You have to give Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III credit for one thing: his John Ehrlichman impression really has improved since the last time he faced a Congressional committee.
On Tuesday, Sessions sat in front of the House Judiciary Committee. The Democrats on the committee were fairly slavering to ask Sessions about Russian hacking, and what Sessions previously had said about it, and about what Sessions knew about the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. The Republicans wanted to ask him about the death penalty, weed, the upcoming Alabama-Auburn game, and investigating Hillary Rodham Clinton. Everybody wanted to talk about Roy Moore.
And so it went. Sessions had terrible memory problems. Hepreviously under oath, which could cause serious problems for any ordinary person who is not Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the only AG we have.
The questions focused on campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’ attempts to coordinate a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his presence at a March 2016 meeting also attended by Sessions. The attorney general’s response drew scrutiny from Democrats who believed that Sessions may have known more than he previously disclosed. Sessions said he now recalled the meeting, following recent news reports on the matter, but that he “always told the truth” in appearances on Capitol Hill. He additionally added that he “wanted to make clear to [Papadopoulos] that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government.” “But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago,” he said.
This is, of course, implausible. The Trump campaign was not General Motors. It did not have thousands of employees. It was a jerry-rigged operation with very few actual staffers; that actually was the one truly remarkable thing about it. It outsourced various campaign activities to an odd lot of rounders and bounders, not all of them American. Sessions was the first national GOP officeholder to endorse the president, and he remained one of the few.
It is not likely that Sessions would have heard nothing about such an important matter, if only as gossip around the campaign. It is equally implausible that it all would have “slipped his mind” when he was asked about it before. He always told the truth, except when he didn’t remember what it was. Of course, not recognizing and not remembering the truth was a skill-set common to all members of the Trump campaign, up to and including the president, and up to and including today.
Also, he didn’t recall the meeting when he was in front of Congress the last time, but, his memory refreshed like a cool mountain stream, he not only remembers it now, he remembers what he said to the guy who’d come to broker the transaction. The prepared statement that preceded his testimony was even more circuitous.
I would like to address recent news reports regarding meetings during the campaign attended by George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, among others. Frankly, I had no recollection of this until I saw these news reports. I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting. After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter. But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and would gladly have reported it.
What is clear from Sessions’s appearance today is that the Republican majorities in this Congress still have no stomach for seriously investigating the manipulation of a presidential election by a foreign power. Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio, was fairly typical. He spent most of his time wondering why HRC wasn’t being investigated over the now-famous dossier, and then wondered why we couldn’t execute people faster.
They’re going to ride with this president and his people the way that Alabama Republicans are riding with ol’ Judge Roy Moore. They will ride with everything Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III doesn’t recall, and with every “wrongly stated” thing that the president* says about everything. They will exercise their unconquerable consciences in various green rooms and studios, as well as on the electric Twitter machine. But, ultimately, they will do nothing. That job will be left to Bob Mueller and the 2018 midterms, god help us all.