The Democrats and their media are making a big push to portray Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a Russian agent, or at least catch him in a perjury trap, because they had to talk about something other than President Trump’s address to Congress until the weekend news cycle kicks in.
One cannot overstate how obviously that is the point of all this, Mr. Tapper.
Here are some reasons the Sessions witch hunt is ridiculous:
1. Democrats thought misleading Congress was no big deal until today: Call it an example of “whataboutism” if you will, but it bears noting for the record that Democrats were quick to dismiss blatantly false statements to Congress from such individuals as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and Sessions’ predecessor Attorney General Eric Holder as trivial errors. And, of course, Democrats launched an all-out jihad against the very concept of perjury to keep Bill Clinton in power in the Nineties.
In each case, congressional Democrats showed the maximum possible indulgence to Obama administration officials, blithely accepting every claim of imperfect memory, misunderstanding of questions, and even rank incompetence as acceptable excuses. Holder’s defense against perjury charges amounted to a confession that he did not read his email and had no idea what anyone connected to the horrifying Operation Fast and Furious scandal was doing. Clinton’s evasions in her use of a secret email server are legendary. The server itself was essentially a mechanism for misleading Congress about her activities on a constant basis.
2. Sessions did not commit perjury: Robert Barnes at LawNewz reviews the relevant statutes, and hammers the point that Democrats were quick to sweep them aside when there was far stronger evidence their own officials lied to Congress:
The criminal law only prohibits lying to Congress under two statutes — 18 USC 1621 ands 18 USC 1001. Section 1621 requires a person “willfully and contrary” to a sworn oath “subscribe a material matter” which is both false and the person knows to be false. Section 1001 is basically the same, without certain tribunal prerequisites: it also requires the government prove a person willfully made a materially false statement. This requires three elements: first, a false statement; second, the false statement be “material”; and third, the false statement be made “knowingly” and “willfully.” A statement is not false if it can be interpreted in an innocent manner. A statement is not material if it is not particularly relevant to the subject of the inquiry. Willfully is a very high standard of proof: it requires the person know they are committing the crime, and do so anyway. None of the three exist as to Sessions.
There was strong evidence Hillary Clinton made false statements to Congress about a range of subjects concerning the emails, and evidence she knew they were false. She still was not prosecuted, and Professors like Laurence Tribe recommended her for the Presidency. There was strong evidence James Clapper lied to Congress about the NSA spying on Americans, and he was not prosecuted, but promoted by President Obama, without complaint from many of these same liberal lawyers, professors and journalists. Yet, these same “lawyers” and “journalists” now attack Sessions for what is manifestly not a criminal act, and for which they never demanded any inquiry of either Clinton or Clapper.
Their only claim against Sessions is that Sessions, while Senator, talked to the Russian ambassador a whopping 2 times in 2016. That’s called doing his job. Senator Franken, during the Attorney General confirmation proceedings, talked about “ties to Russia” and asked if Senator Session had discussed the Trump campaign “with Russian government officials.” Sessions answered he had not. Sessions has no “ties with Russia” and there is no evidence he discussed the Trump campaign with any Russian official. The attempt to conflate Sessions doing his job as a Senator — meeting with ambassadors — as meaning he must have talked about campaign tactics or the campaign at all is patently ludicrous.
Barnes reproduces the exact exchange between Franken and Sessions: Franken asked if there had been a “continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Sessions replied, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Nothing about that statement constitutes a false claim that Sessions never communicated with a single Russian in his life. If Franken wanted to build a perjury trap, he should have done a better job of it – but of course, at the time, the Democrats were primarily interested in pumping hot air into their “Russia stole the election from Hillary!” balloon.
Jeff Sessions was very well aware of that fact when he responded to Franken. As noted by Erick Erickson – a man who knows a nothingburger when he smells one sizzling on the media grill, even though he supports investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election – Franken’s warm-up to the question made it very clear Sessions’ role in the Trump campaign was under discussion.
The question of “literally accurate but possibly misleading” answers was litigated all the way to the Supreme Court, long ago, and found to come up short of perjury. In that case, the dubious statements were more deliberately misleading than anything Sessions said, but the perjury dice still came up snake eyes.
3. Meeting with ambassadors was Part of Sessions’ job: Barnes notes that Sessions met with over 20 ambassadors in 2016, in addition to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. As Erickson notes, Kislyak was one of fifty ambassadors Sessions once addressed in a single event at the Heritage Foundation.
In a chronology of the Sessions affair published by the Washington Post, the Heritage panel Erickson refers to is described as focused on “Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and Georgia.” The moderator noted that “several ambassadors asked for names of people who might impact foreign policy under Trump.” Kislyak was one of a “small group of foreign dignitaries” who approached Sessions at the event. Whatever one thinks of the nations represented by each of these dignitaries, they were doing what all ambassadors do.
Incidentally, the author of that Washington Post timeline, Philip Bump, said he thinks “Democrats are overplaying their hand” after completing his analysis…