Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sessions Shame

Comments from the Guardian coverage...
Before he signed a letter recommending the firing of James Comey, attorney general Jeff Sessions may or may not have spoken with Donald Trump about the FBI’s Russia inquiry. We don’t know, because Sessions refused to answer that question Tuesday.

"If it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there is a dispute about it, at some point the president will either assert the privilege or not, or some other privilege ... It would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege."

What unmitigated bullshit. The president knew Sessions was testifying today. He didn't ask for executive privilege.

Neither Sessions or Trump is capable of making "a full and intelligent choice" about anything.
Among the questions Sessions declined to answer was whether Trump ordered him out of the room so that he, Trump, could direct Comey to go easy on Michael Flynn (in Comey’s description).
True. He said he recalled being one of the last two or three people to leave. And he wouldn't say why he lingered, either, but implied there wasn't a problem.
"I don’t know how that occurred. We had finished ... a briefing ... a number of people filtered out and I eventually left … I left, it didn’t seem to be a major problem. I knew that director Comey ... could handle himself well."
During Sessions' hearing, Senator Lankford, a Republican apologist, said specifically that Rosenstein said he wouldn't fire Mueller. I don't have the actual testimony. I understood Lankford to say it was a closed hearing earlier today. But here's the quote the Guardian gives:
Under the regulation, special counsel Mueller may be fired only for good cause and I am required to put that cause in writing. And so that’s what I would do. If there were good cause I would consider it. If there were not good cause it wouldn’t matter to me what anybody says.

– deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, in senate testimony
One thing I didn't point out in my previous post of notes on the hearing was that Sessions said he was not in violation of his recusal in offering the president a recommendation to fire Comey because his recusal was specific to the Trump campaign-Russian government collusion investigation, and the firing of Comey was for bad performance of his duties. I think that's an acceptable answer. I don't think that's why they fired Comey, but I don't think Sessions was involved in any collusion. I could be wrong, but he seems too hapless to me to have been in on something like that - at least with his knowledge.
Sessions testified that he believed even before he was confirmed that Comey needed to be fired. Sessions spoke at the time with current deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein about it.

This could be true, but it's not why Trump wanted him fired, and apparently neither Rosenstein or Sessions recommended to the president at any time that Comey should be fired. That is, until Trump told them to write up a recommendation because he wanted to fire him.

John McCain was awake this time and making sense.
Senator John McCain asks whether Sessions raised concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at his meetings with the Russians.

Sessions says he did. “It was a bit testy,” he allows.

McCain: Did you raise concerns about the Syrian president?

Sessions: I don’t recall.

McCain: About Russian interference with the election?

Sessions: I don’t recall.

McCain: Security issues? I don’t recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues.

Sessions is confused.

McCain: In other words, Russia-related security issues. Did you ever hold a hearing on these things or demonstrate interest in the area?

McCain is making the point that Sessions was not big into foreign relations, Russian bilateral relations and such.

And then there was this bizarre exchange:
Joe Manchin, Democrat of Virginia, has the ball. Would you go into a closed session?

Sessions: “I’m not sure. The executive privilege is not waived by going in camera or in closed session.... it’s often very problematic to have persons not cooperating... which may or may not be a factor in going into closed session.”
What? What does that mean? Also, as pointed out in my previous post, Trump did not ask for executive privilege.
Manchin: Any other meetings we should know about in the Trump campaign with Russians?

Sessions: “I don’t recall any.”

Manchin: What about these people:

Paul Manafort? “I don’t have any information that he had done so.”

Steve Bannon? “No information.”

Michael Flynn: “I don’t recall it.”

Reince Priebus: “I don’t recall.”

Stephen Miller: “I don’t recall.”

Corey Lewandowski. “I don’t recall haveing any of those individuals having any meeting with Russian officials.”

Carter Page: “I don’t know... I’m not sure. I don’t recall.”
I don't have a sense here of whether he does know these things. He was a part of the Trump campaign team, but I wouldn't be surprised if he knows nothing. I don't think he's in the same league as those other shady guys. I would be surprised to find out he was. But then there was this:
Harris: [Did you have any communications] with Trump officials about Russia or Russian interests in the US before January 20?

Sessions: “I believe I did... have conversations” about better relations between Russia and the United States.
So he was at least involved in the conversations about how the Trump administration would be dealing with the Russians.

The Guardian quotes the King question about a legal basis for not answering questions thusly:
King: What is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions [about his conversations with the president]? What is the legal basis?

Sessions: “I am protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses and there may be other protections that apply.”

King: I have not (sic) idea what you are talking about.

Sessions: “If it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there is a dispute about it, at some point the president will either assert the privilege or not, or some other privilege... It would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege...”
He's protecting the right of the president to assert executive privilege. Wouldn't he have already done that before Sessions testified? It's obvious Sessions is on his own here. Trump would feed him to the wolves, no doubt.
King: Who asked for your opinion about Comey?

Sessions: I believe I’m correct in saying the president has said so.

King: Who asked you for your opinion.

Sessions: “The president asked us for our opinion. But I believe he’s already revealed that. But if he hasn’t and I’m in error, I would have constricted his constitutional privilege.”
Unmitigated bullshit.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

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