Donald Trump’s team spent so much time with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, you’d think he was dating Tiffany.
Really, they couldn’t get enough of this guy. It was Kislyak who Michael Flynn, our come-and-gone national security adviser, was chatting with in those phone calls Flynn fibbed about. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, met with Kislyak at Trump Tower after the election.
This week Carter Page, who was part of the campaign’s foreign policy team, swore on MSNBC that he’d never met Kislyak “outside of Cleveland.” While Page was referring to the Republican convention, I propose that from now on when members of the Trump administration want to deny any embarrassing-to-indictable past behavior, they just say, “only in Cleveland.” We'll get the message.
And Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems to have, um, misspoken about Kislyak under oath. During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings, Sen. Al Franken asked Sessions what he would do if evidence turned up that “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government” while the campaign was underway. Franken was sort of inviting him to say he’d recuse himself from the investigation.
But Sessions clearly did not want to take his hand off the investigations tiller. Instead, the future AG jumped right in and volunteered that he, Jeff, had been a central member of the campaign, “and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
It’s bad enough to think the nation’s chief law enforcement officer would dodge the truth when cornered. But it’s worse if he leaps in, waves his hand and lies voluntarily. We now know that Sessions had seen Kislyak at the convention – although, of course, that was in Cleveland. He also had met with the ambassador in his Senate office in September, when the issue of possible Russian interference in the campaign had long been in the news.
Sessions claims he was just confused.
“What do the Russians have on him?” demanded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Earlier, Pelosi had argued that Congress had impeached President Bill Clinton for “far less.” You can look at this several different ways, but I think I speak for many Americans when I say that having a debate about whether Bill Clinton or Jeff Sessions is the worse liar is not the way I want to spend my spring.
OK, people. What do you want to do about Attorney General Jeff Sessions?
A) Fire the sucker.
B) Sic a special prosecutor on him, so he can spend the next four years being tortured with depositions and subpoenas.
D) Let him stay and be the charming little pixie that his friends insist he is.
You think I’m making up the part about friends, right? Just because Sessions started out as an Alabama prosecutor with a record on race so unsavory he couldn’t get a judgeship. Followed by a Senate career dedicated to destroying bipartisan immigration reform. But, it’s pretty easy to build good relations in Congress if you’re reasonably affable and not Ted Cruz. “He was liked in the Senate,” said a Democratic senator who asked not to be identified because nobody wants to say anything nice about Jeff Sessions this week. “He has these horrible views, but he’s sort of not vicious about them.”
After all the news about Sessions’ um, erroneous testimony came out, Trump told reporters he saw no reason whatsoever for his attorney general to recuse himself from any investigations into the campaign in which he played a prominent part. Asked whether he thought Sessions had spoken “truthfully” on the subject of his Russian conversations, the U.S. president said, “I think he probably did.” Mull that for a minute.
Meanwhile, Sessions called a press conference to reveal that his staff had been working all along on the question of whether he should recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign. And – talk about coincidences! – the final-decision meeting had been set for that very day. And the answer was to recuse!
“So in the end I have followed the right procedure,” he declared. “… just as I believe any good attorney general should do.”
Although he needn’t have bothered. The president likes him just the way he is.
And what about the whole Russian connection? We have Russian hackers messing with the Democratic National Committee computers during the campaign while the Trump people could not have been chattier with their pals from the Putin government.
“This is maybe the second or third biggest power in the world attacking us and interfering in our elections. The basis of our republic. So yeah, it’s kind of troubling,” said Franken dryly.
OK, we need some investigations here. Definitely in Congress. If there were nine over Benghazi, this one would seem to deserve at least 14. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also calling for a special investigator, which sounds reasonable. We’re in desperate need of knowing who talked to who, where.
Not counting Cleveland.