Sessions hearing

Sessions hearing will most certainly show exceptional craftsmanship in the art of dodging questions.

This will be the first of those short comments I talked about in a previous ‘technical update‘. Note again, these comments have a more reactionary – and I presume more traditional – blog-like nature. Please note that this article was written before the hearing.

James Comey’s testimony last week drew 19 million live viewers, causing CNN to cry impeachment and Fox News to denounce Comey as the ‘grandstander’ that he seemingly is. As a Dutchman, the mainstream media landscape in the United States seems almost binary compared to the relatively neutral outlets in the Netherlands – of course, there are the inevitable exceptions, however, nothing as extraordinarily disproportionate. Let us reserve these objections – or qualities, as some make the ridiculous claim that ‘choice’ is a good thing – for another time.

Whichever side you occupy, Comey’s testimony undoubtedly raised questions concerning the role of attorney general Sessions with regard to Trump’s two current scandals: whether his campaign colluded with the Russians and whether the investigation concerning possible collaboration is a casus for Trump obstructing justice. Both being reason enough for impeachment and conviction.

Today, the thirteenth of June, is the day Sessions will testify before the senate intelligence committee. As a long time Trump ally, his senate hearing will most certainly showcase a particularly exceptional piece of verbal twisting and -turning. Whether Sessions dodges or answers is the real question, lawmakers better adapt their inquiries as to pressure him to dodge or answer.

In March I wrote about Sessions’ ‘Russian love affair’. Sessions, known for preparing extensively, walked through his senate hearings rather unscathed. With Democrats accepting him as the best they were going to get and Republicans lauding him at every turn. That is, of course, except for failing to mention his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergei Kysliak, causing him to finally recuse from all ongoing investigations with regard to the 2016 campaign. The scope of this recusal is still unclear, with Rosenstein also unable to dwell on it earlier today. Sessions will most certainly dodge most questions concerning the campaign, claiming that he recused from the investigations and therefore has no insight. Lawmakers should thus try and clarify the scope of his recusal as well as press for definitive answers concerning a rumored third meeting with Kysliak which could possibly make his recusal meaningless.

An interesting, albeit a little long, article from The Washington Post. 

Sessions’ Russian love affair

A short evaluation of the Sessions’ story and its consequences, as well as the general effect of Trump’s positive position with regard to Russia.

In a 1969 agreement between the USSR and the US, both parties decided upon leasing ‘Mount Alto’ to the Russians in an 85-year deal. Here, in Washington DC, we find an impressive white marble building, the embassy of the Russian Federation. Heading southeast, we find ourselves in downtown DC, where the residence of the Russian ambassador to the United States is situated. An American architectural monument built as a wedding gift to Congressman Frank Lowden, an equally impressive piece of twentieth century architecture. Calling this residence home is the current Russian ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak. Now that some key figures in the Trump administration are suspected of alleged ties with Russia, the normally low-key ambassador is a key figures in a political scandal in the making.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a name that does not truly reflect his families stature, has praised himself to be a kind of bearer of the South, reflecting classic Southern conservatism; he rejects gay marriage and transgender laws, he opposes immigration and is an early advocate of protectionism, predicting even that Trump would win as a result of his isolationist rhetoric. He seems to have embraced Ted Kennedy’s statement that he is a ‘throwback to a shameful era’.

Since the shameful confirmation process that lead to Sessions’ being rejected a spot as a federal lawyer in 1986, Sessions’ has been known to prepare extensively for his senate hearings. He brought several witnesses with him to prove that his ideology was not based on racism, however, when asked whether he had communicated with Kislyak, Sessions answered “I did not have communications with the Russians”, later saying that he was struck by the question and the conversations did not cross his mind. This answer was given on the tenth of January. Later, on the 27th, he said that he “would recuse myself on anything I should recuse myself on. That’s all I can tell you”. In a response to a Washington Post article , he stated that he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false”, noting that he did in fact have conversations with Kysliak, but in his Senator role, not his campaign role. Following these allegations, Sessions recused himself from the ongoing investigation on Russian ties to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats now accuse Sessions of perjury as well as calling for him to resign. To be involved in an act of perjury, however, one has to intentionally lie. Proving that he intentionally lied is historically difficult. One can of course draw parallels with Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, who both resigned as a result of lies about their respective communications with Russian officials during the campaign. Jeff Sessions is simply a much more central figure in the Trump administration and thus incomparable.

Most of what can be categorized as ‘Trumpism’ is just ‘Sessionism’ through a photocopier, he was Trump’s megaphone to the ‘angry white Southerner’. Besides this ideological dependency, Trump has taken over part of his staff as well as his network. A Sessions resignation would do Trump more pain then good, contrary to the resignation of Flynn and Manafort.

The chance that Sessions resigns from being attorney general seems low. However, more leaks concerning campaign officials having any contact with the Russians are bound to surface, disrupting his presidency and slowly paving the way to Democrats calling for a special investigator and Trump having his own, personal Watergate. Ignoring that more officials might have had conversations with Russian officials, Trump’s positive stance on Russia will haunt him for the duration of his term. Every move the administration makes that has anything to do with Russia will be treated more carefully than ever, slowing down progress.

In conclusion, a Sessions resignation seems highly unlikely – too bad since the Flynn resignation brought us H.R. McMaster. Although many Republicans have taken positive stances on Russia, some Republican senators – Lindsey Graham, notably – have not adopted this new found love, giving the Democrats the opportunity to call for a special investigator. Judging from Trump’s love for exclusivity, Trump would certainly love being only the second President to quit during his term.