Give me a break! I really don’t mind attending these Congressional hearings on the Russia probe.
I actually find them quite interesting and, at times, informative and even entertaining. Sometimes, however, the stench they generate can be quite overwhelming. Case in point: the June 13th Senate Intelligence Committee hearing and the testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions, like the testimony given by both Director of the National Intelligence Dan Coates and NSA Director Mike Rogers before the committee at an earlier date, was under the misguided impression that he only had to answer those questions he chose to and disregard any questions he considered objectionable, especially any questions that related directly to interaction with Donald J. Trump.
The absurdity of offering this kind of testimony was made abundantly clear by the committee member from New Mexico, Senator Martin Heinrich, who pointed out that the options are limited. Either the Attorney General must answer the question or give some legal grounds for not, such as executive privilege.
General Sessions readily admitted that only the president could invoke executive privilege which he has not yet done, so what is the legal basis for refusing to answer committee questions?
It is not the ongoing Russia investigation since, as Sessions noted, he has recused himself from that investigation.
Then what is it, you wonder?
Well, according to Sessions, while he is not himself invoking executive privilege, he feels obligated to not answer these questions relating to his discussions with the president just in case the president chooses to invoke executive privilege at a later date.
This, of course, is absurd on its face, but especially absurd coming from the number one law enforcement official in the nation, the Attorney General.
I don’t claim to be a Constitutional lawyer, although I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but Sessions’ excuse somehow smells like an ex post facto law which is prohibited in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution. Ex post facto laws change the rules of evidence in a criminal case, alter the definition of a crime, increase the criminal punishment for a criminal act, or punish conduct that was legal when committed RETROACTIVELY. Was Attorney General Sessions, by avoiding answering questions dealing with Trump, attempting to keep open the president’s window to invoke executive privilege RETROACTIVELY even though he has not yet done so?
Maybe Sessions was just trying to reap the benefit of executive privilege without the need for Trump to raise questions about his motive for invoking executive privilege. That sounds about right.
The smell doesn’t stop here. Sessions, during his testimony, also went to great lengths to imply that former Director of the F.B.I. James Comey breached protocol by meeting alone with the president.
Specifically, he was referring to the now infamous meeting mentioned by Comey during his testimony before the same senate committee a week earlier that, as Comey explained it, the president cleared the room after a meeting in which both Sessions and Jared Kushner were in attendance but which Trump asked Comey to stay behind for a one on one.
In Sessions’ version, while the president can basically do whatever he wants, Comey breached protocol by staying behind to meet alone with the president.
Well, now, if it was Comey who breached the protocol why did Sessions, Comey’s superior in the chain-of-command, not stay behind?
The answer, quite clearly, is because Comey’s version was the only version that made any sense and Sessions’ version failed the smell test.
Want more odors?
Sessions was emphatic that he supported Comey’s firing because of Comey’s poor job performance, yet he also readily admitted that neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ever discussed the poor performance with James Comey.
Anyone who has worked in the federal government knows that this is simply not how it is ever done even if the position of F.B.I. Director is not part of the bargaining unit, which it isn’t.
What I found even more disturbing while listening to his testimony is his acknowledgment that in none of his roles either prior to the election or thereafter had he ever sought a briefing on the Russia hacking probe.
One would think that an attack on our electoral system would be of some interest to him in any of his various capacities.