Duty of Candor: The Timing of the Sessions News

Since Jeff Sessions fired Andy McCabe Friday night and Trump started ratcheting up his attacks on Robert Mueller, few Republicans have vocally supported Mueller (Jeff Flake, Trey Gowdy, and John McCain are exceptions; all are retiring).

There was, however, this story, reporting that three sources say Jeff Sessions was not as dismissive of George Papadopoulos’ plan to reach out to Russians as JD Gordon has claimed.

Three people who attended the March campaign meeting told Reuters they gave their version of events to FBI agents or congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election. Although the accounts they provided to Reuters differed in certain respects, all three, who declined to be identified, said Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos’ idea.

One person said Sessions was courteous to Papadopoulos and said something to the effect of “okay, interesting.”

The other two recalled a similar response.

“It was almost like, ‘Well, thank you and let’s move on to the next person,’” one said.

As the story notes, this conflicts with Jeff Sessions’ November 14 sworn testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.

So in the wake of the Attorney General firing McCabe for violating his duty of candor, three current or former Trump associates leaked that he lied to the House.

The thing is, there can’t be that many people who these sources could be. I’m not sure the annotations from Seth Abramson (above) are all correct, but here’s what it looks like.

Sessions and Gordon are on the record stating Sessions pushed back. Trump hasn’t testified yet.

One may well be Papadopoulos.

That leaves, starting with Abramson’s guesses (here’s a later list of Trump’s national security advisors, which should round out Abramson’s):

  • Joseph Schmitz, who left his job as DOD IG amid some scandal
  • Bert Mizusawa, who is running for VA Senate and presumably wants some national help, but he is himself a lawyer
  • Jim Hoskins, who’s career military (including a lot of time working in intelligence)
  • Walid Phares, appears to still be pitching Trump’s foreign policy adventurism
  • Gary Harrell, who is career special operations
  • Charles Kubic, who even contemporaneously was raising legal concerns about such outreach (and who would be a likely candidate to have been interviewed by Mueller since he showed up in email chains raising such concerns)
  • James Carafano may be the balding man in the foreground (though he’s not in Trump’s list of advisors) — he’s still running interference for Trump’s crazy foreign policy
  • Sam Clovis, who is not identifiable in the picture, raised concerns about legal issues and NATO concerns, but elsewhere was clearly involved in the effort to reach out to Russia, even per Carter Page; he’s in the news because of the potential conflict Joe Di Genova’s reported representation of Trump poses
  • Keith Kellogg is another possible candidate; he remains part of Trump’s foreign policy team and has been interviewed
  • James Woolsey is another candidate — we know he has spoken with Mueller and has been critical of the tension between the White House, Congress, and FBI of late
  • Stephen Miller was at the meeting and interviewed with Mueller last year; I would think he would be a Sessions loyalist, though

I raise all this because, while Republicans in Congress are largely dodging the issue of protecting Mueller from Trump, some people closer to the investigation are calling Sessions on his hypocrisy. That might be far more dangerous to the Trump administration in the near term.

37 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Candor left Sessions long ago when it comes to telling the truth to Congressional committees.  However, as long as he is willing to do what the Kaiser wants he remains in his job.  For now.

    Mueller has now crossed two declared “red lines” set by the palace in the investigation, so the firing is only a matter of time and an excuse.  Also note how silent the GOP leadership has been on McCabe’s firing (which I fully expect to be contested, since proper procedure wasn’t followed and Sessions’ testimonial lack of candor will be brought up) but this is not unexpected given how their only way out is for the Kaiser to succeed.  All of them from Pence, McTurtle and LyinRyan on down are in on the scandal, that’s why Nunes was trying so desperately to spike the investigation. Between Felix and CA they’re all part of it one way or another.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Agree. I would call it ‘Coverup Complicity via Silence’.

      As in, the Nunes ploy failed, and they know they are royally screwed after midterms.

      Actually, many may be royally fucked before summer.

      Some next week.

    • Avattoir says:

      “crossed two red lines” – What/which lines? Fearless Leader previously posted showing ONE SUPPOSEDLY red line that actually isn’t that. The blithe assumption that two, or any, “red lines” have been crossed seems to emerge so regularly, it’s like the New Collusion.

      IDK what all TF you’re referring to as to McCabe’s firing. You claim ‘proper procedures weren’t followed’; wot? You write as if it’s a given that it will be “contested”; where R U getting that from? You assert that “Session’s testimonial lack of candor will be brought up”; how so in THIS context? Then your last two sentences just run off madly in all directions.

    • emptywheel says:

      What are the two red lines?

      Please don’t fall for the bad reporting that has conflated investigation into Russian business with investigation into non-Russian business, the latter of which is where the so-called red line was set.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Anything “out of bounds” for purposes of Mueller’s investigation Mueller would simply pass to others at the DoJ and FBI, which would simply assume responsibility for pursuing it.  Information about state crimes he would pass to the relevant state prosecutor.

        The idea of a redline is typical Trump political intimidation.  It’s one of his standard litigation postures, which he’s used for decades.  Whether he can make it mean anything is up to the GOP in Congress.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I do not see how one can be separated from the other.   It is all leveraged one way or another back to Vlad and his Soviet associates, which is precisely why Mueller has gone there.

  2. Bay State Librul says:

    How dare you mention Seth (Bmaz thinks he sucks)?

    My pick is Woolsey, Clovis and a player to be named later

    • emptywheel says:

      I think he generally sucks too, and unless there’s some other Miller in question that’s wrong. But it’s a place to start.

      • Desider says:

        “Sucks” is a pretty strong opinion. He may not be as grand as he thinks he is (seems to have a healthy ego), but is still doing a service cataloguing lots of things, even if 70-80% right or whatever you credit him.

        (and at some point may be useful to provide more examples of where you see him falling down for us less clued in)

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Yea, like any redline declared by Trump has meaning. His redlining may have started when keeping people of color out of his and daddy’s NY apartment buildings. But targets of investigations don’t get to determine what’s out of bounds to the prosecutor. That is a legal call, though, and we’re well into the badlands of politics. Today’s GOP seems as likely to call Trump on his misuse of authority as Obama would have been to hold the banks or torturers to account.

    Holding Trump to account will only take place if the Democrats win control of Congress. Will they do an Obama and cave at the beginning of the negotiation, or choose to look only forward, not back? Or will they try to restore the “law” part to the rule of law? That might depend on how many establishment Dems are returned vs. how many progressives.

    If the Dems have the will, they could resuscitate the prosecution – Mueller will have spread essential details at least to NY state and possibly elsewhere. Or they could admit that so much of this is political and should be documented for the public that impeachment is the appropriate route. That, in turn, would depend on whether Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker.

    • Rayne says:

      You and SLF had better not start that shit about Pelosi. I’ve had it with men trashing women in leadership positions. I don’t like what she did to get ACA passed — providing cover for the anti-abortion Dems like Rep. Stupak — but ACA has literally saved approx. 30,000 lives a year, and she is *still* keeping the Dems together behind it.

      Worry about Schumer and the crowd who caved to the banks. Pelosi can whip the House to impeachment; can Schumer whip the Senate to convict in order to remove the wacked-out sweet potato in chief?

      Think very hard about the source of animosity toward Pelosi: what is it that really bothers you? Or is this another case like the disinformed narrative about “Dems not turning out to vote,” a right-wing talking point reiterated so often it’s become a truth on the left?

      • Avattoir says:

        Best speaker of my adulthood, maybe only LBJ is comparable over my lifetime as a caucus wrangler. Beyond that, I don’t feel remotely equipped to argue historical comparators but I’d be shocked if she didn’t rank among the top handful.

        Also, it’s weird how people keep neglecting to recognize that the role of speaker is distinct from the roles of POTUS and district or state rep.

        • Rugger9 says:

          On the federal level I would agree.  In CA, however, Willie Brown got himself elected Speaker of the Assembly when the GOP had the chamber.  Hard to beat that (and why his nickname is “Slick Willie”).

      • Rugger9 says:

        It’s a good point, because Pelosi did keep the caucus together and as we have seen, LyinRyan can’t.

      • Kokuanani says:

        I don’t like the generic “don’t trash females in leadership positions.”  As a female, do I get to do so?  And can both males & females trash Sarah Palin, Ms. CIA Torture, Michelle Bachman, Jody Ernst, etc.?
        My lack of respect for Nancy Pelosi dates to 2006 when she “took impeachment [of Bush II] off the table.”  Similar to Obama’s “look forward, not backward.”
        Dems are always too weak, attempting to be “nice” and bi-partisan.  Trying to be “bi-partisan” with murderous zombies is not a great survival strategy.

        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          That was my point albeit I was not clear.

          I was not trashing Pelosi in general, just that it would not be likely that she would drive any impeachment process forward.

          And Rayne, I never trash women in leadership positions. In fact, I believe we need more of them, to add balance to decision making.

          Though, I do believe Carly Fiorina was not that sharp at HP.

        • Dev Null says:

          @Kokuanani: Decidedly OT, but please remind me why taking impeachment off the table was such a horrible idea? I have a very high opinion of Pelosi; she seems to me to be effective, as progressive / liberal as the country will tolerate, and on the side of the angels more often than not. I vaguely remember wishing at the time that she hadn’t killed the impeachment option (so to speak), but IMO impeachment wasn’t going to happen absent that rumored preventive attack on Iran just before the election (2008, I think, but maybe 2006, which attack needless to say didn’t happen).

          Serious question … my reaction was quite different from yours.

        • Dev Null says:

          @Rayne @Kokuanani: “I don’t like the generic don’t trash females in leadership positions”.

          Yeah, OK, both sides blah blah blah. Fairness to all, and to all a “Good Night”.

          Nonetheless, it seems to me that your example is self-refuting. You can’t (or shouldn’t, anyway) compare Pelosi and Palin; you can only contrast them. Ditto Bachman and many many more.

          I second Rayne’s impatience with attacks on Pelosi and HRC. Pelosi is not the sum total of “taking impeachment off the table”, any more than HRC is the sum total of her sometimes tone-deaf charisma-impaired descriptions of what’s wrong with America (which, arguably, are correct).

          Or how about “Pocahantas”? … talk about a non-scandal… and yet, that’s what Republicans are pushing.

          It seems significant to me that GOP attacks these days almost always focus on female Dem leadership. Where are the attack ads on Schumer or Schiff or Wyden? Yeah, OK … you can find a few …

          … but arguably GOP attack ads on Pelosi contributed significantly to Ossoff’s defeat in Georgia. No-one suggests that attack ads on Schumer defeated Ossoff.

          Pelosi is polarizing, IMO because she is effective.

          Or consider Trump’s and Faux Propaganda Network’s on-going attacks on HRC, a woman who will very likely never run for office again. They have nothing to run on, so they’re going back to old faves, and it’s telling that the faves are drawn from the well of misogyny. (Tempted to say “stale well”, but “never switch metaphors in mid-stream.”)

          Fine to object to specifics, but srsly, as Avattoir says, “most effective caucus wrangler of my lifetime”, and a force for (lib-prog) goodness.

  4. clairence says:

    How is “thank you, let’s move on” not dismissive?  In any other context we’d see it as dismissive.  I just am not seeing this as a big contradiction.

  5. Rapier says:

    I am terribly dense sometimes but I don’t get what is “far more dangerous to the Trump administration in the near term.” in all this. It can’t be lying during congressional testimony because lying to congress has acted as a virtual rite of passage for Conservatives since Ollie North. Only benefit derives from such lies. Proving one is a good party or organization man.

    • maybe ryan says:

      I think the danger pointed to is that several people were angry enough about what happened to start leaking again.

      Ollie North may not have gone to prison, but he did contribute greatly to Reagan’s unpopularity at the end of his term, which helped the Dems hold onto Congress even as Bush won the presidency.  The leaking of ugliness and treason is dangerous to traitors – in court, but also at the mid-terms.

  6. maybe ryan says:

    I agree that it’s interesting that some folks from that meeting are pushing Sessions.
    I’m wary of any aggressive actions because I don’t know that I want a confrontation to come right now. If Sessions is ultimately a target, i want Mueller to have the case cooked before Sessions realizes he’s in the pan. To some degree same with Trump – I love that Cobb keeps telling him everything’s fine and it’ll be wrapped up soon, because with his power for self-deception, he may believe it, and avoid taking rasher actions. Let Mueller keep gathering facts, pulling things together, till all his snares are set.

    • Trip says:

      Yeah. It makes you wonder if this is a two-pronged approach to kill off the investigation. One directed at Mueller and his witnesses, and the other at Sessions, so he can be rid of.

    • TheraP says:

      Seems to me that the complicit trump sycophants will try to restrain Trump from firing Mueller. (For the time being.) Because they have got to realize that will lead to the downfall of the whole shaky edifice they’ve been propping up. So that’s the irony here. From my viewpoint, their only hope is to somehow keep the scam going as they try to consolidate this soft coup going on while disemboweling the Justice dept.

      Just MHO.

  7. tinao says:

    My spidey sense tells me there are actually four on that list who would admit Sessions lied.   Mizusawa, Woolsey, Carafano, and Clovis, and pressure needs to be applied to the last two listed.

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