Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today for what was supposed to have been a routine periodic hearing – but it ended up being something different entirely. Some members of the committee seized the opportunity to question Sessions about his role in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, and the inconsistent and dishonest answers he’d previously given on the matter. Sessions became highly flustered, and screwed up by changing his answer in an incriminating manner.
Sessions originally said during his confirmation hearings in January that he had never had any contact with the Russians. It was subsequently revealed that he’d held several meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the election, thus proving he had lied under oath. He then changed his story, admitting that the meetings had happened, but asserting that the meetings contained no discussion of the Trump campaign’s policies toward Russia. The Ambassador himself has since asserted that such discussions did take place. That set the stage for Sessions’ disastrous appearance today.
When Sessions was confronted today with the assertion that he had in fact discussed Trump campaign policy with Russia, he claimed he couldn’t recall what was discussed during the meetings. This means he’s gone from a definitive denial to suddenly claiming he can’t remember. It’s one thing to invoke the “I don’t recall” defense in a vacuum. It’s an entirely different matter when you try to invoke it after having already insisted that you did recall that particular detail, as it erases all believability.
Today’s hearing served to make Jeff Sessions, and by extension Donald Trump, look even more guilty in the court of public opinion. This matters greatly, as the ouster of a criminal president is a political process. Even though the Republican-led Senate continues to decline to serve up any consequences to Sessions for his lies under oath, his testimony today will serve as the basis for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s upcoming interrogation of Sessions. If Sessions remains this flustered while speaking to Mueller, he’ll almost certainly commit perjury – and Mueller can then use the threat of charging him to compel him to flip on Trump.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report