Total Confidence is Always the Kiss of Death
It was true for NY Yankees managers in the George Steinbrenner and it always proves true in politics. It was what Trump said about Michael Flynn-just before he was fired. Now he’s saying it again: I have total confidence in Jeff Sessions.
Can you think of less welcome words to ever hear from your boss than these?
“Trump White House facing Russia scandal flare-up
“The president says he has ‘total’ confidence in Sessions, who has come under fire for meeting twice with Russian ambassador last year.”
“The Trump administration’s Russia problem has flared up big-time amid revelations that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador last year — and didn’t tell senators about it during his confirmation.”
“After riding high on Trump’s well-received first address to Congress on Tuesday, the White House is mired once again in the scandal over whether Trump campaign officials had frequent contact with Russian officials last year, as Obama officials were looking into allegations that the Russian government was engaging in cyberattacks to try to tilt the election Trump’s way.”
“Calls for Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into ties between Trump and Russia have snowballed, following a Washington Post report Tuesday night exposing multiple meetings between Sessions and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., during the campaign. Those meetings, one of which occurred during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, came amid an alleged effort by Russia to aid Trump’s campaign, for which Sessions was a prominent surrogate.”
“During a Thursday afternoon tour of an aircraft carrier in Newport News, Virginia, Trump responded to a reporter’s shouted question, saying that he has “total” confidence in Sessions. Asked if he knew about Sessions’ conversations with the Russian ambassador, Trump said, “I wasn’t aware,” and asked if Sessions should recuse himself, the president responded “I don’t think so.”
Talk about the kiss of death. Susan Collins is second GOP Senator to call on Sessions to recuse himself.
Susan Collins becomes 2nd GOP Senator to call for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself pic.twitter.com/FMAK15wbmi
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 2, 2017
The notion that he doesn’t recuse himself is totally unsustainable. But she also called for him clarifying his comments to the Judiciary Committee just as Jason Chaffetz did this morning.
“First, should Sessions not recuse himself, he may arguably run afoul of his professional ethical obligation. “The prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from any investigation, prosecution, or other matter where personal interests of the prosecutor would cause a fair-minded, objective observer to conclude that the prosecutor’s neutrality, judgment, or ability to administer the law in an objective manner may be compromised,” according to the National Prosecution Standards. Obviously, the sort of contacts that Sessions had may be innocuous or may be nefarious, but they are nevertheless the subject of the ongoing investigation. Should he continue on as attorney general in the matter, the investigation will be tainted. Moreover, as we saw during the George W. Bush administration, government lawyers can find themselves the subject of investigation and potential loss of license for misconduct in their work. Anyone can file such a claim.”
Rubin’s second point, however, recalls: Watergate. What else:
“Second, so long as Sessions remains in the job, he will face pressure to resign and provide fodder for Trump critics suggesting that there is a cover-up. “The more I learn about this, the less I think Sessions has any choice but to resign or be fired,” Larry Tribe tells me. In his view, “it’s inconceivable that his error [in testimony] was an innocent one.” There is precedent for rather minor errors leading to resignation of an attorney general. Bush’s former ethics attorney Richard Painter — who literally co-wrote the book on ethics, “Professional and Personal Responsibilities of the Lawyer” — recalls, “This is very similar to what happened with Attorney General Richard Kleindienst who … provided inaccurate information to the Senate in his confirmation hearing in response to questions about whether he discussed the ITT antitrust case with anyone at the White House.” Painter continues, “He said he had not. Leon Jaworski then found one of the tapes where [President] Nixon told Kleindienst on the phone to ‘drop the case.’ Kleindienst claimed that he thought the questions only pertained to a brief period during which there were settlement negotiations. He was forced to resign and pled guilty to a misdemeanor of failing to provide accurate information to Congress, something short of perjury. He was reprimanded by the Arizona State Bar.”
Right, Kleindienst was Nixon’s AG. Nixon analogies are going to keep on coming. So we might as well get a tweet from John Dean:
Hey Donald, a tip: Cover-ups don't get easier as they proceed. Russia tie leaks drown your joint session speech in less than 24 hrs.
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) March 2, 2017
As W’s ethics lawyer notes:
Misleading the Senate in sworn testimony about one own contacts with the Russians is a good way to go to jail https://t.co/qH0s6sTMJ9
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) March 2, 2017
Nixon’s AG was charged with perjury. This is why it’s so foolhardy working for Donald Trump. Remember-Nixon never went to jail. But lots of his top lieutenants did, including John Dean.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) March 2, 2017
And again-Nixon’s AG got in serious trouble.
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