The night the change locked into place: Last night, it seemed to us that it had finally happened.
Cable seemed partisan all the way down. We felt we saw nothing else.
On CNN and MSNBC, the stars were chasing Sessions around. Virtually every factual statement was being tilted in pursuit of desired outcomes. We thought we saw nothing else, in a way we felt we'd never seen before.
Lawrence said some of the dumbest things. A long stretch of work by Good Lawrence seemed to give way last night. Bad Lawrence reappeared.
Beyond that, let's discuss doctored quotation.
The pundits were all chasing Sessions around, insisting that he lied. Insisting that he'd lied under oath! That can send you to jail!
Did Sessions lie under oath? For ourselves, we aren't hugely inclined to judge that he did. That said, we also aren't hugely inclined to try to send people to jail.
Such assessments must start with fair quotation, of course. And good God! Aside from gong shows like Patrick's Leahy's gong-show account of what he asked Sessions, we've been struck by the selective quotation going on all over the world.
In this fiery essay at Slate, Michelle Goldberg quotes one part of what Sessions said to Al Franken during his Senate hearing. The part she quotes seems quite selective. She doesn't quote Franken at all.
In videotape on today's Morning Joe, the program presented one small part of what Franken said to Sessions. This program wastes time for three hours each day. But they chose to chop Franken's question was down, tilting the scales as to what Sessions was asked.
In this editorial in the Washington Post, the editors pull one lone sentence out of Sessions' reply to Franken. Franken isn't quoted at all. This is a very poor way to pursue criminal claims, except when the chimps are running wild in the streets and the scripts are coming from Kafka.
What did Franken say to Sessions? What did Sessions say in reply? Below, for the very first time, you'll see the text of the full exchange! Everyone else has been showing you the tiny fragments which will serve their side.
Sessions' confirmation hearing in the Senate occurred on January 10. Let's start with a bit of background:
Rather late in the session, Franken had been asking Sessions about the recent report in which the Director of National Intelligence stated, "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election."
"You said earlier that you accept the FBI's conclusion," Franken said. Sessions didn't challenge that statement, but said he couldn't discuss President Trump's assessment.
Franken then asked about a new report by CNN, a report which had just appeared that day. This was the report about the British dossier with exciting charges about the Russians Trump.
Franken assumed that Sessions hadn't seen the brand new report. The following exchange ensued. In the past day, you've been seeing carefully-selected shards of this exchange:
FRANKEN (1/10/17): OK. CNN has just published a story—and I'm telling you this about a news story that's just been published. I'm not expecting you to know whether or not it's true or not.Sessions was asked about "a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government." He was told that, if the claim about the surrogates and the intermediaries was true, it was "obviously extremely serious."
But CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that, quote, "Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump." These documents also allegedly say, quote, "There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government."
Now again, I'm telling you this as it's coming out, so—you know. But if it's true, it's obviously extremely serious, and 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?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have, did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it.
Within that ominous framework, he was asked what he would do if it turned out that "anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign."
Presumably, these ominous claims were new to Sessions, and they arrived in a jumble. CNN's report, which Franken childishly called a "story," had just appeared that day.
Given this framework, we're not super-concerned by the way Sessions answered. It may be that he was attempting to conceal information about his September 2016 meeting with the Russian ambassador. But when he said he wasn't "aware of of any of those activities," it may be he was simply saying that he hadn't taken part in an "extremely serious" "continuing exchange of information with intermediaries of the Russian government" and didn't know of anyone else who had.
He may have thought he was being asked about the types of "obviously extremely serious continuing exchanges" he had just heard described. Indeed, that seemed to be what Franken was asking about. He didn't seem to be asking about routine exchanges which weren't "extremely serious."
Was Sessions trying to conceal his meeting with Kislyak? It's possible; it's also possible that he wasn't. What is clear is the fact that Democrats never asked him if he had engaged in any meetings with Russian "intermediaries," except in the follow-up question by Leahy, which Leahy flatly misdescribed on CNN yesterday morning.
(To state the obvious, Leahy misdescribed his question in a way which made it sound moire incriminating for Sessions. This is the way these horrible 78-year-old children play.)
In our view, it's time for the doddering Leahy to go. For what it's worth, this was Franken's follow-up exchange with Sessions during the actual hearing:
FRANKEN (continuing directly): Very well. Without divulging sensitive information, do you know about this, or know what compromising personal and financial information the Russians claim to have?You've been seeing many doctored excerpts from this exchange. You've seen the usual chimps pulling the tiniest possible fragments from that exchange, trying to make the exchange look as bad as possible for whoever their target may be.
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, allegations get made about candidates all the time and they've been made about president-elect Trump a lot sometimes. Most of them, virtually all of them, have been proven to be exaggerated and untrue. I would just say to you that I have no information about this matter. I have not been in on the classified briefings and I'm not a member of the intelligence committee, and I'm just not able to give you any comment on it at this time.
FRANKEN: OK. Totally fair.
Dems and liberals have fared very poorly in previous stampedes of this type. But now that the rope is in our hands, we're chasing our target around the square, pretending to be upright.
We aren't upright. We also aren't real competent.
Last night, we saw a truly ridiculous set of claims made by Lawrence O'Donnell. On the Maddow Show, we saw an astounding presentation in which Michael Beschloss expounded on the greatness of the "special prosecutor" route.
Gone were decades of agreement about the pitfalls of special prosecutors. Maddow, of course, seems to know even less than the average orangutan about the politics of the 1990s, the period in which almost everyone came to agree that the special prosecutor system is loaded with pitfalls. A pleasing conversation ensued, dedicated to the proposition that Maddow's viewers were born some time last week.
The children are running wild in the streets. These episodes rarely serve the public interest. The recent history also says that these episodes tend to turn out poorly for the more liberal party.
Last night, it seemed that all pretense was gone. The chimps and the children were running wild. If only by way of comparison, we almost thought the chimps and the children were making Sessions look good. Final point—this is the way that exchange went, if you trust the shards of that exchange you're shown in the mainstream press:
FRANKEN: 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?Inanely, that's the exchange which is being described in the "mainstream press." That account of what Sessions said is the stand-alone quote in today's editorial in the Washington Post.
SESSIONS: I did not have communications with the Russians.
Did Sessions lie to Franken that day? In our view, only a nation of children and chimps would want to insist that he did.
That said, your nation is that nation. It has been that nation for a long time. Have you heard about the Clintons' murders? About Candidate Gore's many lies?
Goldberg writes her novel: Over at Slate, Goldberg was imagining what must have been discussed between Sessions and the ambassador.
When the chimps and the children start playing these games, it's time for them to go:
GOLDBERG (3/2/17): If Sessions was taken aback by Franken’s question, he should have had time to compose himself before Sen. Patrick Leahy submitted a similar query in writing seven days later. “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy asked. This time Sessions gave a one word answer: “No.” When the Washington Post’s story came out on Wednesday night, Sessions released a statement saying he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.” The word “to” is doing a lot of work here. Even if you believe that the meeting wasn’t set up in order to discuss the campaign, it seems inconceivable that campaign issues didn’t come up. Sessions himself didn’t exactly deny this at Thursday’s press conference: “Most of these ambassadors are pretty gossipy, and this was in the campaign season, but I don’t recall any specific political discussions.”"It seems inconceivable that campaign issues didn’t come up!" In this act of imagining what must have been said, Goldberg channels yesterday's performance by the hapless Leahy himself.
Pitiful, horrible, low-IQ, dumb? What's the word a fair person would choose to describe such bald-faced novelization?
You aren't well served by players like this. In the pursuit of good jobs at good pay, they've been killing your interests for years.