Late Friday, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III announced former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was fired due to a lack of candor regarding his conduct during an FBI probe into former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “The F.B.I. expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” Sessions said, regarding the firing, adding “I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.”
Yet, if Sessions were to apply this same standard to himself, he may not have a job very much longer. Reuters reported that Sessions may have lied under oath regarding his role in determining whether the Trump campaign should have colluded with the Russian government. This is the second time Sessions faced allegations that he lied under oath regarding both his conduct as a member of the Trump campaign and his approach to the Russian government.
The new allegations concern Sessions’ November 2017 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, where he was asked about a proposal by campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the campaign reach out to Russia. Sessions claimed in his testimony that he “pushed back” against Papadopoulos’ proposal at a meeting Sessions chaired as head of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team.
Yet, according to Reuters, three people who attended this meeting “said Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos’ idea.” A fourth attendee, for what it is worth, corroborates Sessions’ testimony.
These new allegations against Sessions follow a similar scandal that broke in March of last year. During Sessions’ confirmation hearing for his current job, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” In reality, the Washington Post reported, Sessions spoke twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
One day after The Post reported on this discrepancy, Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia. With Sessions no longer involved, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the investigation two months later.
If Mueller, or another federal prosecutor, pursues perjury charges against Sessions, he could face a difficult legal battle. To obtain a perjury conviction, a federal prosecutor must show that Sessions made a false statement under oath on “any material matter which he does not believe to be true.” Thus, Sessions could potentially argue that he had forgotten about his meetings with the Russian ambassador, as well as whether he spoke up in the Papadopoulos meeting — and thus did not make a false statement that he believe, at the time, “to be true.”
Nevertheless, the fact that there are now two plausible allegations of perjury looming over Sessions could cut against him in court. It is one thing to misspeak once. It’s another thing altogether to have a pattern of false statements.