Deconstructing Jeff Sessions Testimony

Full Disclosure – I did not watch all of the video of Jeff Sessions testifying yesterday. I watched enough, however, to draw a few conclusions.

The first question is why Sessions was there? What was his game plan? That was obvious from what he did and refused to do during the event. Sessions was there to deliver two messages – and nothing more.

The first message is that Jeff Sessions knows nothing about improper behavior connected to the Russia investigation. The second is that Sessions had a basis to write to Donald Trump laying out improper behaviour on the part of former FBI Director Jim Comey and recommending that he be fired.

Sessoins handled these messaging tasks well. He stuck to his script and refused to answer a number of more interesting questions on the basis that at some point, Donald Trump might want to assert exedcutive priviledge. This refusal is convenient because it enabled Sessions to stick to his narrative.

BTW, whether Trump ordered the Sessions letter, or what Trump thought of the letter, or whether Sessions knew that Trump — as Trump admitted — was going to fire Comey over the Russia investigation regardless of what the letter said, was all potentially priviledged. Sessions refused to comment on any of it.  One must assume that this would have also included why Trump did a sudden 180 on the decision to retain US attorneys en masse.

In other words, the letter was fine. All the other smelly stuff does not matter.

When you think about the narrative, it starts to fall apart. First, let’s take Sessions at his word. Let’s agree for a moment that he doesn’t know anything about improper collusion with Russians. This is more than a bit odd when we already know about two highly suspicious and highly placed characters — Manifort and Flynn . In other words, whether Sessions knew about anything, we have reason to blieve that something smely was happening. And therefore at best you can say that Sessions chose to turn a blind eye to womething that was staring him in the face.

You might contrast Sessions’s attitude about Flynn to the attitude of Sally Yates. As acting attorney general, the minute that Yates heard about what Flynn was up to, she raced over to the White House general cousnel to recommend Flynn’s immediate removal. Sessions showed no such alarm or even concern during his testimony. Huh?

Which takes us to Sessions’sconcern about alleged improper behavior of Jim Comey that had taken place many months before. Sessions testified that Comey had violated FBI norms in several ways — and one of them was Comey’s decision to end the investigation of Hillary Clinton. Sessions thought that was a usurpation of power. Huh?

The FBI does not have an obligation to wait until prosecutors tell it to stop an investigation. If they conclude that there was no crime, they can and do routinely drop investigations. So where was the ursupation of power? It could only arise if they saw evidence of a crime — evidnece that prosecutors would choose to use in order to bring a cirminal case — and decided to ignore it. Comey testified at length — and as a legal matter I can find no fault here — that there was no evidence of criminal intent on Clinton’s part. End of story. Where is the usurpation? It is in the imagination of Jeff Sessions.

And why was this so important anyway? Was it more important than what Flynn was up to? Was it more important than trying to get to the bottom of what happened during the election? It would only be so if you start from the assumption that nothing happened during the election.  And Sessions says that he had no knowledge of bad stuff happening.

In other words, because Jeff Sessions didn’t care to look around back when stuff was happening, we need not look either. That is not particuarly satisfying to me. Sessions is a crafty ol dog. Not a person that I particularly like or find credible.

BTW — Sessoins also justified the Comey firing because of Comey’s public comments about the Clinton Investiations. As Rachel Maddow points out, this conflicts with the comments made by Sessions when Comey made those statements. Sessions applauded Comey for making them.

Quick Follow – Lawrence O’Connell brings out a brilliant point about what Sessions said. James Comey said that Sessions HAD  TO recuse himself becuaseo f certain facts that are classified. Sessions testified that his recusal wa a matter of routine Justice Department policy.and there were no special facts invovled. One of them lied under oath. Mueller will figure out which one.

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