“Lack of candor.”
That’s one of the reasons that Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to justify his decision to fire former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe last week, just two days before Mr. McCabe was set to retire from a distinguished 21-year career with the Bureau. Ironic, because, as you may recall, Jeff Sessions has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of candor – under oath – about his own interactions with Russians.
During his confirmation hearing, I alerted then-Senator Sessions to a breaking report from CNN that there had been an ongoing exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Russians. When I asked him what he would do as Attorney General if those reports were true, Mr. Sessions decided to answer a different question:
SESSIONS: “Senator Franken, I am not aware of any of those activities. 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.”
That turned out to be false. Then-Senator Sessions had, in fact, met with Russian ambassador Kislyak at least three times during the 2016 campaign.
What Al ‘candor’ Franken never gets around to saying is that two of these meetings happened in groups with lots of other people around. Sessions met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at an event on the sidelines of the GOP convention. From Business Insider:
A spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation told Business Insider in an email that Sessions provided a keynote address at a defense and national-security luncheon attended by roughly 100 individuals. The spokesperson said, “I believe he was speaking as a senator on Armed Services” during his address, not as a Trump campaign surrogate.
As The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, a spokesperson for Sessions said the appearance was in his capacity as a senator and not as a campaign official. The spokesperson added that Sessions was approached following the speech by several ambassadors, including Kislyak, with whom he held a “short and informal” conversation.
Another one of the meetings Franken is referring to is a foreign policy speech given by Donald Trump at the Mayflower Hotel. Both Sessions and Ambassador Kislyak were in attendance along with dozens of other people. Sessions later said he may have spoken to Kislyak but didn’t recall it. Sessions did have one meeting with Kislyak at his office but claims that was in his role as Senator, not as Trump surrogate. In any case, all of this is just a set up so Franken can get to his main point which is to suggest the firing of Andrew McCabe was a nefarious act of retaliation:
That the attorney general would fire the man who was tasked with investigating him raises serious questions about whether retaliation or retribution motivated his decision. It also raises serious questions about his supposed recusal from all matters stemming from the 2016 campaign. But the fact that Attorney General Sessions would claim that a “lack of candor” justified Mr. McCabe’s termination is hypocrisy at its worst.
Again, Franken leaves out the important part. McCabe’s firing wasn’t a decision made out of the blue by Jeff Sessions. The Inspector General reportedly found convincing evidence that McCabe had lied about some media leaks, including under oath. The Office of Professional Responsibility looked at those allegations and recommended McCabe be fired. Jeff Sessions went along with those recommendations.
Now it’s possible that the IG’s findings are somehow overblown. We don’t know because they haven’t been released yet. And I suppose it’s also possible the Office of Professional Responsibility reached a bad conclusion somehow. But again, Franken isn’t really saying any of that. He doesn’t even mention it. He writes as if Jeff Sessions made this decision on his own with no real reason other than some sort of revenge.
Franken also fails to mention a couple of other relevant facts. First that the investigation into AG Sessions was closed a couple months ago. Second, that Sessions was unaware of the investigation when he made the decision to fire McCabe. It’s almost as if ex-Senator Franken isn’t interested in presenting a complete picture of what happened here. You could even call it a lack of candor with his readers.