The Attorney General should resign – whether he’s guilty or not. Here’s why.
By now you have probably read a good bit about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether or not he unlawfully met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the 2016 Presidential election. There is a great deal of lawyering on the horizon, but for the moment here’s what we need to understand.
In his confirmation hearing Sessions was asked directly about contact with the Russians by himself or the Trump campaign. At that moment, there were a couple of ways to answer.
If his goal were transparency, he’d answer something like this:
“Senator, I met with Ambassador Kislyak on [date]. We discussed [X, Y, Z] in my official capacity as US Senator. At no point, however, did we discuss the campaign, nor am I aware of anyone else from the campaign meeting with the ambassador or any other member of the Russian government.”
This, of course, assumes he is telling the truth.
However, if Sessions’ purpose were obfuscation, he’d answer … well, pretty much exactly the way he did.
Let’s be straight about this: if the AG had wanted to clarify and assure that the Senate knew what he was up to, he could have done so easily. He’s not a rookie, either. Only the most naive among us could possibly believe that simply messed up the answer. He said what he did deliberately and for a reason.
As we all know, one of the best ways to make people wonder if you’re up to no good is to act like you’re up to no good. No, suspicious behavior doesn’t mean you’re guilty. However, when you’re the Attorney General the bar for your conduct is exceptionally high because trustworthiness is essential in fostering public faith in the legal process. Even if you’re innocent, your ability to be effective in the job hinges on the appearance of integrity. Although nothing we know so far proves Sessions has committed a crime, it isn’t our fault that we’re curious and that curiosity is meaningful and significant to the Attorney General’s ability to perform the job credibility.
At the very minimum, Sessions needs to removed from all investigations into possible Russian attempts to influence our elections and policy (and he did recuse himself this afternoon). However, those who are calling on him to resign are justified in doing so whether he’s guilty or not. For the moment, the issue is less whether he helped the Russians rig an election and more that his willingness to mislead Congress makes it impossible for him to approach his new job with the full confidence of the American people (or, apparently, even the support of his party, which is legendary for its willingness to close ranks around anyone on the red team, no matter what they’ve done).
When the subject in question is a possible dalliance with foreign powers trying to fix an election (I’m not a lawyer, but that one certainly lives in the same neighborhood as treason proper), obfuscatory behavior of any sort whatsoever is intolerable, especially when the person in question is a US senator (and now the AG). In a case like this, nothing short of aboveboard transparency is acceptable, and the slightest whiff of malfeasance is enough to disqualify the accused from the job.
Right now, any clear-thinking citizen has to be thinking two things. 1: We’re not sure if Sessions did anything wrong, but we have every reason in the world to be suspicious and investigate. And 2: We no longer have confidence in his integrity because he acted in a way that was deliberately obfuscatory.
For many of us, that’s enough. Jeff Sessions should resign immediately