5 Reactions to Jeff Sessions' Testimony on Trump and Russia
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday and faced questions about Russia, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, among other matters.
A point of curiosity for the Committee were the details surrounding Sessions' recusal from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Here are five reactions, listed in no particular order, to Sessions' testimony, with some viewing it as honorable while others deemed it unconvincing.
1. F. H. Buckley
F. H. Buckley, professor of law at George Mason University, penned a column for Fox News in which he argued that the testimony was the "vindication of an honest man."
"No one watching the hearing could fail to be impressed by the Attorney General's candor, by his willingness to open himself up and answer all of the charges directed his way," wrote Buckley.
"June 13, 2017, may be remembered as the day in which the Democratic campaign to take down Donald Trump over the Comey investigation finally fell apart."
Buckley denounced the Senate Democrats involved in the Committee, arguing that efforts by the likes of Senators Kamala Harris, Mark Warner, and Martin Heinrich "are going to be remembered as an embarrassment that will [bring] down the curtain on the investigation."
"If you didn't see the hearings, I invite you to catch a moment or two of them on YouTube. You'll see how a gentle and decent man, one who feels dishonor like a stain, acquits himself against the scurrilous attacks by people in every respect his moral inferiors," concluded Buckley.
2. USA Today
The editorial board of USA Today was critical of Sessions' testimony, stating in a column published Tuesday that the Attorney General was "unconvincing."
While writing that the Democrats "failed to land any knockout blows," the editors also concluded that Sessions failed to effectively undermine the earlier testimony of former FBI Director James Comey.
"Sessions often came across as forgetful, testy and defensive, his testimony sprinkled with the 'do not recalls' that reek of the lawyerly way public officials often evade accusations in Washington," said the editors.
"And if Republicans were looking for Sessions to undercut Comey's powerful testimony on the key issue — that the president asked Comey to end a criminal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — they were surely disappointed. Only around the edges did Sessions disagree with Comey's compelling account."
3. Andrew McCarthy
Andrew C. McCarthy, contributing editor to the National Review and former assistant U.S. attorney, argued in a column published Tuesday that the legal privileges that Sessions invoked during his testimony were valid.
"There are many relationships as to which the law protects the confidentiality of communications: marital, doctor-patient, attorney-client, priest-penitent, and so on. There is also, of course, the privilege against self-incrimination," wrote McCarthy.
"In a trial ... [a] lawyer knows that if the witness is asserting a legitimate legal privilege, the lawyer is not supposed to try to make it look like the witness is obstructing the proceeding."
McCarthy went on to denounce the line of questioning of Senator Martin Heinrich and others against Sessions as showing how "congressional hearings are theater, not searches for the truth."
4. Charles Pierce
In a provocative opinion piece published by Esquire on Tuesday, journalist and author Charles P. Pierce argued that Sessions "probably committed the crime of contempt of Congress."
"To be plain, because of his continual assertion of an 'appropriateness' privilege — which does not exist in the Constitution or the laws of this country — in order to avoid answering questions under oath, JeffBo should be residing in a holding cell right now until he changes his mind," wrote Pierce.
"Everybody on that committee knew that, when JeffBo declined to answer questions about whether James Comey was fired because of the Russia probe, he was hiding the plain truth behind a privilege that he'd made up on the spot. Everybody on that committee knew that JeffBo's memory lapses were at best highly convenient."
5. Andrew Prokop
Vox.com politics reporter Andrew Prokop wrote Tuesday evening that he believed the most telling part about the Sessions testimony were "the questions he didn't answer."
"Senators wanted to know just what Sessions and Trump had discussed about FBI director before Trump fired him, and whether Sessions was surprised to later hear Trump admit that he did so due to the Russia investigation," wrote Prokop.
"But again and again on questions like these, Sessions testified he was 'not able to comment on' or 'not able to characterize' something he and President Trump talked about."
Prokop went on to point out that Sessions specifically declined to answer questions about the firing of Comey, President Donald Trump's opinion of Sessions' recusal, and if the federal government was considering pardons for parties under investigation.
"Now, Sessions's non-answers surely shouldn't be taken as confirmation that any of these things happened," continued Prokop.
"Still, it's worth taking note that under oath, he refused to straightforwardly deny any of these suggestions. So we don't have a clear answer on whether they happened or not."