Eric Levitz writes in NY Maggie:
“Jeff Sessions’s memory works in mysterious ways. He has “no clear recollection” of the March 2016 meeting where George Papadopoulos offered to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — but the attorney general does remember shooting down the campaign aide’s unseemly suggestion.
Or, so Sessions tells the House Judiciary Committee.
In October, Sessions testified to the Senate that he did not have any “continuing exchange of information” with Russian operatives — and that he wasn’t “aware of anyone else [on the Trump campaign] that did.” Weeks later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed
“Papadopoulos’s confession to the crime of lying to the FBI. In that written statement, the former Trump campaign national security adviser claimed that he had told Sessions about “connections” he had that “could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin” in March of last year. In his testimony before Congress Tuesday, Sessions tried to account for this apparent discrepancy.
“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” Sessions explained. “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.”
Later, Sessions said more firmly, “At the meeting, I pushed back.”
So, the attorney general has no clear memory of the meeting, but has a vivid recollection of behaving admirably during it.
This isn’t the first time that Sessions’s memories of last year have failed him. In January, the attorney general testified to the Senate that he had not “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day.” Months later, the Washington Post revealed that Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador to the United States multiple times during the 2016 campaign. Sessions responded to these revelations by insisting that he’d met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in his capacity as U.S. senator (not as a Trump surrogate), and that they did not discuss the 2016 election. Sessions later conceded that it was “possible” that Trump’s positions on U.S.-Russia relations came up in his discussions with Kislyak.
Some Democrats have suggested that Sessions’s multiple false statements to Congress this year were conscious lies. The former senator responded to such charges with indignation Tuesday.
“My answers have not changed,” Sessions said. “I have always told the truth, and I have answered every question as I understood them and to the best of my recollection, as I will continue to do today … I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”
Meanwhile, speaking to a friendly audience over at the Heritage Foundation, Gonzo treated the Russia investigation as a joke. Mary Papenfuss reports for HuffPost:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions had lawyers rolling in the aisles with a surprising string of Russian quips at the start of a speech he gave Friday.
Sessions was the keynote speaker at the National Lawyers Convention at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel hosted by the conservative Federalist Society.
He thanked the applauding crowd for welcoming him. Then, smiling mischievously, he added: “But I just was thinking, you know, I should ― I want to ask you. Is Ambassador Kislyak in the room? Before I get started ― any Russians?” As the laughs grew louder, he continued: “Anybody been to Russia? Got a cousin in Russia?” The audience roared.
The jarring jokes came just three days after Sessions was pressed in Congress on apparent discrepancies in his previous testimony about Trump associates’ meetings with Russians during the 2016 campaign.
Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., met with several members of Donald Trump’s campaign during the Republican National Convention, Kislyak and some Trump associates have revealed. Kislyak was widely believed a top spy recruiter.
Kislyak has said he discussed Trump’s policy positions during the campaign with Sessions, an early Trump supporter who was an Alabama senator at the time, The Washington Post reported.
But during his confirmation hearings to become attorney general ― before the Post report ― Sessions said he “never met with or had any conversations with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election.”
Sessions later recused himself from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Critics were stunned by Sessions’ attitude in the lawyers’ speech.
Sessions “still doesn’t get it” — he’s “in trouble,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told Wolf Blitzer later on CNN.
“He’s not in trouble where he happened to be in places where there are Russians,” said Lieu, a member of the House Judiciary Committee who grilled Sessions this week. “He is in trouble because he had a nearly hour-long meeting with Ambassador Kislyak — also a spy — and then he failed to disclose the existence of that meeting under oath to the U.S. Senate. That’s why Jeff Sessions is in trouble.”
Blitzer noted that Kislyak “now says he spoke with so many Trump officials it would take him more than 20 minutes to name them all.”