WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Capitol Hill today “there couldn’t be a starker difference” between requests for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescue himself from Russia investigations and not calling for former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to rescue herself from investigations into Hillary Clinton after meeting President Clinton on a Phoenix tarmac before the election.
“Attorney General Lynch had a social encounter — serendipitous, some might say, but — when former president of the United States came by to say hello and they discussed their grandchildren. She did not have a major role in the Hillary Clinton campaign,” Pelosi said. “This is a completely different thing.”
“The reason we have been saying that the Attorney General Sessions should step aside and maybe should never have been confirmed is because he was a surrogate. He was a very important part, one of the first people in the Congress to endorse President Trump,” she added. “And now we see that he has not told the truth about it; had conversations with a Russian official, which why didn’t he — if they were innocuous, why didn’t he admit it instead of lying about it?”
“So this couldn’t be more stark in terms of relationship to the campaign and who the attorney general was speaking to. No, they’re completely different, day and night.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions spoke twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential campaign when he was a surrogate and an adviser to Trump, once in his office and once at a Heritage Foundation event at the Republican National Convention. Twenty of the 26 other lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Sessions was a member, told the paper they did not meet with Kislyak last year.
During his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Sessions what he would do as attorney general if he learned of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied, adding, “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
In written questions submitted by the Judiciary Committee for Sessions to answer, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) asked, “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Sessions replied, “No.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) this morning suggested jail time for Sessions, tweeting, “Perjury is a felony and may be punishable by prison for up to five years.”
Pelosi was asked if that was going too far. “Well, an investigation would show that. But the law has been broken,” she replied. “And what he was stating was fact, that perjury is a crime and there are consequences to it. It remains to be seen what the investigation — what else the investigation will lead to. But perjury by an ordinary citizen is punishable in the courts. How much enhanced is that accountability for the top law enforcement person in our country? So, let’s see an investigation.”
“I don’t know what problem the Republicans have with the truth,” Pelosi added. “They don’t want to know the truth about the Russian connection. They don’t want to tell the truth about their affordable care bill that they have hidden in the basement someplace. They reject the idea that remove this from Congress; we’ll have an independent commission outside the Congress look into the Russian connection, which are about hacking and undermining our democratic system. We should have that even if Hillary Clinton had won the White House.”
Sessions said in a statement last night, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), at his own Hill press conference, told reporters he hadn’t read the transcript of Sessions’ Judiciary testimony.
“Should he recuse himself? I think he answered that question this morning, which is if he himself is the subject of an investigation, of course he would. But if he’s not, I don’t see any purpose or reason to doing this,” Ryan said. “…We have seen no evidence — been presented with no evidence that anybody on the Trump campaign on an American was involved in colluding with the Russians.”
“I think Democrats are lighting their hair on fire to get you to cover this story that kind of keeps repeating the same story. I think they’re trying to get this coverage going. There’s nothing new that we have seen here,” he added. “This is stuff we’ve been going over and by the way, we’re going to make sure that we leave no stone unturned and that is why our intelligence committees are conducting the investigations and that’s where they should be conducted. Because you had to protect your sources and methods of intelligence gathering which is why we have intelligence communities in the first place.”
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