POLITICO: “Street-Corner Rules” — Sessions’s Fate Entirely In The Hands Of His GOP Colleagues & Trump — Dems Irrelevant (What’s New?)

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/sessions-recuses-himself-trump-russia-214857

Jeff Greenfield writes in Politico:

“Want to understand the key to the way the Jeff Sessions story is playing out today? Then leave the stately halls of the Capitol, and come with me to the playgrounds and streets of New York, where I first learned one of the most reliable of political rules.

We had no Little League, no organized games of any kind, and certainly no umpire to preside over stickball contests, or pickup games in Riverside Park. So pretty much every other play resulted in an argument (it was, coincidentally or not, a Jewish neighborhood). And the arguments always ended the same way: when a member of one team conceded.
“Yeah, he was out.”

“See?—your own man says so.”

When a political figure gets in trouble, that street-corner rule is the most significant metric of how to measure the depth of the trouble. President Richard M. Nixon could have survived the Watergate scandal had Republican senators backed him; there were 42, well over the one-third-plus-one needed to keep him in office. But when Barry Goldwater, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott and other GOP leaders went to the White House on August 6 to tell him his support had melted away, Nixon understood he was finished.

By contrast, President Bill Clinton retained almost total support from his part in Congress—just five House Democrats voted for impeachment—and his survival was assured. As New York Times reporter Peter Baker details in his book on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, “The Breach,” had Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and House leader Dick Gephardt gone to the White House with a call to resign, the outcome might well have been very different.

So far, congressional Republicans have protected President Donald Trump from a host of otherwise troubling issues. No tax returns? No problem. Blatant family conflicts of interest? Nothing to see here. Cabinet members with “incomplete” disclosures? Only Labor nominee Andrew Puzder’s nomination was derailed, and that took everything from hiring an undocumented housekeeper to allegations of spousal abuse. (“Fake news,” in Puzder’s telling.)

The story of Attorney General Jeff Sessions is another matter. Rep. Darrell Issa—who as chair of the House Oversight Committee launched approximately 24,598 investigations of Obama administration malfeasance—called for Sessions to recuse himself from looking into charges of Russian meddling in American campaigns. The committee’s current chair, Jason Chaffetz, did the same. So did Rep. Raúl Labrador, one of the leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, the most militant of conservative voices.”

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PWS

03/02/17

BREAKING: Sessions In Hot Water Over Failure To Disclose Contacts With Russian Ambassador — Administration Tries To Deflect Controversy!

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/01/politics/jeff-sessions-russian-ambassador-meetings/index.html

Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Eli Watkins write on CNN:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

Sessions did not mention either meeting during his confirmation hearings when he said he knew of no contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians. A Justice official said Sessions didn’t mislead senators during his confirmation.
The Washington Post first reported on Sessions’ meetings with the official. Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, is considered by US intelligence to be one of Russia’s top spies and spy-recruiters in Washington, according to current and former senior US government officials.

Sessions met with Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.
Attorney General Sessions responded swiftly Wednesday, strongly stating that he never discussed campaign-related issues with anyone from Russia.
“I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign,” he said in a statement. “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Key Democratic lawmakers immediately called for Sessions’ resignation after the news broke.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi characterized Sessions’ comments in his confirmation “apparent perjury,” and said the attorney general should resign.
Kislyak’s potential proximity to Russian spying is one reason why Flynn’s interactions with him, and Flynn’s failure to disclose what he discussed with Kislyak, raised concerns among intelligence officials.
In his confirmation hearing to become attorney general, Sessions was asked about Russia and he responded at the time that he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

Sessions’ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said there was nothing “misleading about his answer” to Congress because the Alabama Republican “was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”

. . . .

Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken, who asked Sessions about Russia at the confirmation hearing, said if the reports of Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak were true then Sessions’ response was “at best misleading.”
“It’s clearer than ever now that the attorney general cannot, in good faith, oversee an investigation at the Department of Justice and the FBI of the Trump-Russia connection, and he must recuse himself immediately,” Franken said.”

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Although somewhat lost in the shuffle, in another controversial move, on Tuesday, Attorney General Sessions announced another major shift on civil rights policy. He said that the DOJ would drop pending investigations of unwarranted violence and violations of civil rights by local police. By giving local police a free hand, Sessions said that he expected that poor and minority  individuals living in high crime areas would be “safe, happier.” Sessions’s actions were met by skepticism from many civil rights advocates and African American community leaders.

PWS

03/02/17

UPDATE FROM CNN:  Top GOP Reps Chaffetz and McCarthy Call For Sessions To Recuse!

“The revelation prompted key Democrats to call for Sessions’ resignation and led two top Republicans to call on him to recuse himself from Trump-Russia inquiries.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Sessions should “clarify his testimony,” while House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in an interview with MSNBC, said Sessions should not participate in such investigations for “the trust of the American people.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, told CNN’s “New Day” that Sessions’ testimony in January was “extremely misleading.”

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/01/politics/jeff-sessions-russian-ambassador-meetings/index.html

PWS

03/02/17