Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have committed perjury during his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year.
When Minnesota Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions, who was under oath at the time, about his course of action if he found evidence that someone affiliated with President Donald Trump or his election campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign, Sessions' response was straightforward.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he had said, adding, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
As it turns out, he was lying.
Here's the video of Sessions denying **under oath** that he had communications with the Russians. pic.twitter.com/YFxCgqjQo6— CAP Action (@CAPAction) March 2, 2017
A new report from The Washington Post revealed then-senator and Armed Services Committee member did speak with the Russia's ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak twice, but did not consider it relevant enough to disclose to Judiciary Committee.
The conversations took place in July and September 2016, months after Sessions formally joined Trump campaign and became one of the top foreign policy advisers to the business mogul. As the Post pointed out, it was “the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”
The new allegations have once again raised concerns about the ties between Russia and Trump administration, which still seems to be recovering from the abrupt departure of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who (ironically) resigned from his scandal amid raging controversy that he discussed lifting sanctions on Russia even before Trump took office.
The name of the operative Flynn talked to was Kislyak.
The other bit is as the attorney general, Session has control over the Justice Department and the FBI, which are currently investigation Russian cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee.
Meanwhile, Sessions’ office claimed that he did not remember what he and Kislyak had discussed during their conversation.
“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” stated spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores. “Last year, the senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors. 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.”
The thing is, The Washington Post reached out to all the 26 members who were part of the influential Armed Services Committee at the time and — surprise, surprise — 20 of them told the newspaper they had not met with the Russian ambassador last year.
The rest have not yet responded.
Several Democrats are now asking Sessions to remove himself from the investigation into Russian interference.
This is another clear sign Sessions must recuse himself from an investigation into Russia’s influence in the White House. https://t.co/awI9zM0VgB— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 2, 2017
In fact, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings has called for his resignation.
“Then Sen. 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 said in a statement. “He continued to let it stand even as he watched the President tell the entire nation he didn’t know anything about anyone advising his campaign talking to the Russians.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also called for Sessions’ resignation, insisting, “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
As for Sen. Al Franken, the Democrat said he was “very troubled” by the report that Sessions mislead the members of Congress.
“The American people deserve to know the truth about what happened between Russia and the Trump team, and I believe we need thorough and impartial investigations to get to the bottom of it,” he explained. “It’s clearer than ever now 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.”
Although it is a bit too soon to be talking about perjury charges, as Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes pointed out on Twitter, Sessions’ involvement in the Russian investigation defeats the entire purpose of conducting the probe in the first place.
The reaction on social media was massive.
court— Drake Baer (@drake_baer) March 2, 2017
"I did not have communications with the Russians" is the new "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."— Mike Sacks (@MikeSacksEsq) March 2, 2017
Jeff Sessions is the Atty General. He can't say he didnt understand the question & still be competent to serve. #Flynnished— Harvey King of Shade (@bodysculptorokc) March 2, 2017
Al Franken: What will you do if it turns out Trump's people were colluding with Russians?— Jermaine Spradley (@MrSpradley) March 2, 2017
Sessions: I ain't talk to no Russians b.
What's the Russian word for pivot?— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 2, 2017
Remeber the early Obama-era scandal where he got in trouble for saying cops shouldn't have been mean to a black professor? Good times.— Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) March 2, 2017
Sorry Jeff Sessions but you can't be the ultimate legal authority in the land and lie under oath - that's just a NO— Beth,TheNaziSlayer (@BethW_NoTrump) March 2, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, James Lawler Duggan