Iran-Contra Cover-Up King Doesn’t Address Sessions’ Other Lies, or Conspiracy-in-Chief

Fresh off several witnesses revealing that Jeff Sessions wasn’t as offended by George Papadopoulos’ plan to pitch meetings with Putin as he claims he was, ABC reported that, Andrew McCabe approved an investigation into whether Jeff Sessions lied to Congress about his ties with Russia.

Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a “lack of candor,” McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

An anonymous source tried to claim that Sessions would not have known that McCabe briefly oversaw an investigation into Sessions’ own perjury, but Sessions’ lawyer pointedly refused to confirm that.

One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.

Sessions’ lawyer is Chuck Cooper. Most recently, he got famous failing spectacularly to defend Prop 8. But years and years ago, he played a key role in excusing Iran-Contra, notably by inventing the concept of pixie dusting executive orders.

Given his past as a great cover-up artist, take note of how carefully he words his more general denial.

Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller’s team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions.

“The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday.

The AG is not under investigation for any lies in his confirmation hearing testimony, Cooper said.

Here’s what that leaves out:

  • Obstruction charges for inventing the reason to fire Comey, pretending to be involved in the firing of US Attorneys including Preet Bharara, and for firing McCabe
  • False statements charges tied to Sessions’ later testimony before Congress
  • False statements charges tied to his Mueller testimony about whether he opposed the Russian outreach (we now know Mueller has gotten conflicting statements on this point)
  • Implication in the Russian conspiracy directly

It’s the last one that is most interesting (and where all these false statements charges are headed anyway). We now know some of the people at the March 31, 2016 meeting believe Sessions was not opposed to the Russian outreach. We know that Sessions’ close aide, Stephen Miller, was in the thick of things.

And then there’s this bizarre exchange from a November exchange with Patrick Leahy (who seems to have known that Sessions was then under investigation for lying to Congress).

Leahy asked about each item in turn.

Leahy: Let’s take this piece by piece. Did you discuss any of the following: Emails?

Sessions: Repeat the question again about emails.

Leahy: Since the 2016 campaign, have you discussed with any Russian connected official anything about emails?

Sessions: Discuss with them. I don’t recall having done any such thing.

Right after this exchange, Sessions totally balks when Leahy asks him if he has been interviewed or asked for an interview by Mueller, saying he should clear it with the Special Counsel.

Now, there was some imprecision in this questioning. It’s clear that Sessions believed he was answering the question about during the campaign, not since it.

But of the things Leahy asked about — emails, Russian interference, sanctions, or any policies or positions of the Trump campaign or presidency — Sessions ultimately not-recalled in response to just one question: the emails.

Based on the past practice Leahy had just laid out, Sessions claimed to not recall issues that he had actually done. Which would suggest Sessions is worried that there’s evidence he has discussed emails — with someone. It’s just not clear how he interpreted that question.

Sessions refused to deny he had discussed emails with a “Russian connected official” since the election.

None of these potential ties in the conspiracy are included in Cooper’s carefully worded denial (nor is Sessions’ knowing that McCabe had okayed an investigation into him for failing to meet his duty of candor, the same thing Sessions just fired McCabe for).

That speaks volumes.

In any case, it seems we’ll be hearing a lot more about Sessions’ implication in all this, in the wake of his firing of McCabe.

27 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    What goes around, comes around, at least when there’s a special prosecutor doing the fact checking.  Helpful, perhaps, that like Trump’s other direct reports, Jeff Sessions is not the brightest bulb in the box.

    Thanks for all the work.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Sure is nice to be king.

      As in, king of the DOJ castle, where you can kill off an investigation into one’s self.

  2. Rapier says:

    If and when the purge of the SC starts, where does it stop? Does it even stop at the SC or go to the FBI into the Justice Department? Who stops it?

    Or am I being a drama queen?

  3. terian says:

    Gosh this all is so overwhelming.  I thought the worst moment in my life was when my president John F. Kennedy was murdered.  It isn’t.  This is.  All of it.  FB…….Cambridge A.  All of it.  It’s like, seriously?  Are there really that many bad people who care NOTHING about our Republic?  The self serving immoral traitors who are giving up this country for their selfish fulfillment?  Just breaks my heart.

    Great work here.  I heard about Emptywheel from Jeremy Scahill.  He had stated in an article that this was one of the best sites for news.  100% correct ……..Thank you.

  4. Lamsmy says:

    As it was put so well the other day:

    “The Russians did not want to influence the election in favor of Trump, and the only reason they kept meeting with Trump transition officials was sheer coincidence, like in a rom com. By the fourth or fifth time everyone would laugh and say, “Are you kidding me? You again?” but it was all a total mistake.”

    From The Good News About All These Firings by Alexandra Petri
    WAPO March 14, 2018

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s the sort of treatment one might expect from Vlad.  He gets you to relax and catches you off guard, then hip-tosses you to the mat and breaks your arm.

      Trump tries to do the same thing.  When he promises that he has absolutely positively no intention of doing something, it’s a sure sign he intends to do exactly that.  He could have borrowed from both Kremlin and China watchers.

  5. Trip says:

    If there was a conspiracy between Trump et al and the Kremlin, you know Sessions was in the thick of it. His baloney story about only discussing a “church tour and children” in Russia, with the ambassador, was straight out of the Hard-Right-Christian-Extremism handbook of excuses, signaling  grand virtue. It’s about as believable as Junior’s “Adoption” agenda at the tower. That said, these leaks are probably coming from inside the house (reference to both horror movie and the White House).

    Sessions is a double-edged sword. He’s corrupt, but lose him, and it’s likely you lose Rosenstein and Mueller. Keep him, and the whole gang’s still there covering up together. But, for whatever reason, Trump doesn’t seem to fear firing him with Sessions holding something over him and divulging the goods after. Or maybe he does, and that’s partially why Trump hasn’t dumped him yet.

    It’s too bad that Franken had skeletons that did himself in. He seemed to be the only one bold enough and smart enough to ask the right, most pointed, direct questions.

  6. Peterr says:

    Sessions’ lawyer is Chuck Cooper. Most recently, he got famous failing spectacularly to defend Prop 8. But years and years ago, he played a key role in excusing Iran-Contra, notably by inventing the concept of pixie dusting executive orders.

    I had forgotten the latter, in my delight at recalling the former.

    The big difference between these two is that with I-C, Cooper was part of a larger group of political and legal operatives who were seriously good at using the tools of government to push policy and generally make things happen in DC. With Prop 8, Cooper was part of a group of political and legal cranks who couldn’t argue themselves out of a paper bag. Putting “expert witnesses” on the stand that the opposition can use to make their case is not the mark of a crack legal team.

    So which group best reflects Cooper’s quality? My money would be on the Prop 8 crowd.

    More importantly, which group best reflects the Trump administration? Again, I’d put them generally with the Prop 8 group. Consider two examples: (1) The dismissal of advice from career state department officers smacks of the ideological fervor of the Prop 8 folks, rather than the Reagan people who took that advice, sifted it, and then used what they wanted of it to advance their proposals. They didn’t dismiss everything coming out of Foggy Bottom out of hand. (2) The turnover at the White House is beyond comparison with Reagan’s team, or any other chief executive, and points to ideology uber alles rather than enhances any ability to get things done and make things happen. Again, this is closer to Prop 8 as opposed to I-C.

    Finally, Cooper’s contribution of pixie dust to the I-C scandal was essentially giving others in the Reagan administration a tool to use. It was a behind the scenes thing, not something involving his engagement with opposing lawyers nor the media. The mess Sessions is in requires that Cooper not be solely behind the scenes, but speaking publicly.

    As this post demonstrates, and the Prop 8 trial record supports, this is NOT a strong suit of Charles Cooper.

    • bmaz says:

      “Couldn’t argue themselves out of a paper bag”. Heh, have heard that phrase somewhere……

      But, yeah, he was really that bad. Was even more painful in person at closings of Prop 8. So much so that I was close to feeling sorry for him, and might have but for the craven argument he was fronting for

  7. jayedcoins says:

    A question for the sharp minds in these pages… what do you think the upshot of this is?

    On the one hand, could this give Trump the cover he needs to fire Sessions? Basically to say, “Nutjob Jeff Sessions lied to the American people and fired McCabe to cover it up!”

    Or, on the other hand, given that Trump has repeatedly pushed the narrative against McCabe (especially the false narrative about his wife), and publicly taken a victory lap over McCabe’s firing, does this oddly lock Sessions in as AG until the bitter end for the entire administration?

    • SteveB says:

      One factor which indicates that Sessions is going to dangle a while longer is the “revelation” that he features in one of the focal points for Muellers quizzing of Trump.

      The sources for what Mueller wants to ask about is team Trump, not Mueller. It is thus team Trump who have framed it as Mueller wanting Trumps evidence about Sessions role in the firing of Comey.

      While attempting to shape this issue as being about Sessions, team Trump may be(further) setting up Sessions to take a fall for his boss; if so then I would imagine they will want to hold off from firing Sessions until the most opportune moment .

      Sessions may still prove useful to Trump. The Rep Gaetz school of thought (snigger) argues that now the HouseIntel lot  has concluded there was no collusion, Sessions can withdraw his recusal,and take over directing Mueller and set a time limit.

      Clearly withdrawal of the recusal cannot happen while Mueller is asking questions about Sessions, and while Gaetz proposal may be madcap, team Trump might see value in keeping Sessions around bending him to their will with threats of humiliation on the one hand or hints of reprieve and recovery of his reputation the other.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Want the lock-in.

      Mueller should *NOT* talk to Trump.

      Otherwise, things can fall into the pit fast.

      If Mueller (or someone on team) talks to Trump, there will be records.

      Records that Sessions can access.

      Sessions could then tell Trump what is really going on.

      Then Trump can fire Sessions.

      Even though Sessions may not have been as clean as the driven snow, we need him there.

      He is actually helping the process.

  8. Avattoir says:

    Despite his critical centrality in at least the Congressional investigations into Iran-Contra, Chuck Cooper’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in Woodward’s book capturing/envisioning the affair, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA.

    Cooper’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in any narrative, real, reconstructed, supposedly remembered or actually imagined. It doesn’t appear any list of those present in any meeting. It doesn’t appear in a single footnote. It doesn’t appear once anywhere in the index.

    Gosh, how is it even possible that such a notoriously meticulous sleuthing journalist as Bob Woodward would proceed to dive both deep and comprehensively into the many sordid aspects of such a defining feature of the Reagan administration as Iran-Contra, yet completely miss that sitting right there was the then-bright young star Republican attorney specifically assigned by AG Meese to serve as THE key information gatherer for the DoJ into Iran-Contra, while at the same time somehow also serving as the key hub for all inter-agency communications preceding its blowing up around the time Bill Casey was dying from cancer (including that ‘confession event’ so vividly imagined by Woodward that it practically sustained an entire chapter)?

    It sure is, as Charlie Pierce likes to say, a puzzlement.

    Crikey, we learn pretty much all we need to know about Cooper from just one WaPo piece co-written by Walter Pincus:

    All that and he was still so young: a true natural talent at cover-ups!

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Former naval intelligence.  Some jobs you never leave; wonder if it’s true with Bob.

        He was never as good looking as Robert Redford (All the President’s Men). And as you say, he is certainly more conservative and strait-laced.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            It’s where he says he learned to fear masses of little brown people, although he seems confused about exactly which country it was whose population he found so distasteful.

    • bmaz says:

      Avattoir – Wow. That old Pincus piece is perfect. Yes, that is Cooper. Funny thing is, there are not many cases that I went to as an observer as opposed to as an attorney. The Prop 8 case was probably the first and biggest where not in the well. Cooper was the enemy of all that was just in that litigation. And the odd couple of Boies and Olson all that was good and just for that day. And, yet, I stumbled into Cooper and chatted him up for about 15-20 minutes at the milieu that was the after closings presser. Nobody was talking to him, and he and I were just there somehow. I told him exactly who I was right up front. Olson I had already known and talked to over a long time, but never Cooper.

      He knew he had failed miserably, which made it an even more interesting chat. Nicest guy in the world, and a decent chap, even from my perspective, which, as you know, is fairly jaded. He is a decent man, despite all that he advocates for. I am getting old, and the halcyon days where you literally used to go get a drink with your opponent are the days of my youth as an attorney, but I still remember them. Cooper is still one of those guys, and that is good by me. And that is okay.

      • Avattoir says:

        Fearless having retweeted a Tim Berner-Lee tweet today has me speculating that the problem with naturally gifted dis-info artists – not just pixie-dust specialists like Cooper, but also the surviving Golden Age Ratfuckers – is that it’s so much more difficult (indeed, under Total Surveillance, almost impossible) for them to produce and maintain a quality of p-dust sufficiently dense to keep all their deliberately confused balls up & bouncing about for the several decades until histories get written, in a socio-political environment where e-comms are routinely swallowed up into so many nations’ spook cloud warehouses like the planet’s largest blue whales swallow krill – yet left intact for later, wrapped up like kabillions of catches by a mass of especially enterprising spiders.

        Sessions is somewhat older than me, Cooper a bit younger (you even more, I suspect); but all were born into, brought up, schooled in & made early & middle bones in a very different medium than what’s come about since Congress commenced it’s knee-jerk-to-religiotic devotion to re-authorizing blank cheques (since 9/11, at least).

        (Also, it’s hard to dismiss the notion that, in acting for such an exposed client, a trial specialist, not merely of our generation but one as gifted as Cooper in the darker arts of the Old School, would not have ensured his client’s option to resort to cut-throat, should the need arise.}

  9. jon says:

    What does the immunity deal for George Nader tell ? is it Eric prince in crosshairs and jared baby

  10. Avattoir says:

    Probably one of those words one fancies one was personally responsible for coming up with, when actually someone already did beforehand and I’ve just forgot seeing it; but now it keeps wafting back into my frontal lobe, as part of my reaction to seeing so many rightorical questions from Fearless Leader’s new & unfamiliar guest lurkers & passersby.

  11. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Rewinding the clock to mid-2016, remember the working assumption that Carter Page was brought into the campaign via Sessions and/or Miller, even though it was always odd that Beauregard was named as chief foreign policy adviser and was holding meetings with ambassadors when his committee assignments were Armed Services and Judiciary, not Foreign Relations or Intel.

  12. harpie says:

    Day before yesterday, Jason Leopold tweeted:
    Jason Leopold@JasonLeopold 3:15 PM – 21 Mar 2018  REUPPING as I’m pretty confident more details will be disclosed soon.
    And linked to this:
    [1/17/18] Newly Uncovered Russian Payments Are A Focus Of Election Investigation [US authorities are poring over hundreds of newly uncovered payments from Russian diplomatic accounts. Among them are transactions by former ambassador Sergey Kislyak 10 days after the 2016 presidential election and a blocked $150,000 cash withdrawal five days after the inauguration.]
    …just interesting, is all.

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