In an often-contentious Tuesday hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, an indignant Attorney General Jeff Sessions made clear that he was upset that allegations that he knew of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives during the election were impugning his “honor.” But in nearly three hours of testimony, he failed to answer many of the key questions that prompted the panel to invite him to testify in open session.
The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up Moore v. Harper set off alarms across the election law world. The case offers a dramatic reimagining of the balance of powers at the state and federal level. And, importantly, the legal theory at the heart of the case shares considerable DNA with the animating theory that Trump and his cronies drew on as they sought to get the courts to overturn the 2020 election.
Earlier today we heard from TPM Reader JR in Illinois who was sad and dejected after hearing mealymouthed answers from the offices of Senators Durbin and Duckworth about whether they were prepared both to pass a Roe bill and change the filibuster rules to give it an up or down vote. Now we just heard from TPM Reader FH who got a fundraising email from “Dick Durbin” (I use the scare quotes whenever referring to a pol’s online fundraising alter ego) in which he asks FH if he can “count on your support before our midnight deadline” for his fight for reproductive rights.
Then he announces the hearing (emphasis added): “Simply put, I’m doing everything I can to fight back. I’m leading the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing about this SCOTUS decision next month and I’m still fighting tooth and nail to protect reproductive rights at the federal level.”
I want to thank everyone who’s contributed to the TPM Journalism Fund over the last 24 hours and over the last couple weeks. When we started this drive I was … well, I hesitate to say ‘skeptical’ that we’d reach our goal but I thought we had our work cut out for us. We’re now increasingly confident we’ll get there. But the last leg of the race is always the most challenging. Yesterday we started at $150,000, 3/4 of the way to our goal. We’re starting today just
over $170,000 over $180,000. That’s a big jump in 24 36 hours, especially when we’ve been at it for two weeks. Again, we all really appreciate it. Big things ahead. If you’d like to contribute, just click right here.
TPM Reader NL chimes in from Virginia …
I just called the DC offices of my Senators — Warner and Kaine. I asked the staffers whether the Senators supported suspending the filibuster to codify abortion rights.
Warner’s office said that the Senator supports legislation to codify abortion rights but that he does not have a position on the suspending the filibuster for it. Kaine’s office was similar, except that Kaine’s position is that he supports a rule change to reinstate the talking filibuster.
A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the latest Jan. 6 committee hearing and the Supreme Court’s decision ending the constitutional right to an abortion.
You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.
From TPM Reader JR …
Hi, Illinois reader here.
I just called the DC offices of Senators Durbin and Duckworth. Both liberal stalwarts, obviously, but neither staffer showed particular awareness of the question of whether the filibuster will need to be suspended to enact abortion protections.
Neither seemed clear on any kind of promise that the Senate would do something concrete if people vote in the Fall.
Over the last couple weeks I’d shared reports from TPM Readers struggling to get a response from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire on whether she supports making Roe law and changing the filibuster rules to allow that bill to get a straight up or down vote. This morning I chatted with Shaheen’s Communications Director Sarah Weinstein who confirmed to me that Shaheen not only supports making Roe federal law (which she and 48 other Democrats attempted to do a few weeks ago) but also “supports amending the filibuster rules so a bill to codify Roe could pass by simple majority.”
The term ends.
Stephen Breyer retires.
Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as his replacement.
But before all that, the last big case TPM cares about will be issued shortly after 10 a.m. ET.
Background on the EPA case here.
Kate’s story on the oral arguments in the EPA case here.
More a little later.
Planning ahead for the eventual demise of Roe, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) filed a lawsuit earlier this year against 13 county prosecutors in her state to preemptively challenge the 1930s-era abortion ban on the books in Michigan. Her logic was simple — once Roe was ultimately overturned the century-old law would immediately go into effect, giving those 13 county prosecutors — who oversee the 13 counties in the state that house abortion clinics — the authority to charge people who violate the old-school ban.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Tuesday said it is “hard to see” how Attorney General Jeff Sessions can remain in his position after refusing to answer questions during an open session of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from the investigation of Russian interference in our election, recommended the dismissal of the Director of the FBI, reportedly offered his resignation to the President, and refused to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is hard to see how he can continue to serve.”
Sessions cited executive privilege several times while testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, though he acknowledged that President Donald Trump has not in fact invoked it yet.
“So what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions?” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) pressed him.
“I’m protecting the right of the President to assert it if he chooses,” Sessions replied.
The Republican National Committee sent out a fundraising email on Tuesday attributed to President Donald Trump and warning of a “WITCH-HUNT” after Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“There is an effort to SABOTAGE us,” the email attributed to Trump reads.
It accused Democrats of “using a conspiracy theory” to “DERAIL” Trump’s presidency.
“We MUST keep fighting,” the email reads. “WITCH-HUNT!”
Trump did not offer any comment on Sessions’ testimony via Twitter, his favored medium for rapid response.
New RNC email subject-lined: "Is this really happening in America?" pic.twitter.com/x3I02ChOrF
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 13, 2017
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said after Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that Republicans hadn’t yet committed to responding to Sessions’ testimony on the network.
“I just want to alert our viewers that we’ve invited Republicans to join us as well,” Blitzer said, before an interview Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “Hopefully they will. So far we’ve received certain maybes down the road.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Tuesday said he did not recall Attorney General Jeff Sessions taking any interest in Russia as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, though Sessions claimed he met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in that capacity.
Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he pressed Kislyak on Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“I remember pushing back on it and it was testy on that subject,” Sessions said.
“Knowing you on the committee, I can’t imagine that,” McCain replied.
He asked Sessions whether he talked to Kislyak about Russian interference in elections held by U.S. allies.
“I don’t recall that being discussed,” Sessions said.
“If you spoke with Ambassador Kislyak in your capacity as a member of the Armed Services Committee, you presumably talked with him about Russia-related security issues that you have demonstrated as important to you as a member of the committee,” McCain said.
“Did I discuss security issues?” Sessions repeated in apparent confusion.
“I don’t recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues,” McCain said. “In your capacity as the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, what Russia-related security issues did you hold hearings on or otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in?”
“We may have discussed that,” Sessions said, apparently responding to McCain’s earlier question. “I just don’t have a real recall of the meeting. I was not making a report about it to anyone. I just was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed.”
“And his response was?” McCain pressed.
“I don’t recall,” Sessions said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was confronted with his flip-flops on then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server Tuesday.
During a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) quoted Sessions’ responses to then-FBI Director James Comey’s announcement in July 2016 that he would not recommend charges against Clinton.
Sessions signed onto a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that cited Comey’s handling of the case as unprofessional, and one justification for his firing.
On July 7, Reed said, Sessions said the email investigation dismissal “was not his problem, it’s Hillary Clinton’s problem,” referring to Comey.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) cut off Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) for the second time in a week on Tuesday as she pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss a policy he cited to avoid answering other questions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions snapped at Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, saying the pace of her questioning made him nervous, and that she would accuse him of lying if he was not given time to qualify his answers.
“As it relates to your knowledge, Did you have any communication with any Russian businessmen or any Russian nationals?” Harris asked Sessions.
“I don’t believe I had any conversation with Russian businessmen or Russian nationals—” Sessions began in response.
Harris interjected: “Are you aware of any communications —
“— although a lot of people were at the convention it’s conceivable that somebody —” Sessions continued, before Harris spoke again
“Sir, I have just a few—” she began.
“Will you let me qualify it!” Sessions said, voice raised. “If I don’t qualify it, you’ll accuse me of lying. So I need to be as correct as best I can—”
“I do want you to be honest,” Harris said
“—and I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous,” Sessions said.
Watch below via ABC News:
— ABC News (@ABC) June 13, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday said suggestions he met with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election are like a story written by Lewis Carroll.
Sessions’ simile was perhaps prompted by Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) remark that Democrats went “down lots of other rabbit trails” in their lines of questioning as Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“It’s just like through the looking glass. I mean, what is this?” Sessions said.
Sessions said he “explained how in good faith” he claimed he had not met with Russian officials.
“They were suggesting I as a surrogate had been meeting continuously with Russians,” Sessions said. “I said I didn’t meet with them. And now, the next thing you know, I’m accused of some reception, plotting some sort of influence campaign for the American election. It’s just beyond my capability to understand.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday that all he knew about Russian meddling in the 2016 election he had learned from press reports.
Earlier in the hearing, Sessions said he had “in effect” recused himself from campaign-related matters the day after he was sworn in as attorney general, and not after later reports he had had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador — at which point he publicly announced a recusal for the first time.
“Do you believe the Russians interfered with the 2016 election?” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked Sessions.
“It appears so,” Sessions said. “The intelligence community seems to be united in that. But I have to tell you, Sen. King, I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper. I’ve never received any detailed briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”
“There was a memorandum from the intelligence community on Oct. 9 that detailed what the Russians were doing,” King said. “After the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?”
“No,” Sessions replied.
“You never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports?” King asked.
“You might have been very critical of me if I, as an active part of the campaign, was seeking intelligence relating to something that might be relevant to the campaign,” Sessions said. “I’m not sure that would be —”
“I’m not talking about the campaign,” King interjected. “I’m talking about what the Russians did. You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?”
“No, I don’t believe I ever did,” Sessions said.