I had intended this to be a Trump-Free Day and not write about anything to do with his administration. I even had another piece all set to go. But then along came Jeff Sessions.
It seems that the new Attorney General at best mislead Congress and at worst lied to them by not divulging a meeting he had with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign. And now it turns out he had two meetings, neither of which were disclosed, despite being asked if he had discussed the campaign with any Russian officials during the election. Misleading Congress while under oath is a crime -- actually a serious one. How serious? Said one lawyer, "Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail."
Just to be clear, that wasn't from any lawyer off the street, that was written by Richard Painter, who served as White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush from 2005-2007.
The question at the moment isn't whether Sessions and the Russian Ambassador met twice during the campaign, but if they discussed the election. Sessions serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the initial words of defense are that that's why they met and all they talked about. And it's certainly possible. On the other hand, no other member of that committee met with any Russian officials last year. And it stretches credibility that you'd be involved with the Trump campaign (as Sessions was) and twice meet with the Ambassador of Russia and not discussion the election. But then it also stretches credibility, even if it's possible, that the two men met during the election to just talk about Senate business. Especially when no other member of the committee met with the Russian ambassador either, or as far as we know, even were aware of these meetings.
But then, because of Sessions' response under oath, it also doesn't matter what they discussed. Because he never said they even met, which is misleading Congress. Hardly a good thing to do when you're the top law official in the country.
And of course, if all you did was discuss Senate Foreign Relations business, why not simply answer, "Yes," but explain that? Yes, I do understand it would raise skepticism. But if that's all you did, it's truth and the truth shall set you free. He may even have had notes from the meetings, or discussed with others afterwards what they had talked about, to back up his story. But to not mention it under oath -- when you're under consideration to be the Attorney General -- not only seems pretty squirrelly like you have something to hide, but raises even more skepticism than answering would have done.
You may recall that during Sessions' confirmation hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren was reprimanded by Republicans for speaking ill of a fellow-Senator and forced to remain silent during the rest of the debate. To remind you what her "transgression" was, she was reading a letter written by Coretta Scott King explaining why Sessions, at the time, should not be approved as a Federal judge, because of, among other things, his abuse of power. Ah, the whimsy of time...
Still, at the moment it's uncertain what was discussed at the two meetings with the Russian Ambassador. (Well, two meetings we know about so far.) But whether or not Jeff Sessions did mislead Congress or lie to them, there are already loud calls for him at the very least to recuse himself from any FBI investigations into Russian attempts to influence the election. And when I say "loud calls," that's not hyperbole -- it includes House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
...Not to mention the former Bush ethics lawyer who suggested that Jeff Sessions could go to jail over this. The good news is that that would make the decision whether to step aside a whole lot easier.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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