Sunday, June 11, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions Will Appear Before the Senate Intelligence Committee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. He will be attempting to clear his name, after former FBI Director James Comey's explosive testimony last week, in which he spoke about the pressure he felt coming from the President to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn. Comey specifically called the President a liar, and also had something to say about Jeff Sessions' possible involvement in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“Our judgment, as I recall, was that [Jeff Sessions] was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
In his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he had not met with Russian officials during the Trump campaign, when in fact he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. There was enormous Democratic resistance to Sessions' nomination before the truth was revealed, but Democrats were over-ridden. In the hearing, Elizabeth Warren tried to read out part of a letter written thirty years ago by Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. It related to Sessions' failed judicial nomination in 1980 because of his racism.

Mitch McConnell shut Elizabeth Warren down, on the grounds that Senate rules prohibit one Senator from bad-mouthing another on the floor, and Republicans voted to support his move. It backfired spectacularly. Firstly it was pointed out that the rule could not apply during a confirmation hearing, and secondly McConnell had said nothing when Ted Cruz had accused him of being a liar. But worse, Elizabeth Warren ended up being heard by a much wider audience. She first tweeted about the incident, triggering off a viral hashtag #LetLizSpeak.
Then she read the letter outside the Senate, on camera, and posted the video on her Facebook page. To date, the video has had 12 million views.
“During the debate on whether to make Jeff Sessions the next Attorney General, I tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate. The letter, from 30 years ago, urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on the floor – so I’m right outside, reading it now.”
In Sessions' confirmation hearings, on the 10th of January, Senator Al Franken asked (at 3:18 in the video), "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the course of this campaign, what would you do?" Sessions replied, "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, but I did not have communications with the Russians."

On the 17th, Senator Leahy asked him; " 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 said, "No".

Also on the 17th, Senator Feinstein asked if he would recuse himself "from any FBI or Justice Department investigation into whether Flynn’s communications were permissible under the law, including the Logan Act." Sessions replied "I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. "

On the 1st of March, the Washington Post, which had exposed Mike Flynn's dissemination, leading to Trump being forced to fire him, reported that Sessions had spoke twice with Kislyak. At first Sessions dug his heels in, but later, amid Democratic calls to resign, was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump was enraged, and called it all a witch hunt of an 'honest man'. But then he thought Mike Flynn was a 'good guy', even after his lies were exposed.

Since his inauguration Trump has been dogged the Russia investigation which, in spite of all his efforts to distract from it, continues to gather momentum. Having gotten his way his whole life, Trump took on the presidency believing it would be business as usual. He took a page from Putin's playbook, attempting to control the narrative and create an alternative to the truth.

But Putin, frightening as he is, is a clever man. Trump is not. So where Putin has succeeded, Trump's considerable efforts are failing miserably. Out of control, he is his own worst enemy. He continues to paint himself into an ever-diminishing corner.

Republicans and Trump supporters consistently insist that there's no there, there. No evidence of collusion. The process of unearthing it is moving along swiftly, the overriding response to Trump supporters being that this president has attacked every person under the sun, practically every world leader. Except Putin. And one after another of his staff, including his own son-in-law, have been exposed as having communications or suspected deals of some sort with Russians, including officials and/or people very close to Putin.

So Sessions' insistence that he didn't know of any activity between Trump campaign officials and Russians, apart from being a blatant lie on his own account, is unlikely to be true with regards to those who have now been exposed. And his recusal from the Russia investigation wasn't water-tight. Subsequently, he did get involved again, potentially violating his recusal pledge. On the 9th of May, Sessions wrote a letter to the president, recommending that Comey be fired.

Trump has admitted—and subsequently tried to deny—that he fired Comey because the Russia investigation was causing a cloud; it was irritating him.

In his testimony, Comey expressed said the president lied. Trump's response was to double down and accuse Comey of perjury. The problem for Trump is that he is, by his own hand, an established liar, and Comey, in his long career at the FBI, is a known truth-teller. Sessions has also been exposed as a liar. It looks like the chickens have come home to roost for him. It is unknown yet whether he will testify openly or in a closed hearing.