On Wednesday night it was revealed that Jeff Sessions had contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a fact that Sessions denied during his Senate confirmation hearing for the position of U.S. attorney general. On Thursday, Sessions announced that he would recuse himself from any investigations related to the 2016 election, including any on Russian interference.
The Washington Post reports that Sessions held a press conference Thursday to announce his recusal, and the Post was kind enough to provide us with an annotated transcript that highlights what Sessions said to the press and also provides applicable references to questions asked during the confirmation hearing, as well as references to where Sessions may have later contradicted himself or backpedaled on his statements.
What is on display in this transcript is an amazing feat of legal contortion.
While it is a good thing that Sessions recused himself, let’s not break our hands applauding him. He needs to resign. He is yet another member of this administration who has proved himself to be dishonest, and because of his position as U.S. attorney general, his actions and lies are especially egregious.
Also worth noting is the fact that everyone is foaming at the mouth about allegations that he had conversations and dealings with Russia, but was otherwise silent about him being a racist pushing an agenda that will have a direct negative impact on people of color.
For those who may not have time to click through, some of the highlights are included below. All quotes are directly from the Washington Post.
First, about the comments that I made to the committee that have been said to be incorrect and false, let me be clear. I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.
That “about the Trump campaign” clause is the key qualifier here. Sessions said in sworn testimony during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” The question involved the campaign, but he wasn’t asked directly whether he spoke with Russia ABOUT the campaign.
Sessions also said The Washington Post’s report Wednesday night was “false” even though the report didn’t alleged he had spoken about the campaign with Russia.
[T]he idea that I was part of a quote, “continuing exchange of information” during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government is totally false.
This quote is from Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) question to Sessions, which elicited Sessions’s denial. But Franken didn’t ask Sessions whether he was part of the “continuing exchange of information” during the campaign. He said that phrase while summarizing a news report and then asked Sessions, “if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”
Sessions’s argument is basically that he understood—and perhaps misunderstood—this question to be only talking about the campaign.
[M]y reply to the question of Senator Franken was honest and correct as I understood it at the time.
“As I understood it at the time” is an interesting phrase. It seems to allow Sessions, if he needs to, to say that he misunderstood the question. That could help him if he ever were to face a perjury charge—which, we should note, there is no evidence of.
In fact, on Monday of this week, we set a meeting with an eye to a final decision on this question. And on Monday, we set that meeting today. So this was a day that we planned to have a final discussion about handling this.
I asked for their candid and honest opinion about what I should do about investigations, certain investigations. And my staff recommended recusal. They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just.
Sessions says he will recuse himself from matters involving the Trump campaign—but also makes clear that it was a decision that predated the current controversy. This allows him to claim he’s not admitting fault.
It goes on and on. I highly encourage you to take the time to click through and read the transcript along with the Post’s notes, because what Sessions did during the press conference was the most fabulous display of legal acrobatics that I have seen in quite some time.
Read more at the Washington Post.