Terry H. Schwadron
If you care about learning something, the public testimony from Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions was a waste of time — his, the Senators on the Intelligence Committee and yours. Well, mine, at least.
Other than making self-serving denials of meeting with Russians and comments about his humble role in President Trump’s campaign, Sessions refused — based on absolutely no law or executive privilege — to discuss private conversations with the President.
As a result, we know such scintillating details as:
· Sessions believes, and thinks everyone should agree, that he had no inappropriate meetings with Russians, whom he accepts did try to interfere in the elections process, though he may have had a third bump into the Russian ambassador at a public event. Nevertheless, he seemed nonplussed about doing anything to stop further interference. Oh, he doesn’t think he lied about this during his confirmation hearings, either.
· He takes it as a matter of faith that the recommendation to fire James Comey Jr. as FBI director was based on Comey’s behavior in the Hillary Clinton case last year, not because of the investigation of Russian interference. He said this with a straight face, ignoring the fact that even the President says otherwise.
· And, again, Democrats tried to press on questions, including the why of not offering much in testimony, and most Republicans offered softball questions to shield the President and debase Comey.
No one really had suggested that Sessions was a part of any “collusion,” which he vociferously denied, just that he had not told the truth about his meetings with the Russian ambassador under oath. And, under pressure, Sessions did recuse himself from all things Russian and the administration, but then there was this weirdness about his role in the Comey firing to explore. Sessions didn’t help much with public understanding; he did great in keeping faith with his boss, the President, who has made it known that he remains unhappy over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself — as if that is what has prompted more investigation.
The point is, these public hearings may make for political drama, but they are not proving great investigative efforts. We still have personality-based Trump v. Comey assertions of truth, we don’t seem to be getting very far towards any continuing stopping Russian interference and we are getting into more and more partisan political games rather than discovery. Indeed, Republicans went out of their way to assert that there once again was no evidence of “collusion” between Team Trump and Russians.
Sessions lacked credibility, depth, understanding or any kind of leadership in this public hearing. He escaped without a lot of sweat because he chose to hide behind a code of privacy for presidential conversations.
In Sessions’ manner and presentations, you could already envision the late night comics having a Sessions field day, which they did.
Once again, the entire ball game now sits with Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel. He and his growing staff of prosecutors aren’t relying on dramatic statements, just the rigorous assembly of documents and statements that will become testimony.
All of which leads to the most chilling assertion of the last day from “a friend” of the President, Newsmax President Chris Ruddy, that the President is considering plans–denied by official White House statements — to fire Mueller. As it turns out, it is either complicated as well as bad politics, or easy if Mr. Trump were to lean on Asst. Atty. Gen. Rod J. Rosenstein to fire Mueller. Luckily, as it turned out, Rosenstein also testified before House and Senate Appropriations Committees and said that he would not fire Mueller. That didn’t stop the chatter, of course, which was more than active with the possible wrinkles.
Indeed, news reports made it seem that the White House staff had to explain to Mr. Trump repeatedly that firing Mueller would lead to a permanent state of no-good news for the President and his agenda.
If there truly is nothing wrong with relations between the campaign and Russia, all of this has a pretty easy set of answers — give details, talk to Mueller, and let’s get this out of the way. But acting petulant and protective only serves to deepen and widen the questioning. This is about actions, not about poses, and someone ought to explain it to the boss.