What’s Next for Sessions?
What's Next for Sessions?
Recusal May Not Take Him Out of Russia Inquiries
Jeff Sessions says he’s through with any involvement in Justice Department investigations of possible ties between the Trump for President Campaign and the Russian government’s attempts to influence last year’s election.
But the investigation may not be through with Sessions.
Politico reports this morning that “Sessions could still be in other kinds of legal trouble” for failing to tell his then-colleagues in the Senate that he twice met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign.
Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s top ethics adviser, told Politico that Sessions’ testimony was “at best, very misleading… I don’t go so far as to say that it’s perjury, but there is a lesser charge of failing to provide accurate information to Congress.
“A nominee at a confirmation hearing has an obligation to provide full and complete information to Congress,” Painter said. “Conduct that might be just short of perjury in a deposition in a typical civil case is entirely inappropriate in front of Congress.”
Sessions argued Thursday that his previous denial of contacts with Russia was in response to questions about connections between that country’s government and the Trump campaign. His conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak came in the context of his role as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sessions insisted.
“My reply to the question of Sen. Franken was honest and correct as I understood it at the time,” Sessions said. “I appreciate that some have taken the view that this was a false comment. That is not my intent. That is not correct.”
Common Cause has called for Sessions to resign. You can sign our petition urging him to quit here.
Speaking of Politico, the news site’s online magazine has a riveting story this morning outlining the threat to the U.S. and democracies worldwide posed by the rise of propaganda campaigns sponsored by authoritarian governments. Excerpts:
“Leaders in Beijing, Tehran and Moscow invest heavily in such efforts because they understand that their political preferences are best advanced through a strong capacity to communicate ideas. These regimes therefore have developed an array of tools that include cultural, policy and educational initiatives; people-to-people exchanges; and wide-ranging, multiplatform media enterprises, of which television outlets such as RT are only one part. As capacity has caught up with intentions, the autocrats’ toolkit now is used to actively compete on the democracies’ home turf.
The piece ends on an ominous note: “The fact that an increasing number of democratic countries are facing serious internal challenges does not absolve them from competing and addressing the multifaceted challenge offered by the ever-more ambitious authoritarians; in fact, the stakes are higher in the new competitive environment, providing all the more reason for the democracies to refresh their arguments on fundamentals of openness and democratic accountability, and to do what it takes to defend their ideals.
“In the present global competition of ideas, the autocrats are playing to win. By ceding the field, the democracies only will allow the authoritarians to dictate the rules of the game.”
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and now one of his top advisers in the White House, released a detailed plan last month that his lawyers said would end any possibility that his work for the administration would conflict with his business interests.
But ProPublica reports that newly released documents indicate that Kushner is holding on to substantial portions of his family businesses, raising the possibility.
Kushner Companies is privately held and says it owns or manages 20,000 apartments and 13 million square feet of office and retail space in six states.
“While the White House would only say that Kushner retains some real-estate holdings, Kushner does have to file a financial disclosure form that will give more details about what he owns,” the news site reported. “The filing should be made public in the coming weeks or months. That filing may also shed light on what assets Kushner divested in the preceding year.”
Kushner’s decision to keep some ties to his businesses follows an example set by the President, who has announced that he has turned over management of the Trump real estate empire to his two adult sons but is retaining ownership.