Attorney General Jeff Sessions looks like he is positioning himself to become the next domino to fall from the new administration. So here is to Russia, with love, from the President and his men, which just may become the mantra for this, the 45th Presidential Administration of the United States.
We now know that then Senator Jeff Sessions may have mislead the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, if not flat out lied, when he testified under oath at his confirmation hearing, that he was unaware of any communications between the campaign and Russians, and that he personally had no contact with Russians. Sessions also answered ‘no” to a written question from Pat Leahy (D-VT) asking if Sessions had,
“Been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.”
In an attempt to mitigate the damage he has caused, pursuant to a meeting with his staff that took place on March 2, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that he has deferred to the judgment of his staff saying,
“I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,”
Sessions clearly was required to recuse himself as 28 CFR 45.2 requires recusal as the Attorney General had a personal relationship with the President, was a member of the President’s campaign staff, and he might reasonably be expected to be questioned as a witness. The door remains open for Sessions to remain part of any investigations pertaining to matters arising after November 8, 2016.
It was also confirmed by Sessions during the announcement of his recusal, that Sessions had also met with the Ukrainian Ambassador in his office, the day before he met with the Russian Ambassador in September, 2016.
Even some Republicans had been calling on the Attorney General to recuse himself.
Paul Ryan, said that Sessions should recuse himself if he,
House Oversight Committee Chairman, Jason Chaffetz, went further, effectively calling for Sessions to immediately step aside saying that,
“I think the Attorney General should further clarify and I do think he’s going to need to recuse himself at this point.”
A number of Republican friends of the Attorney General, such as Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and colleagues, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Dean Heller, (R-NV) had also called for Sessions to recuse himself. The top Democrats, Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, went further, and were calling for the Attorney General to resign.
While Jeff Sessions might not yet be the subject of a Department of Justice investigation, he certainly should be. Consider the evidence to date.
The Attorney General has confirmed that as a Senator he had an encounter with Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, after a speech at a Heritage Foundation event in Cleveland, Ohio, during the Republican National Convention last summer.
White House spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, admitted to the September 2016 meeting between Sessions, then a Senator and a member of the campaign staff, in the office of Senator Sessions, when he,
“Met with the ambassador in an official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services committee.”
Today comes additional confirmation from Sessions of the September meeting with the Russian Ambassador, and a new admission of a meeting with the Ukrainian Ambassador.
In addition to the telephone calls that former National Security advisor, General Michael Flynn had in late December with the Russian Ambassador, we now know that Flynn and the President’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, met with the Russian Ambassador in December at Trump Tower in Manhattan. There is also the Russian connection between the New Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and the Russian state controlled oil and gas industry. Let us also not forget the newly confirmed Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, who has an ownership interest in a Cypress bank that is believed to be laundering Russian money.
There is also the matter of the Carter Page who has been rumored to have been recommended by then Senator Sessions as an adviser to the campaign. Page, who has no real foreign policy credentials, but like many of this administrations associates, had plenty of experience in international finance, as well as connections to the Russian oil and gas industry. Page also worked for former Republican presidential candidate and the newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services, Doctor Ben Carson. Carter Page also met with the the Russian Ambassador in Cleveland at the same gathering Senator Sessions attended on July 20, 2016.
Consider, too, the appearance last year by the President’s son who was paid $50,000 to speak in Paris to the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, a think tank founded by a French couple with extensive ties to Russia.
The candidate himself told the Washington Post Editorial Board on March 21, 2016, that Carter Page was a foreign policy advisor to the campaign. Page, on December 8, 2016, denied involvement with the campaign, saying that his work in Russia was as a private person.
18 U.S.C. §1621 sets forth the federal crime of perjury as being committed when,
“Whoever having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true.”
A charge of perjury under 18 U.S.C. §1621 could be proven if it is established, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the Attorney General intentionally mislead the Senate with his answers while under oath during his confirmation hearing.
“A witness testifying under oath or affirmation violates this section if she gives false testimony concerning a material matter with the willful intent to provide false testimony, rather than as a result of confusion, mistake, or faulty memory.”
The probability that this Department of Justice will prosecute Attorney General Jeff Sessions for perjury is low. The likelihood of this Department of Justice prosecuting General Michael Flynn or anyone else connected to the new administration for violations of the Logan Act arising out of any discussions with the Russians before the change in administrations, is small. But, the problems for this administration will not go away even if there are no prosecutions, and Attorney General Sessions will not be able to participate in any investigations involving any matters arising before November 8, 2016.
Keep in mind that it is the possibility of getting entwined with misstatements, if not outright lies, in attempts to cover up activities by people connected to the campaign and to the administration, that might eventually trip up the administration. Obstruction of Justice charges can be brought by the Department of Justice against members of the administration, or form the basis for the impeachment of the President or the Vice President, as was the case in 1974 when President Nixon was forced to resign.
This 45th Presidential Administration is setting itself up for lengthy sessions of questioning before a series of Senate and House Committees, possibly by the FBI, as well. So here is to Russia, with love, from the President and his men, as they continue to travel a road that seems headed towards certain disaster.