The Daily Shot, Ricochet, March 3, 2017
Things seem to have gotten going on Wednesday when The Washington Post published a story that Jeff Sessions met twice last year with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador. Once in September at his office, and once in July at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
That’s a problem because during his confirmation hearing, on January 10, he was asked by Al Franken about communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Sessions said he was “not aware of any of those activities,” and added “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Isn’t it kind of hinky for a Senator to meet with the Russian ambassador? Not really. Senators meet with foreign diplomats all the time. It’s a big thing because everyone is on edge about the Ruskies right now and any seeming connections between them and the Trump campaign, and because Sessions didn’t disclose the meetings. Why is this a problem? Well, as Richard Painter, a former Bush White House ethics lawyer put it, “Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail.”
So yesterday things started blowing up. Democrats in Congress began demanding that Sessions step down as AG. (Which is to be expected. They’re Democrats, that’s their job.) But then Republicans got in on it. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said yesterday morning that Sessions should recuse himself from the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference. He was followed by some senators, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham. Then there were calls from the Democrats for a special prosecutor.
Later in the day, Sessions, who had been downplaying this whole thing, wondering what the fuss about, held a press conference to help stop the bleeding. He clarified that he “never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” and further that he would write to the Judiciary Committee to further explain his testimony. He also said he would recuse himself from further investigations into the 2016 presidential campaigns.
Okay, fine. But there’s one lingering question: Why the hell was the Russian ambassador at the Republican National Convention? That seems super-hinky, doesn’t it? It turns out that we can thank the State Department. Apparently there’s a program to invite foreign VIPs to political conventions … so they can see democracy in action. (Stop laughing. They’re actually serious.) That actually says a hell of a lot more about the State Department than it does about Sessions.