furthermore, when asked by a reporter if Sessions should recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump said, “I don’t think so.” In spite of this, though, Sessions came out later this afternoon and said he would be recusing himself.
As for whether or not Sessions will be able to hold on to his job as our head law enforcement official, I’m not sure. Given the fact that the Republicans control every branch of government, I think it would be difficult for the Democrats to force him out. Then again, with every passing hour, more information surfaces. In the time I’ve been writing this, not only have I heard that evidence has surfaced that Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn met with Kislyak during the transition, but that Kislyak was actually in the audience at the Washington hotel where Trump delivered his first foreign policy speech of his campaign last April. [In the speech, Trump said great things about Russia.] Oh, and I’m listening to news right now that former Trump advisor Carter Page has refused to deny that he talked with Kislyak at the GOP convention last July.
So, just to recap, we now know that Kislyak, Putin’s main man in the U.S., was not only in the audience when Trump gave his first foreign policy speech praising Putin’s regime this past April, but we also know that he was at the Republican National Convention in July, when the Trump team demanded that pro-Russia language be inserted into the GOP platform. I think it’s safe to say that the pieces are beginning to fall into place.