|Down in Mobile, December 17; photo by Stephen Crowley/New York Times.|
No, not about his contacts as a Trump surrogate with the Russian ambassador, reported in the Washington Post last night, about his record as a defender of civil rights:
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) grew testy when questioning Sessions about several civil rights lawsuits Sessions had listed on his Senate questionnaire as examples of “significant” cases that Sessions personally litigated during his career.
The Trump transition team later said that the cases were worthy of being mentioned, even though Sessions had not been actively involved in them.
Franken suggested that the Trump campaign or Sessions were trying to inflate his civil rights accomplishments.
Sessions replied that he had listed the cases because they were “historic” and that they “were the kind of cases that were national in scope, and deserved be listed on the form.”
Wrong. He listed them because he was making a false claim that he "personally litigated" the cases, as he has done for a very long time. I tried to warn you all the way back in November. And the same goes for this bit, no doubt, but it's harder to prove:
offering his most steadfast denial yet of allegations that as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s he had improperly targeted civil rights advocates for prosecution on voter fraud charges and had made racially insensitive comments about the Ku Klux Klan and minorities. “These are damnably false charges,” Sessions said, adding that he “did not harbor the race-based animosities I am accused of. I did not.”He's an inveterate liar in his lifelong quest to belong to the federal government he despises, and there's no reason to be surprised that he lied about meetings with Sergey Kislyak as well. The meetings may well have been innocuous as they're saying, except for a few odd things, of which I guess the most important is the insistence that if he did meet with Kislyak it was in is capacity as a Senator, and not as a Trump surrogate:
In a statement issued Wednesday night, Session said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Because he's lying about that too; as Senator McCaskill explained (Update: McCaskill wasn't being perfectly truthful about this; she's spoken to Kislyak twice herself, as member of a delegation speaking to him about Putin's ban on foreign adoption of Russian babies, in 2013, and in a round of calls to representatives of the parties to the Iran deal, in 2015) members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee don't have any particular obligation to meet with the Russian ambassador, and there isn't any evidence that any of them have done so recently (the 20 of the 26 members who responded to Wapo's question on this all said that they hadn't ever met him). Sessions is the only one.Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on Sept. 8 in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate.
Whereas, as we know, members of the Trump campaign contacted Kislyak quite a lot. See under: Flynn, Michael.
I should add that Ambassador Kislyak would have had perfectly good and legitimate reasons for wanting to sound out members of the Trump campaign; it's absolutely normal for the diplomatic corps to work at getting a sense of where the candidates are, in terms of foreign and security policy, and in the case of an eccentric and unpredictable candidate like Trump it's really a good idea. I'm sure British and Israeli and Chinese diplomats were doing the same.
What makes the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials especially suspicious is the fact that there were so many of them, in the first place. So many people in the campaign with Russian connections, and then new people with Russian connections and no role in the campaign turning up in the cabinet—Rex Tillerson of the Exxon/Rosneft intrigue (for Rosneft, see under: Page, Carter) and Wilbur Ross, late of the money-laundering champion Bank of Cyprus (where his and Trump's Palm Beach neighbor oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev is the principal shareholder). When the social networks get this dense, you start to get the impression these people are working together.
Indeed, this is what the National Security Agency metadata collection is aimed at, as I used to be trying to tell you back in the days of peak Snowden: not checking out your digital porn stash, but establishing the social networks in which persons of interest interact. I was thinking back then not just of Islamist terror associations, but of gun-running and money laundering, but what's starting to reveal itself here is the network of Russian interference in US politics, and attempts to gain secret influence over high-level US government personnel. Including, to everybody's horrified astonishment (including the Russians), the president.
And the seriousness and complexity of it is indicated by last night's other blockbuster story, the New York Times story about Obama administration officials working after the election to ensure that the evidence didn't get disappeared. (This involved Democratic Senators as well, including Ben Cardin of Maryland, asking strategic questions as a way of getting particular points on the public record, and I'm wondering if Franken's questioning of Sessions on the Russia issue could have been part of that effort.)
And the other thing is the extraordinary amount of identifiable lying that's going on around the question, from Trump ("I haven't called Russia in ten years") down through Flynn and Sessions to minions like Spicer and Conway. These are not just the pathological and unnecessary lies that people like Trump and Willard Mitt Romney and perhaps Jefferson Beauregard Sessions can't stop themselves from doing, even about something as harmless as what they had for breakfast, it's a coverup.
When they say, "It's not the crime, it's the coverup," it's the crime. What the coverup does, and it's very necessary, is to demonstrate that there's something important to hide.