Tag Archives: Jeff Sessions

Top lawyer ‘lawyers up’; more to come, maybe?

If you’re keeping score, it’s good to know how many of Donald J. Trump’s key administration staffers have hired lawyers to represent them.

You have the president’s son-in-law and senior public policy adviser, Jared Kushner seeking outside counsel; Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer to represent him and might be able to use campaign funds to pay for the counselor’s advice; today we got word that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has joined the lawyering-up club.

And oh yes, the president himself has hired a team of lawyers.

Why all this legal eagle activity? You know the reason, but I’ll mention it anyway. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers, who tried to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Of all the people mentioned here, I find Sessions’ decision to be most interesting. He’s the nation’s top lawyer. He runs the Department of Justice. He also has recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.

Throughout all of this Russia investigation, we hear the president toss out terms like “witch hunt” and “fake news.” He doesn’t condemn the notion that Russian government goons might have sought to influence the election.

The special counsel has a lot of information to sift through. The former FBI director, James Comey, told Senate committee members that the president pressured him to back off a probe into the Russia matter. The president launches into those tweet tirades that seem to undermine his own message, not to mention his legal defense against whatever might be tossed at him.

We’re a long way from knowing the truth behind all of this.

The high-priced legal community is riding a serious gravy train, thanks to the concerns being expressed by the president of the United States and some among his senior team members.

Moment of truth approaching? Tapes or no tapes?

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to testify behind closed doors in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

He might have plenty to tell his former Senate colleagues.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans finally are beginning to turn up the heat on the president of the United States regarding a reckless tweet he posted some time back about the potential existence of White House tape recordings.

Show ’em if you got ’em, Mr. President.

Donald Trump made some snarky reference to tape recordings after he fired FBI Director James Comey. It was that “Russia thing” that produced the dismissal. Comey and Trump reportedly had some conversations about Russia and the FBI”s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian government hackers who sought to influence the 2016 presidential election outcome.

Tapes, Mr. President?

There are so many “Big Questions,” it’s becoming difficult to keep track of them. One of them is this: Did the president record the conversations or is he bluffing about their existence?

Now comes the heat from the president’s side of the partisan divide. Republicans want him to clear the air.

Of course, the president hasn’t shown much proclivity to listen to anyone, let alone act on the torrent of advice he’s getting.

So, I suppose we should expect the mystery to deepen and the chaos to continue.

Yep, the Russians are laughing at us.

Donald J. Trump tweeted the following, apparently early this morning: “Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.”

It’s rare that I agree with the president, but I have to endorse part of the message he fired off today.

They’re laughing at us, Mr. President … just not for the reason you tried to articulate in this nonsensical Twitter message.

The Russians are laughing at the chaos they have created by hacking into our electoral system and by seeking to swing the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor.

To be fair, nothing has been proven — yet — about what they might have accomplished. However, every intelligence agency and expert in many countries agree with the premise that the Russians tried to influence the election.

Look at what has happened since Trump took the presidential oath.

The FBI has said it is investigating whether the Trump team colluded with the Russians; the president’s son-in-law has become the subject of another probe; the Justice Department has appointed a special counsel to examine the “Russia thing”; Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from anything to do with Russia; Michael Flynn was fired as national security adviser because he lied about his own Russian contacts.

They also might be chuckling and chortling over the president’s refusal to call the Russians out publicly for what all those intelligence agencies have concluded about their meddlesome ways.

Are the Russians laughing at us? You’re damn right they are!

Hey, didn’t the AG recuse himself from Russia probe?

Al Franken knows a lie when he hears it. He wrote a book about “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”

The U.S. senator from Minnesota stood on the Senate floor and offered a point-by-point rebuttal of an apparent lie that Donald J. Trump likely told about a recommendation he got to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Then again, perhaps the lie came from the mouth of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced this year he would “recuse” himself from any dealings at any level with the probe into whether Russian government officials sought to influence the 2016 presidential election in the president’s favor.

You see, the president said he got a recommendation to fire Comey from — drum roll! — AG Sessions, the fellow who said he would recuse himself from this matter.

Oh yeah! Then there’s that matter of Comey leading the FBI probe into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian hackers to sway the election.

Sen. Franken’s statement zeroes in quite cleanly on Sessions’ recusal and he casts doubt (a) on whether the president really got a recommendation from Sessions to fire Comey or (b) on whether Sessions has actually recused himself as he pledged to do.

Man, this Comey firing matter is beginning to get stinkier by the day.

‘Ayatollah of Alabama’ seeks U.S. Senate seat

This ought to be fun to watch, even if it’s occurring way over yonder in Alabama.

The state has a vacant U.S. Senate seat, now that Jeff Sessions is serving as attorney general of the United States. That means the state has to conduct a special election to fill the seat.

A fellow named Roy Moore has just entered the contest.

Moore is the suspended Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who got himself into a jam because he told county clerks in his state that they didn’t have to abide by federal law and approve marriage licenses for gay couples.

Oops. Can’t do that!

Now he wants to run for the Senate. Why does this matter to people outside of Alabama? Well, if this guy is elected it means he’ll take part in making law for the rest of us. That includes those of us in the Texas Panhandle.

Moore is a fiery conservative. He once refused to remove a Ten Commandments tablet from the court grounds in Montgomery, Ala. He disagreed with decisions that the tablet violated the First Amendment rule prohibiting government sanctioning of religion.

“My position has always been God first, family, then country,” the Republican Moore said while announcing his candidacy for the Senate. OK, he’s a man of deep faith. I understand it. I have faith in God, too.

The Southern Poverty Law Center — which routinely battles with the judge over his rulings — calls Moore the “Ayatollah of Alabama.”

However, here’s the kicker: The oath he would take as a senator is a good bit like the one he took as a judge; it commits him to be faithful to the laws of the land, the U.S. Constitution, which — if you’ll pardon the pun — is the Bible of secular documents.

All I can assure anyone, though, is that the special election in Alabama is bound to be a hoot.

We’re about to see how it will affect the rest of the country.

No intention to lecture AG about the law, but really …

I am acutely aware that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is an educated man.

He went to law school; passed the Alabama state bar; served as a federal prosecutor; tried to become a federal judge in the 1980s, but was rejected by the U.S. Senate because of some things he reportedly said about black people; then he was elected to the Senate.

He now serves as U.S. attorney general, thanks to an appointment by Donald John Trump.

There. Having stipulated all of that, I need to remind the attorney general that he should not disrespect the tenet of judicial review that the nation’s founders established when they formed our republic more than two centuries ago.

I say this with no desire to lecture the AG about the law, or the U.S. Constitution.

However, when he pops off about a federal judge sitting on the bench “on an island in the Pacific,” he has disrespected one of the basic frameworks set aside by those founders.

The judge presides over a federal court in Hawaii, one of the nation’s 50 states. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson ruled against Trump’s temporary travel ban on constitutional grounds. The travel ban is now heading to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

You’ll recall, too, that the president himself referred to another federal jurist in Washington state as a “so-called judge” when he struck down an earlier travel ban involving refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. Trump might need a lecture about the Constitution and the separation of powers written into it; he might need to be told about how the founders intended for the judiciary to be independent of political pressure. Given that Trump had zero government experience prior to becoming — gulp! — president, he might be unaware of the not-so-fine print written in the Constitution.

The attorney general should know better than to disparage a federal judge in the manner that he did.

An island in the Pacific? C’mon, Mr. Attorney General.

Suck it up. Let the courts do their job. Sure, you are entitled to challenge court decisions’ legality. However, let’s stop the petulant put-downs.

Same thing goes for you, too, Mr. President.

Mr. AG, Hawaii isn’t just an ‘island in the Pacific’

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said this on a radio talk show: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

Hmm. An island in the Pacific? Was it, oh, Fiji? Palau? Tahiti?

Oh, no. The “island in the Pacific” is Hawaii, one of the 50 United States of America. Hawaii is governed by the very same federal government as all the rest of the states.

The object of the attorney general’s criticism, though, is a federal judge — a Hawaii native — who ruled against Donald J. Trump’s second travel ban that bars Muslims from several countries from entering the United States. The ruling came from U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, who happens to live in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

Sessions blows that dog whistle

Hawaii’s two U.S. senators have reacted strongly to Sessions’ statement, made on talk show host Mark Levin’s program. The Huffington Post reported: “Sen. Mazie Hirono likened his remarks about Watson to ‘dog whistle politics.’” That identifies the kind of coded remarks meant to appeal mainly to certain segments of the population. Republicans and Democrats both have their “bases” that respond instinctively to certain political “dog whistles.”

The Huffington Post also reported: “In a statement later Thursday, Hirono, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that vets and confirms federal judges, called Sessions’ suggestion that Watson is somehow unable to carry out his duties impartially ‘dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced.’

“’I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary,’ she said. ‘But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.’”

I feel the need to stipulate once again: Hawaii isn’t some remote outpost. Judge Watson adheres to the same oath that the attorney general himself took when he joined the Justice Department.

These attacks on the “independent judiciary” have to stop.


Get ready for hot seat, Mr. Deputy AG-designate

Rod Rosenstein.

That name, right there, well might become the most-watched in Washington, D.C., behind — quite naturally — the name of the president of the United States.

Rosenstein has been picked by Donald J. Trump to become the deputy U.S. attorney general.

Why is this fellow so important right now? Because his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has recused himself from anything to do with an investigation into whether Trump was too cozy with Russian government officials. That means Rosenstein, by all accounts a hard-nosed prosecutor, will get to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump-Russia matter.

Rosenstein’s confirmation hearing focused almost exclusively on Sessions, Trump and the Russians. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats sought to pin him down, trying to get him to commit to picking a special prosecutor. Rosenstein didn’t give that one up — to no one’s surprise.

Unlike Senate and House Republicans who say it’s “too early” to determine whether there’s a need for a special counsel, I happen to believe one should get the call. There needs to be a thorough investigation of what the president knew about the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election, when he knew it, whether he colluded with the Russians. We also need to know whether Trump or someone from his campaign staff sought to renegotiate sanctions leveled against Russia by the Obama administration over the Russians’ meddling in our electoral process.

Rosenstein isn’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill deputy AG. Folks in that job usually blend into the woodwork, never to be seen or heard from again once they take office.

Not this guy.

Assuming the Senate confirms him — and it should — Rosenstein is about to settle into one of the hottest seats in Washington.

Do the right thing, sir. Pick that special counsel.

Sessions needs to talk once more to Senate Judiciary panel

That’s it? The U.S. attorney general won’t have to testify any more to the Senate Judiciary Committee?

That’s the decision of Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who said he has no plans to call AG Jeff Sessions back to Capitol Hill to explain himself.

It seems to me that the attorney general has some serious ‘splainin to do.

He told Judiciary Committee members during his confirmation hearing that he didn’t have any meetings with Russian government officials. Then, later, he thought differently about it said, yep, he did talk to the Russian ambassador to the United States.

This ought to be fleshed out a little bit.

What did he discuss? Did he talk to him about big things, such as, oh, whether the Russians were trying to influence the presidential election? Or how about whether the incoming Donald J. Trump administration would take back the sanctions that the Obama administration had leveled against the Russians for — that’s right — trying to influence the election.

Or … maybe it was just a casual conversation. “How’s the weather in Moscow in these days, Mr. Ambassador?”

Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the Judiciary panel members, wants Sessions to come back to The Hill to testify.

I think he should, too. Chairman Grassley surely cannot believe he’s heard all there is to hear from the attorney general.

President ‘furious’ over Sessions recusal? Settle down, sir

Donald John Trump reportedly is steamed that the attorney general has taken himself out of the Russia investigation game.

The president appears to have been furious with his staff and with AG Jeff Sessions over the AG’s decision to recuse himself from investigating possible illegalities involving the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had no contact with the Russians. Then it turns out he did; he then admitted as much.

That’s when he pulled out under mounting pressure from Republicans and Democrats.

What in the name of Watergate does the president fail to understand about the AG’s necessary decision to pull out of this probe?

Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself. Most of out us here — even those of us in the middle of Trump Country — understand that the attorney general has acted appropriately.

I am not going to join the amen chorus in calling for Sessions to quit … at least not yet. The AG needs to ensure that he stays totally clear of any discussions among the career prosecutors who work for him as they regard what they might find in the immediate future regarding Trump’s (alleged) relationship with the Russian government.

Trump’s supposed anger at Sessions, though, merely demonstrates — as if we need any more demonstrations — the president’s utter ignorance about propriety.

This tumult is far from over. My hope — certainly not my expectation — would be for the president of the United States to settle down and to let this massive apparatus called the “federal government” do what it’s designed to do.

It has a lot of moving parts and some of those parts now must find the truth behind whether the president’s campaign did anything illegal by negotiating with a government that our nation’s spy network says tried to influence a presidential election.