Our “Confederate rebel” Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is already in hot water for having lied under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings about communications with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.
The Washington Post reports, Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.
When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak.
“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’s spokeswoman.
In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “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?” Leahy wrote.
Sessions responded with one word: “No.”
In a statement issued Wednesday night, Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Communicating with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. is communicating with the Russian government. The questions calls for a yes or no answer. “I did not have communications with the Russians” is misleading no matter how one chooses to prevaricate or parse the English language. It is exactly the same as Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” and “I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.” You either did, or you did not.
Speaking about allegations of perjury against former president Bill Clinton in 1999, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said “no one is above the law.” Sessions on perjury: ‘No one is above the law’. Ah, but IOKIYAR.
Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.
“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores said.
She added that Sessions last year had more than 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian and German ambassadors, in addition to Kislyak.
In the case of the September meeting, one department official who came to the defense of the attorney general said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”
The Washington Post contacted all 26 members of the 2016 Senate Armed Services Committee to see whether any lawmakers besides Sessions met with Kislyak in 2016. Of the 20 lawmakers who responded, every senator, including Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. The other lawmakers on the panel did not respond as of Wednesday evening.
“Members of the committee have not been beating a path to Kislyak’s door,” a senior Senate Armed Services Committee staffer said, citing tensions in relations with Moscow. Besides Sessions, the staffer added, “There haven’t been a ton of members who are looking to meet with Kislyak for their committee duties.”
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When asked to comment on Sessions’s contacts with Kislyak, Franken said in a statement to The Post on Wednesday: “If it’s true that Attorney General Sessions met with the Russian ambassador in the midst of the campaign, then I am very troubled that his response to my questioning during his confirmation hearing was, at best, misleading.”
Franken added: “It is now clearer than ever that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately.”
Several Democratic members of the House on Wednesday night called on Sessions to resign from his post.
“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement, adding that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter late Wednesday that “we need a special counsel to investigate Trump associates’ ties to Russia.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said at a CNN town hall Wednesday night that if the substance of Sessions’s conversations with the Russian ambassador proved to be improper or suspect, he too would join the call for Sessions to go.
“If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump,” Graham said — although he stressed that Sessions’s contacts with the Russian ambassador could have been “innocent.”
“But if there’s something there that the FBI thinks is criminal in nature, then for sure you need a special prosecutor. If that day ever comes, I’ll be the first one to say it needs to be somebody other than Jeff.”
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Steven Hall, former head of Russia operations at the CIA, said that Russia would have been keenly interested in cultivating a relationship with Sessions because of his role on key congressional committees and as an early adviser to Trump.
Sessions’s membership on the Armed Services Committee would have made him a priority for the Russian ambassador. “The fact that he had already placed himself at least ideologically behind Trump would have been an added bonus for Kislyak,” Hall said.
Michael McFaul, a Stanford University professor who until 2014 served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was not surprised that Kislyak would seek a meeting with Sessions. “The weird part is to conceal it,” he said. “That was at the height of all the discussions of what Russia was doing during the election.”
Two months before the September meeting, Sessions attended a Heritage Foundation event in July on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention that was attended by about 50 ambassadors. When the event was over, a small group of ambassadors approached Sessions as he was leaving the podium, and Kislyak was among them, the Justice Department official said.
Sessions then spoke individually to some of the ambassadors, including Kislyak, the official said. In the informal exchanges, the ambassadors expressed appreciation for his remarks and some of them invited him to events they were sponsoring, said the official, citing a former Sessions staffer who was at the event.
Democratic lawmakers, including senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have demanded in recent weeks that Sessions recuse himself from the government’s inquiry into possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.
Last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, became one of the few Republican representatives to state publicly the need for an independent investigation.
Top Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from federal investigations of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Top Republicans call on Sessions to recuse himself from Russia investigation:
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted early Thursday that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
Later, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement, “Jeff Sessions is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also initially said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Sessions should bow out to maintain “the trust of the American people.”
But McCarthy later said his comment had been misinterpreted, telling Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” “I’m not calling on him to recuse himself. I was asked on ‘Morning Joe,’ if he needs to recuse himself as going forward. As you just heard, Attorney General Sessions said he would recuse himself going forward — appropriate, and that’s all my answer was.”
The comments from prominent Republicans follow revelations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during election season. Under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions had said that he had not met with any Russian officials.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined growing Democratic calls for Sessions to either resign or at least recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections.
“Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian interference in our elections or come anywhere need it. With these revelations, he may indeed become the subject of it,” Schumer told reporters. “Better for the country if he resigns, but let’s get an investigation going.”
Schumer is insisted that the Justice Department’s inspector general carry out an investigation of Sessions himself regarding any previous communications with Russian officials and what related steps, if any, he has taken since assuming leadership of the department.
McCarthy and Chaffetz are the first prominent Republicans to call for Sessions to recuse himself. Some Democrats went further, calling on Sessions to resign, demanding an independent investigation and, in a few cases, accusing Sessions of lying under oath.
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The demands by Pelosi, Schumer and others are a clear sign that Democrats have lost all faith in the Trump team to carry out the Russia-related investigations.
Though Congress has the power to appoint a special prosecutor, it has traditionally deferred the choice to Justice Department officials. This time, however, Democrats want to ensure that a non-political Justice Department official makes the selection.
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Schumer called for legislation to give Congress a better backstop, if lawmakers aren’t satisfied with the choice, by rewriting the independent counsel law. The new legislative proposal would be more narrowly tailored than the previous independent counsel law that has long since expired. Under the New Democratic plan, a three-judge panel would be tasked with appointing the prosecutor, according to Schumer aides.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is also demanding a special counsel to investigate the Trump administration for ties to Russia, “given AG Sessions’ false statements about contacts with Russia.”
And House Oversight and Government Affairs ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) called for Sessions to resign. He criticized the attorney general for keeping “secret” his conversations with Kislyak, even after then-national security adviser Michael Flynn was fired for misleading Vice President Pence about his contacts with the same Kremlin official.
“When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks,” Cummings remarked in a statement. “Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”
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Republicans [have been] more cautious, so far stopping short of calling for an outside investigation. Currently, the House and Senate intelligence panels as well as the FBI are investigating Russian interference in the election and the potential for ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted: “I’m thinking Jeff Sessions is not the right person to investigate Jeff Sessions.” You are correct sir! It is time for the special counsel law to be renewed and an independent special counsel to be appointed to investigate the Trump-Putin campaign connections.