Thursday, June 15, 2017

Beauregard Sessions Cares More for His Honor Than for Info on Russian Election Interference

The news business being what it is, the attempted assassination of Republican congressmen Wednesday morning in Alexandria, VA, pre-empted the horrific, deadly London apartment house fire as the lead story throughout the day. Both events co-opted our attention from the more important ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the Trump administration’s seeming lack of interest in safeguarding our national heritage.

Perhaps the most damning piece of testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee was his admission that he knows nothing more about Russian activity “than what he has read in the (news)paper.”

Asked by Senator Angus King (I-Maine) asked if he believed Russians interfered with the election, Sessions said, “It appears so. The intelligence community seems to be united in that. But I have to tell you, Senator King, I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper. I’ve never received any detailed briefing on how hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”

Sessions went on to acknowledge he never asked for or attended a briefing from the intelligence community or read a report of their findings. 

Is it possible that our standards for public officials have dropped so low that our top law enforcement officer cares not a whit about actions that could destroy our democratic ideals? And that Trumpettes, masquerading as U.S. senators, coddling favor with their egotistical, autocratic chief, do not show any inkling of consternation or anxiety about the assault on our most cherished right as citizens?

His voice dripping with righteous indignation, Sessions defended his honor against any suggestion he colluded with Russians or knew of any such activity by Trump campaign associates. If dueling were legal, you could easily picture Beauregard—that really is his middle name,  his full name being Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III— slapping the side of Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) face with his glove and demanding satisfaction for his persistent, some might say impolite and impolitic, questioning. 

Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) had hoped his colleagues “would focus their questions today on the Russia investigation,” but he might have been equally well-advised to ask Sessions to be similarly focused, as the attorney general revealed little interest in uncovering the veracity of Russian interference in the 2016 elections or even the widely reported contacts by campaign officials with Russians. That incredulous position prompted comedian Stephen Colbert to say Tuesday night Sessions “really seems to know nothing, which explains why he was the first senator to endorse Trump.”

As political theater the hearing provided some fireworks and little by way of information as Sessions invoked a premature claim of executive privilege on behalf of Trump, an odd practice as executive privilege, which can only be invoked by a president, usually must be cited prior to testimony before Congress. As Trump did not make such a claim, Sessions refused to answer questions just in case Trump would at a later date seek executive privilege. 

What the hearing did provide, however, was the complicity of Republican senators in the administration’s efforts to reject the validity of the allegations that the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians and that former FBI director James Comey was fired because he aggressively pursued an investigation into such activity. GOP senators failed to seek the reasons behind Comey’s dismissal, why Sessions would not answer questions about conversations with Trump, and why he had not immersed himself in the details of the intelligence reports.

The hearing also provided another example of Republican antipathy toward female senators, particularly if they are Democrats. For the second time in a week Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was interrupted, admonished, during her questioning of a witness. Earlier this year Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was cut off on the Senate floor when she tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King. And let’s not forget that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) chose a group of 13 men–not one woman—to draw up a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. 

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