Sessions hearing: the big takeaways
- The committee’s Republican chairman gave him hell for not wanting to launch a vindictive investigation targeting Hillary Clinton:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) zeroed in on his demands for a second special counsel in the first five minutes of a hotly-anticipated oversight hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday morning.
“I have chosen, as chairman of this committee, to let special counsel Robert Mueller do his job, free from undue political influence,” he said in his opening statement. “At the same time, however, this committee will do its duty and conduct oversight of DOJ [Department of Justice].”
Hinting at dissatisfaction with Sessions, Goodlatte referenced a pair of requests that the Justice Department name a second special counsel to investigate the Obama Justice Department’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
- His memory has (miracle of miracles!) been refreshed with respect to Russiagate:
[Sessions] now recalls a meeting in March 2016 that has come under scrutiny as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump’s election campaign colluded with Russia.
In testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Sessions acknowledged he attended a meeting with George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser who pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI.
- Sessions blames the “chaos” of the Trump presidential campaign for his short memory about Russian contacts: “It was a brilliant campaign, I think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one. We traveled sometimes to several places in one day. Sleep was in short supply, and I was still a full time senator with a very full schedule. … I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting. But I did not recall this event which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago. And I would gladly have reported it had I remembered it, because I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper.”
- RawStory posted this terrific video of Rep. Shiela Jackson Lee putting Sessions’s feet to the fire over his memory lapses:
- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) gave Sessions a thrashing about his own past statements about people who selectively forget details about past conversations:
- Think Progress has the details on Sessions struggle to answer basic questions about diversity and racism. You’d think he might be protecting “white privilege.”
- Sessions was hammered about the issue of Trump being able to pardon members of his family, and blasted by Rep. Ted Deutsch over the prospect of Trump attempting to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
“I’m not able to express an opinion on that at this point,” Sessions said and added that he can’t comment on the possibility of Trump pardoning Papadopoulos, Manafort or his family members. Sessions did say that Trump “has the power to pardon” and added that “there’s no doubt about that.”
“We should be worried if you are telling us the president should be able to pardon in advance all of those being investigated,” Deutch said.
“You said when you started your testimony today that there is nothing more important than advancing the rule of law, and when you answer the way you have, it suggests that the rule of law is crumbling at our feet,” Deutch said.
- Sessions says he has “no reason to doubt” Roy Moore’s accusers, but also “said he would not comment on the campaign. Numerous other Republican figures have called on Moore to withdraw from the race.”