President Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been the subject of controversy since the cabinet nomination of the Alabama Senator and former Alabama attorney general was announced. Sessions was initially under scrutiny because he had been denied a federal judgeship over 3o years ago due to perceptions that the man christened Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was a racist. And while these allegations were ultimately debunked by Sessions’s legal career which included seeking the death penalty for the son of a Ku Klux Klan member who had murdered a black youth and, also, his Alabama attorney general record where he advocated for school desegregation, the “racist” stigma permeated his confirmation hearings and related media coverage.
On February 8, Sessions was ultimately confirmed as our nation’s 84th attorney general 52-47, with the votes clearly cast by party lines.
Fast forward three weeks and a new Sessions’s controversy has erupted. While Sessions was being questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, he failed to disclose that he had had two conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
On February 13, President Trump’s first National Security Adviser retired general Michael Flynn resigned when it became clear that Flynn had been less than forthcoming about the content of a telephone conversation which he had had with Kislyak a few months earlier. Prior to Sessions’s confirmation hearing, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), a member of the Judiciary Committee asked Sessions if he had “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.” Sessions responded “no” to the pre-hearing survey question. When Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) asked Sessions during the hearing what he would do if he found out that any member of the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the campaign, Sessions responded “I’m not aware of any of those activities. … I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Eventually, it was revealed that Sessions had met with Kislyak twice, on the floor of the Republican National Convention in July and also in his senate office in September. Sessions claimed that he did not mention these two meetings because he thought that he was being asked about his interactions with Russian representatives as a Trump surrogate, not his interactions in his capacity as a U.S. senator. On Thursday, March 2, Sessions decided to recuse himself from any Department of Justice matters pertaining to the topic of “Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election”.
However, Sessions’s recusal is not sufficient for many Democrats who are now calling for him to resign his post as attorney general or requesting that, at a minimum, he be recalled to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee. As of Friday March 3, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairperson Chuck Grassley of Iowa has stated that he sees no need to recall Attorney General Sessions to committee and will accept Sessions’ amended written testimony as sufficient. Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente will oversee the Russian hacking judicial inquiry until Sessions’ confirmation is resolved.
Jeff Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. After all, the issue is about perception, not guilt or innocence. And Senator Grassley also did the right thing by refusing to cave in to those pressuring him to bring Sessions back to committee. After all, isn’t this just what the liberals want? They want the circus of another hearing with Sessions forced to amend his statement under oath.
Image: photo credit: Gage Skidmore Jeff Sessions via photopin (license)