Get Your Popcorn Ready-It’s Jeff Sessions Day
So James Comey day last Thursday and now Jeff Sessions day on the following Tuesday. Our cup runneth over.
Last week, Chris Cillizza pronounced Sessions as having the ‘Worst Week in Washington.’
This week is shaping up to be another doozy. Last night, the night before his testimony, a federal judge ruled that his SF-86 security clearance form-where he failed to disclose his meetings with Russians during the campaign-must be made public.
There are many questions that Congress will want to ask Sessions about today. I documented a number yesterday-but this list though not short was by no means comprehensive.
A few things to watch for today:
1. Will Sessions look to play the executive privilege card and if so how widely will he utilize it?
Regarding Sessions’ decision to testify publicly, Cillizza says this:
“Closed-door hearings, by their very nature, give off a whiff of “something to hide.” Think about your own life. When someone walks into your — and their — boss’s office, you assume something secret is going down. And that it’s probably bad. Now, compare that to if a colleague walks into your boss’s office and doesn’t close the door. Your perception of what they are talking about — assuming you aren’t actually listening in (if so, you should stop because that’s super creepy) is totally different.”
“This is also Washington, where strategic leaking is basically an Olympic sport. That goes for any act by a public official but roughly quadruple so for a hearing about Russia ties featuring the sitting Attorney General.”
A good point-if he insisted on a closed hearing, the important stuff will be leaked anyway which will look even worse as Sessions wanted it to be secret.
But if Sessions responds to every question with ‘executive privilege’ it will kind of undermine his attempt to show transparency here.
Does Sessions assert executive privilege?
“The attorney general may invoke executive privilege in response to questions about some of the most sensitive dealings with Trump, particularly his role in Comey’s firing that stunned Washington one month ago.”
“White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to say whether Sessions would go that route, noting it would be “premature” to speculate how the attorney general may answer questions he may face.”
“But Democrats, already frustrated at the lack of answers from other Trump national security officials at another intelligence committee hearing last week about their interactions with the president, are certain to mount a fierce pushback if Sessions avoids answering their questions — a move that could help protect Trump.”
“These are matters that, of course, have been discussed extensively in the public square, including by the president,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Monday. “I expect that there could be an effort to blur the lines between executive privilege and classification and overclassification.”
Wyden added: “In a sense, both of them are a backdoor way to stonewall. We’re just not going to allow that.”
“A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Sessions will cite executive privilege on Tuesday. But one source familiar with plans for his testimony said he’s unlikely to talk about any direct conversations with the president.”
“It was unclear whether Sessions would cite executive privilege or simply say he wants to preserve the confidentiality of his discussions with Trump.”
Exactly-in essence having it both ways by neither asserting executive privilege or not asserting it.
(6) As the Senate did NOT hold Coats or Rogers in Contempt of Congress, the White House has learned it can shut up witnesses WITHOUT A WORD.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 12, 2017
(8) In any such case Trump would LOSE because he WAIVED executive privilege by publicly discussing (on Twitter) the "privileged" content.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 12, 2017
2. Just what were the terms of Sessions’ ‘recusal?’-whatever they were, they apparently were pretty narrow.
Back to Politico:
“Sessions is supposed to remain an arm’s length away from any investigation that touches on last year’s political campaign — yet was involved in Comey’s firing, which Trump later acknowledged had to do with the FBI director’s oversight of the federal Russia probe.”
“In the weeks since Comey’s dismissal, Democrats have demanded answers that can reconcile those two factors. Tuesday could be their best opportunity to pin down an answer.”
“An e-mail released by the Justice Department last week from Sessions’ chief of staff, Jody Hunt, said the attorney general has “decided to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
But Democrats will insist on more specifics of what exactly that recusal entails.”
3. Comey’s cryptic words:
What did Comey find so ‘problematic’?
“Comey threw out one major bombshell during his testimony last week: He intentionally didn’t loop Sessions in on Trump’s alleged Feb. 14 request for the FBI director to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn because he felt Sessions’ recusal from the investigation was inevitable.”
“Now Democrats and Republicans want to hear from Sessions why Comey would find the attorney general’s inclusion in the Russia investigation “problematic.”
“What he knew, when he knew it, and who spoke to him, essentially,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a former Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, said in summing up her questions for Sessions.”
“What’s also not clear is when Comey said that if he was thinking only of what he later revealed in a classified hearing was yet another private meeting between Sessions and Kisylak at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016, or whether there were also other additional reasons why Session’s inclusion was ‘problematic.’
4. Sessions ‘shrug.’
After the meeting, Comey told Sessions that he did not want to be alone anymore with Trump and that “it can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me.”
Comey said Sessions responded with, essentially, a shrug.
“I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me,” Comey testified. “I kind of got — his body language gave me the sense like, ‘What am I going to do?’ . . . He didn’t say anything.”
5. Finally, just how many meetings with Kiylak and other Russians did Sessions have during the 2016 campaign?
(4) Please list *every* meeting you had with a Russian citizen from June 1st, 2015 to the present—with attendees—and supply any notes taken.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 11, 2017
Get your popcorn ready.
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.