This dubious day belongs to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and reports that he met twice with with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign. At the time, he acted as a surrogate to Donald Trump as well as a foreign policy advisor, and these meetings arrived at the same time that Russian hackers were attempting to sway the U.S. election. Now, the White House is distancing itself from the matter while claiming that it knew nothing of these talks until the Washington Post reported the Justice Department’s acknowledgment as news.
Sessions, who is in charge of overseeing the investigation into Russia-Trump ties, denies any impropriety. He says these talks were simply part of his Armed Services Committee duties and that he’d recuse himself if he did anything wrong. Meanwhile, there have been calls for not only recusal but resignation over Session’s alleged lie under oath during his confirmation hearings, and the White House is like … nope …. don’t look at us:
The White House didn’t know that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had twice met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign until the story broke Wednesday night, a White House official said.
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday morning while the White House prepared to respond to the reports. President Trump is traveling to Newport News, Va., on Thursday to talk about defense spending. Trump and other White House aides have repeatedly denied any contact between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Is this believable? The White House claim of ignorance is obviously — true or not — geared towards putting space between Sessions and the rest of the Trump cabinet and administration. Clearly, that’s a goal with any Russia buzz after Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s recent resignation over his Russian ambassador calls and subsequent lies on the matter.
At the same time though, such a claim points towards inadequate vetting of Trump’s nominees. Neither prospect presents a good look, but at least the latter only makes Trump look lazy, rather than amplify possible ties to the Kremlin, which could bring bad news in the future as U.S. intelligence keeps digging into that Russia dossier. Meanwhile, Trump has told reporters that he has “total” confidence in Sessions even though he “wasn’t aware” of the talks. That may be a break from the White House’s preferred take on the matter, but they may simply be happy that he hasn’t lashed out on Twitter yet.
(Via USA Today)