A former prosecutor and longtime politician like Jeff Sessions should know a basic truth of ongoing Washington scandals: It’s better to tell everything you know all at once rather than letting a slow drip, drip, drip of information derail anything else on your agenda.
The latest drip landed with a crashing thud late Wednesday when The Washington Post reported that Attorney General Sessions met with a top Russian diplomat twice during the 2016 presidential election. During his confirmation process to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Sessions failed to disclose those contacts when asked about allegations of interactions between Trump campaigners and members of the Russian government.
At a Judiciary Committee hearing with Sessions on Jan. 10, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., asked the nominee what he would do if presented with allegations that Trump surrogates had contacts with Russians during the campaign.
Sessions said, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Through a spokeswoman, Sessions this week said he’s done nothing wrong. “There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer” to Sen. Franken, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur said.
Sessions’ lack of honest disclosure when pressed by U.S. senators is serious. It damages the credibility of the man who now oversees the U.S. Justice Department, an institution that places a premium on its employees’ integrity.
What’s worse is the larger scandal at play. It’s one that includes a Russian government that used cyberespionage to tip the presidential election in Trump’s favor. It also includes multiple contacts between representatives of the Russian government and members of Team Trump.
In February, Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, lost his job after news reports detailed conversations he had in December with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The two talked about sanctions President Barack Obama had just placed on Russia, according to multiple published accounts.
Now we learn of two contacts — one in July and another in September — between Ambassador Kislyak and Sessions, a key member of Trump’s 2016 campaign and at the time a U.S. senator from Alabama. Sessions did the right thing Thursday by recusing himself from an official probe into contacts between Trump officials and Russia.
However, a recusal is not a full recounting of the who, what, when and where of this brewing scandal. Does anyone seriously believe this is the last we’ll hear of allegations of other contacts between Trump surrogates and Russians?
Don’t count on it.
Yet, this has been the White House strategy so far. Insult reporters, call their reporting “fake news” and attempt to move on as if everything is just peachy. Yet, the drips keep on coming.