Thursday Reads: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Must ResignPosted: March 2, 2017
Another day, another massive tRump scandal. Late last night The Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff 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….
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.”
Sessions also lied in response to a written question from Senator Patrick Leahy:
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.”
Sessions first claimed he couldn’t remember what he spoke to Kislyak about; later he said it wasn’t anything to do with the campaign. So which is it: he doesn’t recall or he does recall and it wasn’t relevant to the investigation of contacts between Russian officials and the tRump campaign? Session is going to have to explain and soon. I’d also like someone to explain why the Russian ambassador was the Republican National Convention where one of the meetings with Sessions took place. Is that normal? Was he at the DNC too?
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi has released a statement calling for Sessions to resign. Huffington Post:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign following a Washington Post report that he spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States twice last year and failed to disclose it at his confirmation hearing in January.
“Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his confirmation hearing before the Senate,” Pelosi said in a statement released late Wednesday. “Under penalty of perjury, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, ‘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 know that statement is false.”
Several other Democratic legislators have joined Pelosi in calling for Sessions to step down. Others have said he needs to immediate recuse himself from any investigations involving the tRump administration. Naturally, the White House is claiming this is just an attack on them by “partisan Democrats.”
Obviously, this is a fast-breaking story. Senator Chuck Schumer is holding a press conference right now calling for the DOJ to appoint a special prosecutor and for the Inspector General to open an investigation into Sessions and whether he has worked with tRump to interfere with the investigations. Schumer also stated that “it would be better for the country if he [Sessions] resigned.
Top Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy has called for Sessions to recuse himself, according to the LA Times. Even Jason Chaffetz agrees with that. Huffington Post: Growing Number Of Republicans Call On Jeff Sessions To Step Aside.
Key Republicans in Congress are questioning whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from any investigation into Russia’s role in the election. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called on the former senator to step aside Thursday amid reports that he failed to disclose conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
Late Wednesday night, The Washington Post reported that Sessions spoke twice last year with the Russian official and didn’t tell tax relief lawyers during his January confirmation hearing. U.S. investigators have also looked into Sessions’ communications as part of a larger investigation into possible links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, according to a Wall Street Journal report Thursday.
Another big story broke last night at about the same time as the Washington Post story on Sessions.
The New York Times: Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates….
Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.
At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.
It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed. Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama.
Read the rest at the NYT.
One more story from NBC News: The White House Now Has Three Options on Russia.
The stories about Sessions have led Democratic lawmakers either to call for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation looking into Russia, or to resign because he misled Congress about his contacts with the Russian government. And now Sessions has three options — and all of them are bad.
One, he agrees to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to clean up what he said during his confirmation hearing, and to answer any and all questions about Russia. Two, Sessions bites the bullet and appoints a special prosecutor — to save himself from a committee grilling and delay the resignation calls. Or three, he digs in. But if Team Trump choose Door No. 2 and the special prosecutor, it needs to do so ASAP. Why? Because if the administration is truly clean here, it gives them time and space to be vindicated.
More at NBC News First Read.
I’m going to go ahead and post this now so you all can comment on the this breaking story. I’ll add some more links in the comment thread.