Some of the same liberal law professors and journalists who thought Hillary should be President after lying to Congress about hiding emails and who also praised Clapper’s “independence” after he repeatedly lied to Congress about NSA spying, now attack Attorney General Sessions under a bogus claim of “lying” to Congress. There is no basis to suggest Sessions committed any crime at all for doing his job as a Senator on the Armed Services Committee.
Sessions, as a Senator on the Armed Services Committee, met with over 20 ambassadors in 2016. One of them was the Russian ambassador. There is no evidence, at all, Sessions met with the ambassador to review Trump campaign strategy, or anything of the sort. The suggestion that our Senators should not be meeting with representatives of foreign governments is ludicrous, especially coming from people who championed the Clinton Foundation meeting with foreign governments frequently to fund their Clinton Foundation and personal enrichment.
The criminal law only prohibits lying to Congress under two statutes — 18 USC 1621 ands 18 USC 1001. Section 1621 requires a person “willfully and contrary” to a sworn oath “subscribe a material matter” which is both false and the person knows to be false. Section 1001 is basically the same, without certain tribunal prerequisites: it also requires the government prove a person willfully made a materially false statement. This requires three elements: first, a false statement; second, the false statement be “material”; and third, the false statement be made “knowingly” and “willfully.” A statement is not false if it can be interpreted in an innocent manner. A statement is not material if it is not particularly relevant to the subject of the inquiry. Willfully is a very high standard of proof: it requires the person know they are committing the crime, and do so anyway. None of the three exist as to Sessions.
There was strong evidence Hillary Clinton made false statements to Congress about a range of subjects concerning the emails, and evidence she knew they were false. She still was not prosecuted, and Professors like Laurence Tribe recommended her for the Presidency. There was strong evidence James Clapper lied to Congress about the NSA spying on Americans, and he was not prosecuted, but promoted by President Obama, without complaint from many of these same liberal lawyers, professors and journalists. Yet, these same “lawyers” and “journalists” now attack Sessions for what is manifestly not a criminal act, and for which they never demanded any inquiry of either Clinton or Clapper.
Their only claim against Sessions is that Sessions, while Senator, talked to the Russian ambassador a whopping 2 times in 2016. That’s called doing his job. Senator Franken, during the Attorney General confirmation proceedings, talked about “ties to Russia” and asked if Senator Session had discussed the Trump campaign “with Russian government officials.” Sessions answered he had not. Sessions has no “ties with Russia” and there is no evidence he discussed the Trump campaign with any Russian official. The attempt to conflate Sessions doing his job as a Senator — meeting with ambassadors — as meaning he must have talked about campaign tactics or the campaign at all is patently ludicrous.
Here’s the money shot of Sessions lying to Franken (if you believe the WaPo report). pic.twitter.com/0vK12oMed1
— Jamie O’Grady (@JamieOGrady) March 2, 2017
Here is the key exchange: Franken asked about “a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Sessions answered: “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.” Anyone reading the actual exchange can see Sessions was referring to no communications “as a surrogate” just as the question’s very long pre-amble specifically referenced the focus of the question to that subject matter. Nothing about Sessions’ answer was false, nor could it be construed to be materially false or willfully false, or even false at all.
Notably, Senator Franken chose not to ask Sessions about his contacts with Russian officials over the years in his duties as a Senator on the Armed Services Committee. Sessions’ first meeting of the Russian ambassador was in public, and likely known to Franken and others. Franken could not have interpreted Sessions’ answer as anything but an answer to the question asked about campaign contacts with Russian government officials, which no evidence supports ever occurring. Indeed, given what Franken knew, one might fairly ask a different question: why did Franken avoid that specific question? Was it because he’s a lousy Senator, like he was a mediocre comedian? Maybe. Or Maybe it’s because Franken knew the answer would undermine Franken’s argument? Or maybe it was because Franken was planning on mis-using the answer to attack Sessions later?
What next? Senator, have you now, or have you ever been, someone who ever talks with Russians? GUILTY! Doing your job is now considered a crime by the same people on the left who excused actual crime by their Presidential candidate and Presidential appointee. This question needs to be asked of the Sessions smear operators: do you have no shame?
Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on tax defense, civil rights and First Amendment law. You can follow him at @Barnes_Law
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.