Atlas holding up the world, at Collins Street, Melbourne
by Mary Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Since I happen to be a Republican candidate looking to fill the very seat left in the US Senate by Jeff Sessions’ 2017 appointment as US Attorney General, you may expect that I will go easy on him. I have been watching the Congressional Committee grill him this afternoon, and I suppose if he did a mediocre job I’d go a bit easy on him in reporting the event, out of sentiment.
However, it turns out that there was no need for bias. Attorney General Sessions — who is properly addressed as “General” — did a superlative job. I sure do feel more secure about America, knowing that there is at least one man in Washington who has old-school discipline. Actually there’s more than one; at least two Congresspersons offered very intelligent commentary during the hearing. Another two or three behaved like absolute nincompoops. Not mentioning any names Mr Wyden and Mr King.
In case you really don’t want to put your time into this, I am going to state the bottom line first.
The Verdict on Comey
The bottom line is that FBI Director James Comey had to go because he had publicly announced, on July 5, 2016, that he was declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton over some emails (not the Pizzagate ones, something else).
Isn’t that politically normal? Aha, if you think “Yes, it’s normal for a member of the Justice department to favour — or disfavour — someone on party lines or whatever,” you have been propagandized by a half-century of media telling you it’s normal.
But wait. That is not exactly why he had to go. Comey, as head of FBI, was never in his rights to say that a person-of-interest would be let off the hook. That’s the prosecutor’s job and today Jeff Sessions characterized it as a stunning deviation from correct practice – a veritable usurpation of the prerogative of the Prosecutor.
By the way, we all learned a new word re Comey’s declining to prosecute Hillary. It was called “the declination.” I dare say the bottom line of today’s hearing could be called The Declination. Maybe it will catch on, on History’s page, like Gough Whitlam’s “the Dismissal.
The Russian Interference
And now one more bottom line – as to whether Jeff Sessions had any collusion with members of the Russian government “or even any Russian businessman” as to a foreign influence on the 2016 presidential election. The verdict is Not Guilty. “He wasn’t even at Port Arthur that day,” if you know what I mean.
Much was said about the meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Indeed, if the walls of the Mayflower have ears, and I’m sure they do, they have heard mountains of evidence for skulduggery. But Jeff Sessions must be a rather boring fellow. He lacks a flair for skulduggery. I had already heard, from three — count ‘em, three — taxi drivers in Alabama that Sessions is a man of integrity. Now we hear that the meeting at the Mayflower Hotel was open and attended by around 30 people.
A Wall of Stone — Not
A few of the committee members today tried to get Jeff to say he had spoken to the Ruski’s that day at the Mayflower, but they all went down in defeat. They also tried to say he was avoiding questions but he clearly was not. He lost his temper at one point when some clown accused him of stonewalling. Another clown pelted him with questions very fast and Jeff said “You’re making me nervous.” The Chairman had to intervene to give Jeff a chance to state his answers.
What do you bet the overlords instructed the clowns to do what they did so certain media persons could have, as “take-aways,” the phrases “Sessions said he was nervous” and “Sessions was accused of stonewalling.” (My late Dad, a linguistics scholar, was very taken with the word “stonewalling” when it came up in the Watergate hearings. Dad also thought “limited hangout” was linguistically fabulous.)
So What’s with the Recusal?
As a candidate I was asked last week, by the MSM, what I thought of Jeff Sessions’ threat to resign. I said – and they actually published it – that it would be “a catastrophe for justice.” But I also said, at that time, that maybe his recusal was not a good idea. However, on Capitol Hill today, Jeff set the record right by reading out the federal guidelines for all politicians who are involved in an election campaign. They must recuse themselves from the investigation of their behaviour.
Thus, his decision to recuse – which looked pretty suspicious even to moi, had nothing to do with Comey or Hillary. But it did involve the fact that President Trump was being accused of the Russian thing. Since Sessions had been assisting in Trump’s campaign for much of 2016, any wrongdoing by Trump would seem to be contagious to the AG, and thus a recusal could be a way to avoid questions.
I can say after the grilling today that Jeff is not an avoider of questions. He answered each one straight-on. Frequently a griller said “You are invoking executive privilege.” Each time Jeff said “No, only the president has executive privilege.” “Then why won’t you tell us what you and Trump conversed about?” “It is traditional for Cabinet members to not reveal private conversations with the president – he needs their advice.”
I recall Cheney allowing himself to suppress documents by energy moguls, despite environmentalists saying they should be open. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club took Cheney to court in 2004 and lost. Two amazing aspects of the case were that Justice Scalia refused to recuse despite his having been on a hunting trip (or was it a “hunting” trip) with the VP. And, to my horror, the Solicitor General of the US represented Cheney.
I feel that the Solicitor General should go to court to represent the United States, and who is to say the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch are not the United States? More so than Mr Halliburton. Let me hold forth on that some other day. Indeed, at the Sessions hearings it was not claimed outright that the Attorney General is the legal advisor of the president. We need to discuss the entire set-up of the DoJ. (Do you know they are specifically tasked with enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? But their Sherman prosecutors are about as busy as the Maytag repairman.)
A few bits came out today that are worth a mention:
— There are 35,000 employees of the DoJ. Whew!
— And the FBI budget is $8 billion – or something like that.
— Russia can disrupt US power grids “as they did to the Ukraine in 2015.”
— President Trump, on TV, said of Comey “The pressure’s off, I got rid of that nutter.”
— Since 2012 it has been clear policy that “the timing” of a prosecution, to advantage or disadvantage a political candidate – is verboten.
— When asked “Does the president have written records of these things and if so would he be obligated to present them to us,” Jeff said “I think so.”
I must ask Professor Louis Fisher about that. He was for many years Congress’ advisor on the separation of powers.
At one point a Congress person said to Jeff “It is nice to see your wife here today supporting you as always.” Sessions replied “Yes, I am blessed in that.” Did I cry? Well, no, I was so busy scribbling down all that was said, but now that I have time I am enjoying a few sniffles.
It was a great day for Washington, best we’ve had in years — although as I have said Melania’s blue dress at the Inauguration was mighty fine. And just to prove that I can be bipartisan, Michele Obama’s green leather gloves at the 2009 Inauguration were awesome, too.
This was a bit different in that it involved checks and balances right out of Montesquieu’s playbook. I love that stuff. And it involved personal strength. I really, really love that stuff.
I’ve decided to christen our new attorney general “Atlas.”
–Mary Maxwell hopes you will check out her charming website MaxwellForSenate.com