Jeff Sessions, under oath, misled the U.S. Senate.
He didn’t “misspeak.” He didn’t misinterpret a question. He misled.
He should resign as U.S. attorney general.
There’s no wiggle room, no opportunity for parsing, about what happened Jan. 10 at Sessions’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota what he would do if he received evidence that someone affiliated with the Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
Sessions, who was one of Trump’s top national security advisers, said: “I’m not aware of those activities.”
He also said: “I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
That was untrue. The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions met twice with Russians during the election. One was a meeting in the then-Alabama senator’s office with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in September, at the height of Russia’s cyber campaign to influence the presidential race.
Sessions spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores, said late Wednesday that Sessions held that meeting in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services panel, not as a Trump adviser. Sessions, in a statement, said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.”
Both may be true – although we’re skeptical – but neither matter. Sessions told the Senate he did not have communications with the Russians during the campaign. That was a deception.
Session, under pressure from lawmakers, announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from any current or future investigation involving Russia’s interfering in the 2016 election. That was the least he could do, given that any investigation must now naturally include questions about Sessions’ contacts with Russians.
He, and Congress, can do more. Congress should demand that Sessions appoint a special prosecutor to independently investigate questions surrounding Russia and Trump’s campaign. Any other investigation, be it from Congress or the Justice Department, risks being tainted by politics.
Thus far, most Republicans have resisted calls for a special prosecutor, although Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina called for a special committee last month to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. On Thursday, North Carolina’s Republican senators defended Sessions, with Thom Tillis declaring the misleading of Congress, incredibly, as a “false narrative.”
Other Sessions supporters have noted that lots of politicians lie, including Hillary Clinton. Perhaps that’s true, but it’s also irrelevant. Jeff Sessions is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. He took an oath before the Senate, then told it something he knew to be untrue. Neither Congress nor the American people can trust what he tells them now. He should resign.