Supporters of Russiagate, endeavouring to find some material in former FBI Director Comey’s essentially empty testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, seem to have convinced themselves that certain comments of Comey’s somehow pointed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions being in some way implicated in the scandal.
I am unable to see why. Whilst I did get the impression from Comey’s testimony that he and Sessions didn’t think much of each other, I couldn’t see anything in what Comey said that suggested that Sessions might be a person of interest either to the Russiagate inquiry or to anyone else or that his role in Comey’s own sacking was any greater than had been disclosed previously.
Nonetheless the conviction that Sessions is hiding some dark and sinister secret appears to have taken root, which doubtless explains why he was asked to give testimony today.
In the event Sessions’s testimony turned out to be an exercise in total pointlessness.
He denied – obviously – that he had engaged in any collusion with the Russians. He gave his own brief account of his apparently somewhat tetchy encounter with Russian ambassador Kislyak in his own office. He gave no information about the Russiagate inquiry, pointing out – correctly – that he had recused himself from it. He also pointed out – as we now know, also correctly – that he recused himself not because he had done anything wrong – for example by meeting ambassador Kislyak – but because of his role in the Trump campaign, which the Russiagate inquiry is investigating.
Sessions did make some entirely valid criticisms of former FBI Director Comey. He not only made it clear that he agrees with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein that Comey had to go, but he also confirmed what everyone already knew, which is that the President was unhappy with Comey as well.
Sessions’s most important point about Comey was however the absolutely correct one – which no-one to my knowledge has made previously – which is that if the President was unwise to discuss the Russiagate inquiry with Comey then Comey was completely wrong to discuss the Russiagate inquiry with the President without first getting permission from his superiors in the Justice Department.
Last but not least Sessions repeatedly declined to discuss his private conversations with the President. Much is being made of this, but as a serving officer of the government he is absolutely right to refuse to do so.
The anger and frustration of the partisans of Russiagate with the non-event which was Sessions’s testimony was obvious on the part of the members of the Committee who questioned him, and is all over the media. Anthony Zurcher for the BBC – a news organisation which has fallen completely behind the Russiagate claims – is fairly typical, calling Sessions “evasive and fuzzy”.
Some Russiagate partisans have gone further, treating Sessions’s absolutely proper refusal to disclose details of his private discussions with the President practically as an admission that something improper took place. As to that, I have repeatedly warned against the logical fallacy of construing a positive from a negative, and this is just one more example of that.
In reality it is difficult to understand why anyone thought Sessions’s testimony would result in any disclosures. That Sessions is not himself the subject of investigation as part of the Russiagate inquiry is universally known. That Sessions, since he has recused himself, has no role in the Russiagate inquiry, is also universally known. That Sessions would refuse to discuss his private conversations with the President – be it on the subject of Comey’s dismissal or any other matter – should have been anticipated.
I cannot see what the point of calling Sessions to give testimony was, and the fact he was called to give testimony is a further sign of the emptiness of the whole Russiagate affair.