We get it. Presidential campaigns are a blur. One day you're kissing babies in an Iowa cornfield, the next you're working the spin room at a Las Vegas debate. Who among us can remember every hand shaken, every appointment kept, every 30-year-old underling plotting a backroom conversation with Vladimir Putin to acquire dirt on a political opponent?
Certainly not Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Since his confirmation hearing in January, the former Alabama senator has faced dozens of hours of questioning under oath about the recent particulars of his career, his work as a surrogate on the Trump campaign, and his knowledge of any interactions between Trump campaign staffers and Russian operatives. Along the way, some fairly crucial details seem to have slipped his mind.
During this week's House Judiciary Committee hearing, the attorney general's peculiarly porous memory inspired much frustration among members of Congress eager to pin Sessions down on critical facts relating to Russian efforts to tamper with the 2016 election. In his questioning, representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York noted that over the course of three hearings, Sessions had said "I don't recall," in some form, upwards of 85 times.
Some of that count includes duplicates, cases where Sessions answered the same question two or more times. But we checked the record and found 47 distinct instances in which Sessions conveniently drew a blank, including occasions where his answers changed slightly. Funny how that happens. Here's everything Jeff Sessions has forgotten under oath this year, along with some especially baffling direct quotes:
Senate Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearing
January 10, 2017
1. Why he voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which extended the statute of limitations on pay discrimination cases.
2. Whether he remembers why the Lilly Ledbetter Act extended the statute of limitations; women often don't know they're experiencing pay discrimination until long after they receive their first paycheck. ("My memory is not that good.")
3. Whether he personally handled three voting rights cases, which he listed among the 10 most significant litigated matters he’d personally handled, despite three attorneys stating that he had no “substantive involvement" in them. ("Well, look, it was 30 years ago. And my memory was of this nature, and my memory was my support for those cases.")
4. Whether Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government had a continuing exchange of information during the campaign (they did!).
Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing
June 13, 2017
5. Whether he spoke to Russian officials during an event at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. ("I did not have any private meetings, nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower hotel.")
6. Whether he interacted with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in passing.
7. Whether he remembers Kislyak being at the Mayflower Hotel.
8. Whether he remembers having a conversation with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel.
9. Whether he met with any other government officials in his capacity as a campaign surrogate. ("No. I've racked my brain to make sure I could answer those questions correctly and I did not. I would just offer for you that the—when asked about whether I had any meetings with Russians by the reporter in March, we immediately recalled the conversation and the encounter I had at the convention and the meeting in my office and made that public. I never intended not to include that. I would have gladly have reported the meeting and encounter that may have occurred and some say occurred in the Mayflower if I had remembered it or if it actually occurred, which I don't remember that it did.")
10. Whether he remembers when Jared Kushner met with Kislyak.
11. Whether he had conversations with Kislyak (again). ("I don't recall that, senator. Certainly I can assure you nothing improper if I had a conversation with him. It's conceivable, but I don't remember it.")
12. Whether he had anything in his notes or memory that might help correct the record. ("I guess I can say that I possibly had a meeting, but I still do not recall it. I did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony or in my subsequent letter intentionally false.")
13. Whether he remembers a February 14 New York Times article alleging repeated communications between the Trump campaign and Russians.
14. Whether he intentionally lingered before exiting the Oval Office, leaving then-FBI director James Comey alone with President Trump, who asked Comey to drop the investigation into General Michael Flynn, as reported by The New York Times.
15. Whether he ever spoke to anyone from another country, who, in hindsight, feels suspicious now.
16. Whether he knows who changed the Republican platform to deny Ukraine defensive weapons, or has any recollection of a debate over that issue.
17. Whether he had any discussions or meetings related to removing sanctions against Russia.
18. Whether he and the President had any discussions about what the Russians tried to accomplish during the presidential election, and whether they had succeeded. ("I don't recall any such conversations. I'm not sure I understood your question. Maybe I better listen again.")
19. Whether, as a member of the national security team, he remembers any discussions about concerns over Russian interference in the election.
20. Whether he had any other meetings with Russian officials that have not been previously disclosed. ("I've racked my brain and I do not believe so…I can assure you that none of those meetings discussed manipulating the campaign or the United States in any way, shape, or form, or any hacking or any such ideas.")
21. Whether there were any other meetings between Russian government officials and Trump campaign associates that had not been previously disclosed (there were!).
22. Whether Michael Flynn ever met with Russian officials during the campaign.
23. Whether Reince Priebus ever met with Russian officials during the campaign.
24. Whether Steven Miller ever met with Russian officials during the campaign.
25. Whether Corey Lewandowski ever met with Russian officials during the campaign.
26. Whether Carter Page ever met with Russian officials during the campaign. ("I don’t know… There may have been some published accounts of Mr. Page talking with Russians, I'm not sure. I don't recall though.")
27. Whether he had any communications with Russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed.
28. Whether he’s aware of any other Trump campaign officials and associates having any communication with Russian officials or Russian nationals. ("I don’t recall that…at this moment.")
29. Whether in his meeting with Kislyak, Sessions raised the question of Russia’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad.
30. Whether, in that same meeting, he raised the issue of Russia’s interference in our electoral process.
31. Whether, as chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, he raised any Russia-related security issues with Kislyak.
32. What Kislyak wanted to discuss in that meeting in the first place. ("I don’t recall.")
Oversight hearing with Senate Judiciary Committee
October 18, 2017
33. Whether he discussed literally anything about emails with Russian officials.
34. Whether he discussed any policies of the Trump presidency with Russian officials. ("I met with 26 ambassadors in the last year and [Kislyak] was one of them. He came into my office with two of my senior defense specialists and met with me for a while, and I don’t recall any conversation about…what was this last subject?")
35. Whether the Special Counsel has contacted him regarding an interview.
36. Whether there was a formal process behind President Trump's decision to pardon Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. ("I am not personally at this moment prepared to give you an accurate answer, because I don’t know that I remember or know it precisely.")
37. Whether any other president has ever personally interviewed a state attorney general candidate, besides Trump doing so for New York.
38. Whether he was involved in the decision to dismiss all of the US attorneys without any warning. ("I can’t believe I can’t remember that.")
Oversight Hearing With House Judiciary Committee
November 14, 2017
39. A second shot at his his October 18 testimony, stating he had no knowledge of Trump campaign officials having conversations with Russians or foreign officials. Both George Papadopoulos and Carter Page have since testified that they told Sessions about their contacts with Russians. ("When I was asked in October about the matter—did I have any knowledge of anyone who had talked to the Russians?— I indicated that I had not recalled that meeting when that occurred, but I would have been pleased to respond and explain it if I’d recalled it.")
40. Whether he talked to George Papadapoulos and Carter Page about engaging with Russia. ("I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at the Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting.")
41. Whether anyone else, including Trump, reacted to George Papadopoulos’s request to engage with the Kremlin.
42. Whether he communicated with anyone in the campaign about the same after the March 31 meeting.
43. Whether he ever discussed Papadopoulos’s effort with any members of Congress. ("I don’t recall at this moment sitting here any such discussions.")
44. Whether he discussed any changes to the Republican platform with General Michael Flynn at any point during the campaign.
45. Whether Carter Page told him he was going to Moscow at a June 30 meeting at the Capitol Hill Club. ("I don’t recall that conversation, but I’m not able to dispute it.")
46. Why James Comey was allowed to confirm the existence of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation on March 20, 2017.
47. Whether he told Carter Page he shouldn’t go to Russia.
So there you go! One hopes, given the apparent fog of the campaign, that Sessions has since invested in a notebook, or perhaps a day planner, heck, even an intern, to record these kinds of details going forward.
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