Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was back in the hot seat today before the House Judiciary Committee. After the news that George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to the FBI, we learned that George had suggested a direct meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin during the Trump campaign and that Jeff Sessions had chaired the March 2016 national security meeting. Not to mention the testimony by former Trump advisor Carter Page, who said he told Sessions about his trip to Moscow.
So after Sessions’ lengthy testimony, what have we figured out? Here is what the incredibly insightful professor and attorney, Seth Abramson had to say about it. First off, Sessions had prepared “devastatingly narrow and legalistic” statements on the topic of Russia that he read. Abramson believes that shows that Sessions knows he’s in legal jeopardy. That might explain why Sessions can’t remember a damn thing.
(THREAD) This thread provides live updates on any newsworthy events in Attorney General Sessions' public testimony before Congress today. I hope you'll follow along and share this tweet. pic.twitter.com/XgNOoI647g
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 14, 2017
These are only a few of the insightful findings from the thread above.
First up, Sessions inadvertently revealed that he “was asked to lead and form and find some people” who would be on the national security team, and two of those people ended up including Page and Papadopoulos.
As Trump’s foreign policy and National Security chief, Abramson believes Sessions should have known that Papadopoulos had represented the Trump campaign to Greece and the UK, but Sessions claimed he didn’t know about that at all. If Sessions didn’t know about it, then who authorized Papadopoulos? That could only be Trump or Manafort, “The only men above Sessions in the Trump campaign.” Abramson believes it was likely Trump himself, overruling Sessions through White House Communications Director Hope Hicks. The idea floated that Sessions’ aide, J.D. Gordon, gave Papadopoulos the ok to act independently on “big-ticket items” like negotiating with Russian officials doesn’t hold water.
27/ So let me boil it down: either Sessions is lying to Congress (a crime) or J.D. Gordon, his aide, lied to the FBI (a crime).
One of those two things is true.
39/ The questions today needed to be on how Gordon and other NatSec team members below Sessions in the chain of command were getting emails Sessions says he didn’t; why he didn’t prepare for the hearing by reviewing his emails; and who authorized Papadopoulos to ignore Sessions.
The House Judiciary Republicans questioning Sessions avoided talking about Russia, which was the main point of holding the hearing. Abramson believes a Democrat-controlled Congress would have already held Session in Contempt of Congress.
6/ Right now Congress is questioning a witness who, on the face of it, perjured himself before Congress multiple times and is likely a current target of a federal criminal investigation. And House Judiciary Republicans have made it perfectly clear they’ll ask no Russia questions.
When questioned about how Sessions responded to Papadopoulos’s idea to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting, Sessions seemed to favor the phrase that he “pushed back” on the idea but showed concern about saying that he totally “shut down” the idea. Given that he claimed to barely remember the incident, at all, it seems he might know more than he let on.
Sessions also said he didn’t recall talking about the topic to anybody later or receiving emails from Papadopoulos. Abramson found it “amazing” and extremely improbable that Sessions wasn’t on any threads about the subject after months of meetings. Not only that, but Sessions also didn’t prepare for his testimony by reviewing the emails to see if he was included. Why the hell not?
When it comes to former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, Abramson believes Sessions is outright lying.
14/ Despite being Trump's foreign policy/NatSec chief, Sessions says he was never told anything untoward about Flynn's liaisons/associations.
Understand this, all: this man is lying. He denies all conversations, emails, and meetings on topics Trump *hired him to specialize in*.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) November 14, 2017
Abramson elaborated on Sessions’ desperation:
15/ Sessions is so desperate to play down his role—something anyone who’s the target of a probe is certain to do—that he’s called his own team “ineffective,” said he can’t recall interactions with anyone on his team, and was not in the loop on anything involving his policy area.
But more than that, Abramson believes the Republicans in the House Judiciary are complicit and know that Sessions is lying. He calls them out for trying to sabotage the probe. “These people are without shame.”
16/ Given my preceding tweet, it’s important to say every House Judiciary member in that room knows Sessions is lying. No one believes he’s as aloof, incompetent and disinterested in his areas of policy specialization as he now so desperately claims—but they’ll pretend otherwise.
Sessions tried to claim an imaginary type of executive privilege, refusing to talk about his conversations with presidential advisors. “He’s literally making up privileges now,” said Abramson. Sessions also strangely and conveniently claimed not to understand the presidential pardon power.
“Even lying about whether he understands the presidential pardon power is a crime,” said Abramson. Sessions later admitted knowing that “intentional failure to remember” with an “intent to deceive” is perjury.
“Good. Because he’s been doing that all morning and afternoon so far,” said Abramson.
Perhaps the most significant revelations, as only Abramson can say it:
48/ Sessions CONFIRMS that Russian Ambassador Kislyak was in his Senate office for “45 to 50 minutes” for the explicit purpose of arguing that the U.S. should DROP sanctions against Russia.
49/ I’ve been saying it for months and will keep saying it: Trump and Sessions traded sanctions policy for Russian assistance by promising a unilateral dropping of sanctions against Russia—a huge financial windfall—at a time they knew Russia was committing crimes against America.
50/ Did Sessions assist with hacking? No. Did he promise to? No. Did Kislyak discuss hacking with him? Probably not. But did Sessions negotiate giving Russia a massive economic and policy benefit as a way of encouraging federal crimes Sessions and Trump knew were occurring? Yes.
Finally, Sessions tried the dismiss the notion entirely that the Department of Justice should be doing something to prevent Russia from sabotaging our next elections. Instead, he passed the buck the Robert Mueller, but, as Abramson points out, that’s not his job.
56/ Sessions says he doesn’t have to do anything at DOJ to protect the United States against future Russian election interference because Mueller is addressing all of that. Except that he’s not—that’s not at *all* what Mueller is tasked with doing.
So, in the end, Sessions should have already been charged with Contempt of Congress. The Republicans in the House are purposefully ignoring this, even as America’s next round of elections stands to be sabotaged by Russia again. Such is life in Trump’s America. It’s not “great again,” it’s hanging on the edge of a razor. Maybe only Abramson and Mueller can sort this out.
The rest of us must loudly resist each and every day.
Featured image: Sessions by Ryan J. Reilly (CC BY 2.0)