Sessions Couldn’t Get His Story Straight About Russia

Yesterday I suggested that Attorney General Sessions was nervous and defensive during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He did nothing to bolster confidence in himself or this administration. Most of the reaction will be to Sessions’s bizarre invoking of what we might call “preemptive executive privilege” to avoid answering questions..

Yvette Cabrera has a good rundown on that.

I’d like to focus more narrowly on the various statements Sessions made about Russia. First of all, on a couple of occasions, he emphasized the seriousness of the probe into whether or not they attempted to influence the election. But then, there was this exchange:

Sessions went farther than that and said that during his tenure as attorney general he has never been briefed on Russia’s interference in our election.

Here’s the headscratcher in response to some questions from Senator McCain:

I’m not sure what to make of that. It could be simple incompetence. But it might also be that his protestations of concern are merely scripted and—like Trump—he isn’t curious because he knows who is guilty.

But here’s the real kicker that came during a rather contentious exchange with Senator Harris, who asked him if he had meetings with Russian officials other than the ones that have been reported:

In a hearing before a committee that is looking into how the Russians tried to interfere in our election and whether or not the administration he works for cooperated with them in that attempt, Sessions alluded to conversations with Russian officials about “whether or not Russia and the United States could get on a more harmonious relationship and move off the hostility.” He went on to say that since the Cold War is over, it is “really a tragic strategic event” that we’re not able to get along better with Russia. Given the circumstances and context, that is an explosive statement. But it comes right out of the playbook we’ve been hearing from Trump for months now.

I was particularly interested in this because I had previously written about the fact that, prior to joining the Trump campaign, Sessions was right up there with Senators like McCain and Graham in his hawkishness on Russia. Within weeks of signing up, he did a complete 180 degree pivot about that.

My point is that there was no consistent logic to anything Sessions said yesterday about Russia. To me, that signals that he is lying and didn’t even have the wherewithal to get his story straight. In that, he seems to be a perfect foot solder for a president who demonstrates regularly that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about amidst a penchant for lying.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.