Jason Chaffetz has announced on Twitter (where all the Big Announcements from politicians happen these days) that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
This seems like a sensible position. (Indeed, Sessions has already offered to recuse himself “whenever it’s appropriate.”) Let’s put it in context.
The Sessions story, which Democrats and Big Media (but I repeat myself) are treating as The Big News of the Day, is a rather nothingburger flap over Jeff Sessions’s meetings with a Russian ambassador during the campaign. These meetings have caused Democrats to go into a tizzy and scream and yell and demand that Sessions resign. I am on record as of last night as saying that the story is much ado about nothing, and that Sessions did not commit perjury. Al Franken’s question was: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?” That is a question directed at Sessions’s contacts as a Trump campaign official, not as a member of the Armed Services Committee. Session’s answer is not perjury and Democrats need to calm down.
That said, Chaffetz’s call for recusal and clarification is not a bad idea. Sessions’s answer was far too categorical and unqualified: “I’ve been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.” Well, he did meet with the Russian ambassador, and it appears that of the other members of the committee who responded to a Washington Post inquiry (not all responded), nobody else said they had met with the Russian ambassador. As Tom Maguire noted on Twitter, that ambassador had a reason to meet with all Trump’s surrogates, including Sessions — but not necessarily with other committee members.
The bottom line is that there is no evidence Sessions met with the ambassador as a member of Trump’s campaign — but the wording of his answer was inexact. Rather than digging in his heels, he should indeed clarify his statement, and should recuse himself from inquiries into contacts between the Russians and Trump campaign officials. This doesn’t mean he needs to resign or that he perjured himself — just that he needs to hold himself to a high ethical standard — and be more careful about how he answers questions in the future.