The big news of the day is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing an avalanche of bipartisan criticism for lying about his contacts with Russia, has recused himself from any investigation related to Russia’s attack on our electoral process or its connections to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The scandal-plagued Trump administration is hoping that Sessions’ recusal is enough to brush this story under the rug and move on.
Certainly, Sessions should not be involved in any inquiry related to Russia’s contact with Trump’s presidential campaign. That was always a given, even before this particular controversy came up.
But lying under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing goes beyond any single investigation. I’m not an expert in this field, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the nation’s top law enforcement officer – and the leader of the Justice Department and FBI – should have a spotless record when it comes to truth telling.
Here’s a reminder of what Sessions said when he was asked by Sen. Al Franken about any communications between the Trump campaign and Russia:
Sessions said, “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.”
Despite the fact that Sessions’ response was flatly untrue, the Trump team is hoping to convince us that Sessions simply forgot that he met with the Russian ambassador – but that’s a ridiculous claim given how large a role Russia has played in our politics over the past year.
This is not an ambassador to some obscure South American state we’re talking about. It’s Russia – the country behind a massive cyber attack on our electoral process.
In fact, the day before Sessions met with the Russian ambassador – Sept. 7, 2016 – the U.S. intelligence director suggested, for the very first time, that Moscow was behind the DNC hacking. The idea that Sessions would conveniently forget meeting with him at the very moment the controversy began consuming the campaign is a stretch, to put it mildly.
So Americans should not be distracted by a move that the Trump administration is hoping will quiet this scandal. Recusal was always necessary, but being dishonest about his communications with a foreign government after swearing to uphold the truth is an immediate disqualifier for anyone – Republican or Democrat – seeking to be the U.S. Attorney General.
If Jeff Sessions can lie under oath and face no meaningful consequences, then what in the world is the point of taking an oath?