Last week was supposed to be “infrastructure week” for the flailing Donald Trump administration. And it was, sort of: It was the week that Trump’s opponents built the infrastructure for impeaching him, even if cowardly congressional Republicans don’t acknowledge it yet.
Fallout continues from former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last Thursday. The first casualty may be—or at least ought to be—Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the first sitting senator to back Trump’s renegade candidacy, as well as the architect of Trump’s anti-immigration, anti-voting-rights agenda. On Tuesday afternoon, Sessions will testify before the same committee, and while there were reports that it would be in closed session, pressure from Democrats resulted in his announcing he wanted an open hearing. Since Sessions has ducked two public hearings to discuss the Justice Department’s budget, plus last week’s stormy hearing on FISA reauthorization, as questions about his role in the Russia investigation and Comey’s firing grew, his claim he wanted transparency are as believable as his insistence that he prosecuted black voting-rights activists in the 1980s in order to protect black people. “He has not yet testified before Congress as attorney general, and that is very unusual,” said Christopher Anders, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office.
Sessions was in trouble before Comey’s testimony last week. We already know that he did not tell the truth to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January confirmation hearing. He first testified that he’d had no interaction with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, upon questioning by Senator Al Franken, and then had to admit he had, in fact, met Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on two occasions after The Washington Post revealed it. We also know he failed to list those meetings on his official disclosure forms when Trump nominated him. Although Sessions claimed he didn’t disclose the meetings because he considered them part of his Senate business, not Trump campaign business, he opted to recuse himself from the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials.
Comey testified that he was uneasy consulting with Sessions on his troubling interactions with Trump, because “he was…inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
When Senator Ron Wyden asked why Sessions’s role in dismissing Comey wasn’t equally problematic, given he’d recused himself from the investigation, the former FBI director replied: “That is a question I can’t answer.”