Donald Trump and his administration have been constantly in the news, making it difficult to keep track of all the different players and their scandals. So, in the spirit of law, let’s check in on one of those players: newly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Q: Why has Jeff Sessions been in the news?
A: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was accused of past racism before his confirmation hearing, then was accused of lying under oath about his contacts with the Russian ambassador at that hearing.
Q: Wow, that’s quite the full name. Why was he accused of racism?
A: For starters, Jefferson comes from Jefferson Davis—first and only President of the Confederate States of America—and P. G. T. Beauregard was a Confederate general. Obviously, people don’t choose their birth-names, and a Confederately coloured name is not itself evidence of racism. However, Sessions has a record of discrimination from his time as a US attorney in Alabama, where he unsuccessfully prosecuted three African-American community organizers for voter fraud in 1985. Then, in 1986, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sessions for a federal judgeship, a position voted on by the Senate; unfortunately for Sessions, he was voted down by the Senate Judiciary Committee—only the second person in forty-eight years to have that dishonour. The reasons he was voted down included that 1985 prosecution, the discovery of flattering quotes he had made about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and an unflattering instance of calling an African-American attorney “boy.” Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., personally wrote a letter to Congress advocating against his nomination.
Q: What were the flattering quotes about the KKK?
A: Sessions once said that he thought the KKK was “okay, until I found out they smoked pot.” Jeff Sessions is fine with racism, but he is against marijuana. As Attorney General, he has promised harsher enforcement of drug laws.
Q: What is the job of the Attorney General?
A: As the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions is the head of the Department of Justice as well as the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer of the United States government.
Q: What happened with Jeff Sessions and Russia?
A: During his confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked what he would do if he learned that members of the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. He responded, “I’m not aware of any of these activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” Subsequently, the Washington Post broke the story that Jeff Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador in 2016. Sessions claims that he was not lying because he did not speak with the ambassador about the campaign. At best, Sessions was being somewhat deceptive. At worst, he lied under oath.
Q: Isn’t lying under oath a crime?
A: Yes, but as the head lawyer of the country, I am certain no one will be prosecuting Jeff Sessions anytime soon. In response to the story, Sessions recused himself from any investigation of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. His stated explanation was that, as a prominent surrogate of the Trump campaign, he would not have the appearance of impartiality. That probably means he should have recused himself for the beginning.
Q: Who oversees any investigation of Trump and Russia then?
A: Dana Boente, the Deputy Attorney General. His bosses are Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. I am sure he will be impartial.
Q: So, the Attorney General is a known racist who may have lied under oath?
A: Yes, but at least he will aggressively prosecute people for smoking weed.