Top Democrats are accusing Jeff Sessions of perjury, pushing for his recusal from any investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia, and calling for his resignation. The furore over the newly minted US attorney general follows the speedy resignation of General Mike Flynn as national security advisor after he misled the vice-president, CNN and other media outlets declining to interview White House advisor Kellyanne Conway after she repeatedly peddled false facts, and US President Donald Trump being publicly called out after lying about the margin of his electoral college victory. It seems that Trump's key personnel share his inability to tell the truth.
During his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked whether he had any contact with Russia during Trump's presidential campaign. He replied: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it."
However, the Washington Post reports that Sessions met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign. The pair exchanged words at a Heritage Foundation event in July 2016, and spoke in Sessions' Senate office in September, according to the paper. Sessions' defenders argue the first encounter was a chance meeting at an event where dozens of ambassadors were present, and he was representing the Senate Armed Services Committee during the latter. Sessions' spokesperson said the former Alabama senator's answer during his confirmation was truthful, as he was asked about any interaction with the Russian government on behalf of the Trump campaign, not as a senator.
Breitbart goes even further, arguing Minnesota Senator Al Franken asked whether there was a "continuing exchange of information" between Trump's team and the Russian government. That seems a stretch, as Franken's question reads: "But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?"
Moreover, 20 of Sessions’ colleagues on the Armed Services Committee didn’t meet the Russian ambassador in 2016. Sessions' answer to a written question from Virginia Senator Patrick Leahy has cast further doubt on the Attorney General. Leahy asked whether Sessions had “been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day”, to which Sessions replied "no". His saving grace is the specificity of the question: it's unclear whether he discussed the election during his meetings with the Russian ambassador.
The absence of a smoking gun could prevent charges of perjury being brought against Sessions, who voted for former President Bill Clinton to be impeached for lying under oath. However, his omission provides Democrats with fresh ammunition as they push for an independent investigation into the Trump administration's ties to Russia. It has also shifted attention away from Trump's relatively dignified address to Congress this week, as the White House rushed to point out. And it threatens to hasten the erosion of Americans' trust in Trump, as more and more supporters start to wonder why there's a scandal every other day.