Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump team is continuing, and it’s now prompted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to find himself under scrutiny yet again.
Last Monday, Mueller unveiled indictments of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime Trump and Manafort aide Rick Gates, charging them with crimes ranging from money laundering to conspiracy against the U.S.
At about the same time that the indictments against Manafort and Gates were revealed, Mueller’s office revealed that former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He lied about the timing of a contact with a Russian Professor claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton, saying it was before he worked for Trump when it was after he became associated with the then-Republican presidential candidate.
That’s not the full extent of Papadopoulos’ alleged contacts or attempts at contacts with Russian government officials.
As was revealed in court filings associated with his case, Papadopoulos attempted, at a March 31, 2016, meeting attended by Trump himself and Sessions, among others, to get the go-ahead to set up a secret meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions shot down the idea, while Trump is reported to have been open to the idea.
There’s a big problem for the attorney general in this revelation — he has claimed, in the past, to have no knowledge of any contacts or even any attempted contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. However, the revelation that he was in the very meeting in which Papadopoulos brought up the idea of a Trump-Putin meeting means that there remains information that the nation’s top law enforcement official has kept secret.
Now, Sessions is set to testify before Congress and answer for the discrepancy between his past testimony and reality. He’s faced pressure to do so ever since the revelations about Papadopoulos came out.
As Senate Judiciary Committee member Senator Patrick Leahy put it:
‘[Sessions] now needs to come back before the Committee, in person, under oath, to explain why he cannot seem to provide truthful, complete answers to these important and relevant questions.’
Senator Dianne Feinstein called live on television for Sessions to come back before Congress to testify.
Feinstein on Sessions: “When he comes before the committee again, he has to be precise and it has to be accurate” https://t.co/kFiWDRA83w
— CNN (@CNN) November 5, 2017
Three sources with knowledge of the matter revealed to Reuters that the controversial attorney general is “due to testify before a congressional committee next week,” giving, as Reuters notes, “Democrats a chance to question him about his past statements on President Donald Trump’s campaign exchanges with Russian intermediaries.”
At least one of the hearings is not set to be focused entirely on Russia; rather, Sessions’ appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, tentatively scheduled for November 14, is reportedly part of the regular Congressional oversight of the Justice Department. Although Sessions’ appearance before Congress had not been publicly revealed yet, it was “confirmed by a Justice Department spokesman and two congressional aides” speaking to Reuters.
Sessions is also scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a private hearing on the same day as his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
With fanfare associated with some public hearings in the past, Sessions’ appearance before the House Judiciary Committee — which is set to be public — may attract significant attention.
The revelation of Papadopoulos’ meeting with Putin isn’t even the first time that Sessions has been revealed to have lied.
Asked during his confirmation hearings if he ever had contacts with Russian government-affiliated interests during Trump’s campaign, he insisted that he had not — but that’s not true. Sessions met multiple times with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.
The revelations of Sessions’ secret meetings with the Russians came in two rounds, with an eventual alleged third meeting uncovered.
The attorney general’s defense was that he took the question only to cover his actions taken in direct association with the campaign — something that contradicts the revelation he discussed campaign matters with the ambassador.
As a result of the revelation of his personal stake in the issue, he ended up recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
If we can’t trust Sessions on matters related to the Russia investigation, why should we trust him to be an effective attorney general?
Featured image via Spencer Platt/ Getty Images