The Slatest

Jeff Sessions: It’s Offensive to Expect Me to Remember Things During Sworn Congressional Testimony

Jeff Sessions at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. One of the top issues at hand was an Oct. 18 statement he made to a Senate committee:

Sen. Al Franken: You don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians?

Jeff Sessions: I did not—and I’m not aware of anyone else that did. I don’t believe that it happened.

It’s since become public knowledge that a Trump surrogate/adviser named George Papadopoulos had extensive communications with representatives of Russia—and that Papadopoulos in fact discussed those contacts at a March 2016 meeting chaired by Jeff Sessions. The Trump campaign even promoted a picture of it!

(Sessions is at the head of the table. Papadopoulos is seated two spots away from him to his left.)

Sessions came prepared on Tuesday to discuss the contradiction between his statement that he didn’t believe there was any campaign contact with Russia and the reality that he’d led a meeting at which such contact was spoken about openly. His excuse? It’s hard to remember things:

[The Trump campaign] was a form of chaos every day from day one. We traveled all the time, sometimes to several places in one day. Sleep was in short supply. And I was still a full-time senator keeping a very full schedule during this time. During this year, I have spent close to 20 hours testifying before Congress before today. I have been asked to remember details from a year ago, such as who I saw on what day, in what meeting, and who said what when.

In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory.

He was sleepy, folks! Here’s what Sessions said in particular about Papadopoulos:

Frankly, I had no recollection of this until I saw these news reports. I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said during that meeting.

On the theory that the best defense is a good offense, Sessions went a step further and said that he was insulted and outraged that anyone would suggest he’d been less than honest when he said he was not aware of any Russia-Trump contact:

I would like to address the false charges made about my previous testimony. My answers have never changed. I have always told the truth, and I have answered every question as I understood them and to the best of my recollection, as I will continue to do today. … In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory. But I will not accept, and reject, accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.

Suggesting that Sessions lied is itself a lie, he’s saying. But what if the Democratic legislators who made that insinuation were sleepy too? They are, after all, full-time representatives keeping very full schedules. Really, how can anyone who has a job and/or is tired be expected to ever speak accurately about anything at all?