President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly spoke with Russian Ambassador to the United States twice in 2016. Sessions, who at the time, was Senator in Alabama, failed to disclose this information when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’ confirmation hearing to become attorney general. The New York Times provided video footage of his sworn testimony.
One of the meetings between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was a private conversation that took place in September in Sessions office. U.S. Intelligence officials say the meeting was held at the height of the Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
Initially, Sessions said he did not meet with any Russians at any time to discuss the campaign. He said he would recuse himself from Russian investigation whenever appropriate.
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) March 2, 2017
Trump and his administration see nothing wrong with what Sessions has done and feel they are the ones being attacked.
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) March 2, 2017
Some would simply like Sessions to clarify his testimony and recuse himself to make everything easier.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 2, 2017
AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) March 2, 2017
However, some see the situation to be more serious and believe Sessions committed perjury. Section 1621 covers general perjury and stipulates that anyone who “willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true” is guilty of perjury and shall be fined or imprisoned up to five years, or both. Section 1001 covers false statements more generally, without requiring an oath. the section stipulates that “whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the government of the United States, knowingly and willfully” falsifies or conceals information, including before a congressional committee’s inquiry, may also be fined or imprisoned up to five years.
the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court after having taken an oath or affirmation.https://t.co/x9qN6nyD3t
— Rep. Joe Crowley (@repjoecrowley) March 2, 2017
And we need Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who should have never been confirmed in the first place – to resign. We need it now.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) March 2, 2017
The mounting pressure for his recusal was effective. According to Reuters,
“U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday he would stay out of any probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election but maintained he did nothing wrong by failing to disclose he met last year with Russia’s ambassador.
Sessions, a longtime U.S. senator who was an early and high-ranking player in President Donald Trump’s campaign before becoming the country’s top law enforcement official, announced the decision after several fellow Republicans in Congress suggested the move would be appropriate.
“I have recused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign,” Sessions told reporters at a hastily arranged news conference.“
While the story continues to develop, no one knows exactly how the situation will come to a resolution. However, for precedent one just has to look to history. For example, in 1972 Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a confirmation hearing on his nomination by President Richard Nixon to be attorney general. He was to replace Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who had resigned in disgrace and would later be sent to prison in the Watergate scandal.
Several Democratic senators were concerned about rumors of White House interference in a Justice Department antitrust suit against International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, a campaign contributor to the Republican National Committee. They asked Kleindienst several times if he had ever spoken with anyone at the White House about the I.T.T. case. He said he had not.
That wasn’t true. Later, after Kleindienst was confirmed as attorney general, the special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, and his team uncovered an Oval Office tape recording of a phone call in which Nixon told Kleindiesnt to drop the I.T.T. case. Kleindienst claimed that he thought the senators’ questions were limited to a particular period, not the entire time during which the case was pending.
While the factual situations are not exactly the same, this is not the first time that the ill-fated Nixon administration has been unfavorably compared to the still-young Trump administration. It seems that everyday Trump and his staff are involved in a brand new controversy, scandal or “alternative fact”. What’s is certain is that the links between Russia and this administration will continue to be closely scrutinized at least for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Sessions own words have “come back to bite him”. The internet never forgets and the online backlash has begun.