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Sessions recuses himself from Russian nothing-burger

The AG won’t handle the "election interference" case

Matthew Vadum author image /

Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially recused himself yesterday from the nonsensical, possibly even nonexistent, federal probe into claims of Russian interference in the election – claims that for all we know were invented by President Trump’s enemies in the intelligence community and the Democratic Party.

Despite the oceans of mass media hysteria, there is still no publicly available trustworthy evidence that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with the Russian government last year. Sources in newspaper articles are never identified. There is not a scintilla of proof of improper conduct. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. All we have is the alleged say-so of faceless CIA spooks whose motives are questionable, to put it charitably.

President Trump called out his predecessor for meddling this week. Accusing Barack Obama of being “behind” the unruly town hall protests and maybe the leaks coming out of the White House, too. A New York Times article from Wednesday stated that in the dying days of the Obama administration officials “spread information” about the alleged Russian tampering in the election and supposed ties between that country and Trump associates “across the government.” Some have called the clues Trump-hating spooks left behind as “intelligence bread crumbs” planted to be discovered later.

It needs to be said that even the theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been trying to undermine the public’s faith in American democracy is suspect. The KGB veteran delights in being seen as a puppet master who throws his weight around in other countries. As a few voices in the wilderness have suggested, if Russia is trying to manipulate the American political process, it is in an attempt to shore up Putin’s position at home. In other words, it is a propaganda campaign aimed at Russians in Russia, and the Left is only too happy to help out in order to hurt Trump.

The Sessions-is-a-Russian-traitor story came about just when the Trump administration was basking in the glow of the president’s historic speech to Congress. How convenient. Suddenly good news about Trump evaporates in the news cycle. Poof.

As CNN’s resident self-described “communist” propagandist Van Jones was forced to admit, President Trump’s widely praised address was a game-changer. Trump “became president of the United States in that moment, period.” Jones was moved during Trump’s tribute to fallen Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, and his widow Carryn Owens. Trump looked towards a visibly emotional Mrs. Owens and said, “Ryan’s legacy is etched into eternity … thank you,” a comment that was followed by a stand ovation that lasted two minutes.

“That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics,” Jones said. “If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years.” Not surprisingly, Jones’s simple acknowledgment of reality earned him the wrath of professionally unhinged MSNBC-reject and dead-ender Keith Olbermann and a chorus of other radicals.

Returning to the Sessions story, at a press conference yesterday the attorney general stressed that a recusal is far from an admission of guilt and that the Department of Justice does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

Sessions is mindful of the important aphorism that over time has hardened into a legal maxim: “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

It is about optics and seeming conflicts-of-interest. A judge who is a major shareholder in, say, McDonald’s, would quite properly recuse himself in a lawsuit involving a consumer who claims to have been injured at a McDonald’s restaurant by a scalding-hot cup of coffee. The judge knows that people might reasonably perceive him as biased in favor of the fast food chain because he has a financial stake in the outcome of the case. For him to preside over such a case might draw the administration of justice into disrepute, and so recusals when there is a perceived conflict-of-interest are tediously routine in the courts.

The demands for Sessions to recuse himself – or even to resign as attorney general or be prosecuted for perjury – grew louder and more numerous after the Department of Justice acknowledged this week that the then-senator, a high-profile Trump surrogate at the time, met twice during campaign season last year with Ambassador Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak, who is alleged to be a top Russian spy master.

But this is thin gruel. The Democrats are playing a game of gotcha.

The two meetings, according to Sessions, were not brainstorming retreats at which the Trump campaign plotted with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s representative to undermine the American democratic process, and there is no evidence they were. (In an unusual act of public service, a fake news provider owned by a left-wing gazillionaire generously provided what appears to be an accurate transcript of the presser.)

One was an ambassadorial visit to a Senate office at which Sessions was accompanied by national-security aides. Sessions said Kislyak, who “was pretty much of an old-style Soviet-type ambassador,” brought up a number of issues and pressed him on Russia’s hostilities against Ukraine, insisting Russia had done nothing wrong. The envoy grew testy because Sessions wasn’t biting, and at some point the gathering ended without a meeting of minds. Weighing in on the farce unfolding around the attorney general and Kislyak, the Onion satire site published a funny piece titled, “Heartbroken Russian ambassador thought special meetings with Jeff Sessions were very memorable[.]”

The other meeting was a Heritage Foundation reception during the Republican National Convention with two dozen ambassadors from countries around the globe and Kislyak, Sessions said, was just one face in the crowd.

Here’s the public relations rub: Sessions may not have done anything wrong by meeting with Kislyak but he failed to disclose the two meetings during his confirmation process, which gave the Left an opportunity to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Let’s look at what Sessions said to senators considering his nomination.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) wrote to Sessions asking questions. Here is one of those questions:

Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. 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?

“No,” was the simple reply from Sessions.

At a Jan. 10 hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked the then-nominee about a CNN story “alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that, quote, ‘Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.’”

He continued:

These documents also allegedly say, quote, “There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Now, again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and 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 replied:

Sen. 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.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy makes the point that in context Sessions “obviously meant that he did not have communications with the Russians in the capacity of a surrogate for the Trump campaign and that he was unable to comment on the explosive allegations in the dossier.” [emphasis original] The dossier refers to the discredited document dump that claimed Trump invited prostitutes to a Moscow hotel room to urinate on a bed.

McCarthy continued:

Manifestly, he was trying to say that he did not believe that Franken’s outline of the dossier provided any basis for him, Sessions, to recuse himself from any potential investigation. He was not saying that in his capacity as a United States senator, unrelated to the Trump campaign, he had never had any contacts with Russian officials.

Left-wing law professor Jonathan Turley was not impressed. He said on television that there was “no crime here” and that the question posed to Sessions “was not a model of clarity.” He added that in his opinion there was “no compelling or cognizable case for perjury.”

Nonetheless, because he was a Trump advocate who happened to be in the room on the two occasions and spoke to Kislyak, however inconsequentially, Sessions acknowledged at the media event yesterday that he could be perceived as less than impartial in any Justice Department investigation.

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. And the 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.

The attorney general said he asked his staff “for their candid and honest opinion about what I should do about investigations, certain investigations, and my staff recommended recusal,” because he had been involved with the Trump campaign.

“I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation,” Sessions said. “I believe those recommendations are right and just.”

So, Sessions did the honorable, ethical thing and agreed not to preside over the investigation, if there is one in progress or in the future.

Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, President Trump said he didn’t know Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador and didn’t think he should recuse himself. Hours later Trump published a series of tweets.

Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election, and now they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total “witch hunt!”

It sure looks like a witch hunt. It is becoming even more obvious than it was a week ago that rogue elements of the intelligence community are fragging a top member of the Trump cabinet in order to hurt the administration.

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties have been tripping over each other in the rush to throw Sessions under the bus.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said Wednesday that if Sessions had indeed spoken with Kislyak, “then for sure you need a special prosecutor.”

“AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted yesterday.

As they try to lynch Sessions to appease their crazed base, Democrats are holding a Hypocrisy Olympics right now.

Kislyak himself attended Trump’s triumphant congressional address Tuesday night and was spotted sitting among Democratic lawmakers and mingling with them.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) put her foot in her taxpayer-subsidized mouth yesterday as she called on Sessions to resign. “As the chief law enforcement officer in this nation, he should resign. He sets the example, [a] good prosecutor knows better[,]” she tweeted.

She added, “I’ve been on the Armed Services Com[mittee] for 10 years. No call or meeting w[ith] Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of [the] Foreign Rel[ations] Com[mittee].”

But two old tweets of hers from 2015 and 2013 surfaced. The most recent one reads, “Today calls with British, Russian, and German Ambassadors re: Iran deal. #doingmyhomework[.]” In the 2013 tweet she wrote, “Off to meeting w[ith] Russian Ambassador. Upset about the arbitrary/cruel decision to end all US adoptions, even those in process.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, demanded in a letter with the other eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that Sessions recuse himself or resign from his post.

Yet she acknowledges meeting with Kislyak “in my office from time to time.”

Commentator Brit Hume tweeted yesterday, “The last time I was in the Senate dining room, Feinstein was having lunch with the Russian amb[assador]. I never gave it a second thought.”

Let the games begin.

This article first appeared at FrontPageMag.