On Monday night, the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship over the Cleveland Cavaliers in five noncompetitive games. After all the excitement and anticipation going into the series, it was a series of uninteresting blowouts. Cleveland lost because even though their big three mostly came to play, the rest of the team disappeared, and the Warriors played as a cohesive unit the whole time.
America probably hoped that another beatdown like that wouldn’t be on television again until next spring, but then came Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
It was another blowout, and Senate Dems won’t be winning anytime soon unless they figure out how to play as a team.
Everyone knows why Sessions was up to testify. He lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during his confirmation hearings, he recused himself from the Russia-gate investigation, and then he turned around and helped fire FBI Director James Comey for continuing the Russia investigation.
Between President Donald Trump’s tweets, Comey’s testimony and Sessions’ own lies, there is enough to kick Sessions out of his job, but we all know the spineless Republicans in Congress would never push for that, and Trump won’t, either. However, Tuesday’s Senate hearing was a chance to pin Sessions down publicly for his obvious obstructionism and lying. Unfortunately, Democrats just wasted possession after possession, while Republicans were fast-breaking after every question.
The plan was obvious, starting with Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Republicans spent every single question asking Sessions about why leaks were bad and why he helped fire Comey. They avoided any and all questions about Trump.
For his part, Sessions did his best “I’m just a country lawyer,” Atticus Finch/Hyper-Chicken impression and dribbled his answers out as slowly as possible, knowing that he could run out the clock because senators had only a limited time to ask him questions.
Republicans played it perfectly.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) literally spent the first two minutes of his allotted time doing a horrible ’70s stand-up set about spy movies, making it easier for Sessions to mumble through and answer nothing.
No one expected Cleveland to beat Golden State—they were outmatched, and the Warriors controlled every branch of the game: offense, defense and the refs. (How many phantom technical fouls disappeared during that series?) Along the same lines, the Democrats couldn’t win this hearing, either, but you hoped at least that everyone came to play, and that wasn’t the case.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were terrible; they were either too comfy, having been recent colleagues of Sessions’, or they completely forgot how a Senate hearing is supposed to work. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) came out with tough questions at first but backed off once Sessions got indignant and puffed out his chest. The Democrats’ big three—Sens. Angus King of Maine, Kamala Harris of California and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico—were the only ones who seemed committed to asking tough questions.
Sessions was under oath to tell the truth and the whole truth to the committee, but he consistently refused to answer questions about his conversations with Trump and had no legal justification for it whatsoever. The White House didn’t ask for executive privilege, and the attorney general is not the president’s personal lawyer, so there is no implied attorney-client privilege, either.
The Dems’ big three repeatedly demanded that Sessions explain why he was picking and choosing which conversations with the president he would discuss while claiming that others were privileged, despite executive privilege not existing. Rookie senator Harris did her best Kyrie Irving impression, going hard in the paint at Sessions’ porous, defensive answers on every question, and kept at him on social media after the hearing.
Of course, she was forced to take to Twitter because the refs stepped in, for the second time, chastising Harris for going at the attorney general with the same passion and directness as some of the men on the committee.
This hearing did not change anything fundamentally in the Russia investigation or anything else that may one day happen to this administration. Sessions is clearly withholding information that he feels is damaging to the president, and to avoid getting caught in various lies, he claims not to remember anything or just flat-out refuses to answer. The Republicans had the numerical and the administrative advantage going in, but it didn’t help that the Democrats had to play 3-on-8 during the hearings, with Senate Republicans playing offense and defense for Sessions.
This won’t be the last committee of its kind, and with the Republicans running the Senate, this may be the outcome of these types of hearings for years. However, if the idea of a sidestepping, obfuscating, reportedly bigoted attorney general with no chance of being held accountable by the current Senate concerns the American people, it might be good to remember that there are some good free agents coming up in November of 2018.