General Sessions did not commit perjury, either under the legal standard or the looser political standard, or intentionally mislead Congress or the American people. Indeed, in the statements at issue, he responded as any skilled lawyer would—by actually answering the question that was asked.
During his lengthy confirmation hearings, then-Senator Sessions was asked by Senator Al Franken about a news story regarding compromising information the Russians allegedly had about Donald Trump: “There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.’ . . . [I]f 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 responded: “Senator Franken, 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 didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
Sessions responded, “No,” to Senator Patrick Leahy’s written interrogatory: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?”
The context of both of these questions make clear the Senators were asking, and Sessions was responding, about interactions with Russian officials with regard to the 2016 election. Senator Franken’s question specified communications by persons affiliated with the campaign “in the course of this campaign” with a lengthy introduction describing a news story about an exchange of information between the campaign and the Russian government. Senator Leahy’s question specified communication “about the 2016 election.”Mr. Warrington continues by explaining that it is normal--in fact routine--for members of Congress to meet with foreign dignitaries.
House Speaker Paul Ryan attended a reception at the Capitol that had scores of ambassadors within the last year, he just met with the Indian Ambassador this week, and members of Congress meet with foreign ambassadors “all the time.”
Over just the last few years, news stories of members of Congress meeting with or working with foreign diplomats for a variety of reasons have regularly been in the news. In late 2015, while the Senate was considering the Iran Deal and Treaty, many foreign ambassadors met with senators to lobby for the Iran Deal. This included top diplomats from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
In 2014, leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Senator Chuck Schumer launched a campaign and wrote to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak requesting yogurt from the United States be allowed into Russia for American Olympic athletes. Also in 2014, Senators Dick Durbin and John McCain met with Ambassadors from Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and even Russian Ambassador Kislyak to discuss Russian incursions into Crimea over a several week period. Meanwhile in 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators met with Ambassador Kislyak to plead for the end of the ban on adoption ban in Russia by American parents. The meeting was organized by then-Senator Landrieu and attended by Senators Casey, Whitehouse, McCaskill, Klobuchar, Reed, Bozeman, Wicker, and others.Not to mention that Senator McCaskill also met with the Russian Ambassador--but, forgot.
Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill declared on Twitter yesterday that as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, like former Senator Sessions, she had never met with the Russian Ambassador. Yet, a quick search of her Twitter feed reveals at least two meetings with the Russian Ambassador in recent years.In short, this is nothing new, but yet another witch hunt. However, we have seen this all before. This is just the latest tactic ripped from the left's playbook in an attempt to discredit, marginalize, and obstruct President Trump and his administration officials through personal attacks before they can even govern.
Just take a look at some recent stories that we have highlighted here and on Facebook:
- Different Ethical Standards for Republican and Democratic Lawyers? (Ethics complaint against Kellyanne Conway)
- Partisanship and Hypocrisy on Free Speech by FEC Democrats Should Concern Citizens