Jeff Sessions and Russia

Who is Jeff Sessions?

  1. He’s 84th Attorney General of the United States.
  2. He served as a Republican Senator from Alabama from 1997 until 2017. From 1981 to 1993, he served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
  3. He was nominated in 1986 to be a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but failed due to criticism of his record on civil rights.
  4. Sessions was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1994, and to the U.S. Senate in 1996, being re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014.
  5. In November 2016, Donald Trump nominated Sessions for US Attorney General. He was confirmed on February 8, 2017, with a 52–47 vote in the Senate.

What Happened?

Sessions came under scrutiny after reports surfaced that he had contact with Russian government officials during the 2016 Presidential election. At the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken:

“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 claimed 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 denied those claims.

On March 1, news reports revealed that Sessions had spoken twice with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. The first communication took place after a Heritage Foundation event attended by Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak who spoke with Sessions privately. The next one took place in September, again with Ambassador Kislyak, in Sessions’ office during the alleged Russian cyber hacking campaign and interference in the US presidential election.

On March 2nd, Sessions recused himself from any investigation of Russian interference.

Why this is important?

This is a confusing issue. Jeff Sessions didn’t necessarily lie. He was asked if he talked as a surrogate, and the answer is no. However, he didn’t disclose the two meeting he had with Russia officials in the past. As this because as a more polarizing and partisan issue, Democrats will call more for a proper independent investigation and call for Sessions to resign because of perjury claims.

Here is a debate and discussion of the issue, so know what to make of it.

How does perjury work in this case?

As quoted from the above thread, “Proving perjury in these circumstances would be difficult; it is unlikely that perjury could be proven without supporting evidence.

1. The first element of perjury is making a false statement under oath.

It’s not clear whether Sessions statement would count. Sessions’ spokespeople are saying that Sessions said he didn’t meet with Russian officials to discuss the campaign.. In determining whether a statement is false, the court would examine the statement in context. In this case, good lawyers could make arguments going either way.

2. The second element for perjury is intent.

The false statement must be made with the intent to deceive, and a prosecutor would have to prove that intent existed beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor would have to prove Sessions’ knowledge of its falsity, rather than as a result of confusion, mistake or faulty memory. United States v. Dunnigan, 507 U.S. 87, 94 (1993).

Absent more evidence — such as a recording or email where Sessions recalls these meetings and states his intent to lie about them — a prosecutor would have a difficult time proving intent. Could a fact finder infer intent without the “smoking gun” evidence? Possibly, but it’s not likely.

3. The final element of perjury is that the false statement is material to the proceedings.

Sessions’ attorney would probably make the argument that the meetings he had as a senator are not material. That is probably a losing argument: ties to Russia were clearly material to the hearing.

For more case law on the elements of perjury, you can go to the justice departments website:

This is a part of an on-going project to provide simple, engaging and nonpartisan news. If you have any suggestions or improvements or want to help, please let me know.




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Rohit Tigga

Rohit Tigga

On a mission to improve youth mental health.

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