Jeff Sessions Is Suddenly In Danger Of Being Indicted
On Monday, the report of a money-laundering indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, Paul Manafort and campaign aide Rick Gates, as well as guilty plea deal by campaign advisor, George Papadopoulos, dropped like a nuclear bomb, sending a shockwave of fear across Trumpland.
Everyone close to Trump is concerned, and rightfully so, as the charges may involve other Trump officials not named explicitly in either indictment, particularly Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Following the announcement of the indictment, Trump hastily invited Sessions to “lunch” behind closed doors at the White House. It’s likely the two men discussed their nex strategy to contain the special counsel probe that has loomed over his presidency for months.
Sessions has repeatedly testified to the Senate that he knows nothing about any collusion with the Russians. But the Papadopoulos plea shows that Sessions — then acting as Trump’s top foreign policy adviser — was in a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump, at which Papadopoulos explained “he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”
The unsealed indictment also shows that Papadopoulos kept a number of campaign officials in the loop on his efforts to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin, though they secretly determined that the meeting “should be someone low level in the campaign so as not to send any signal,” itself a sign the campaign was trying to hide its efforts to collude with the Russians.
On April 26, 2016, Papadopoulos learned, that the Russians “have dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” A key part of Papadopoulos’s cooperation must pertain to what he told the Trump campaign about these emails.
That suggests the campaign knew, a month before Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Clinton, that the Russians had already told Papadopoulos about dirt in thousands of stolen emails.
Let’s be clear, Papadopoulos’s plea perhaps hurts Trump the most. After all, Trump was in the March 31 meeting too, along with Sessions. And Trump personally intervened in the White House spin about the June 9, 2016, meeting, pushing the line — and the lie — that it pertained to adoptions rather than obtaining dirt on Clinton.
But unlike Trump, Sessions’s claims about such meetings came in sworn testimony to the Senate. During his confirmation process, Sessions was asked a key question by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.: “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?”
“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”
The question, however, was about Sessions’s knowledge of such communications, and we now know he was in a meeting in which they were discussed.
More recently, during a Senate hearing on October 18, Sen. Franken asked Sessions: “You don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians?”
“I did not — and I’m not aware of anyone else that did. I don’t believe that it happened,” said the attorney general whose own department had, two weeks earlier, already gotten a guilty plea from a campaign surrogate describing such discussions with Russians.
The questioning by Sen. Franken yielded several responses that make Sessions vulnerable to prosecution: He initially denied categorically meeting with Russians during the campaign, but was forced to walk that back when it emerged he had met at least twice with then-Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He then claimed that the meetings had focused purely on foreign affairs and his senatorial duties, a claim rebutted by Kislyak himself, who told his superiors that he spoke with Sessions about the 2016 campaign.
Lock him up?