The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to Russia’s ambassador twice last year, despite testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “I did not have communications with the Russians.”
Eighteen years ago, however, then-Sen. Sessions (R-AL) was called upon to judge a president who, he believed, had lied under oath. As political scientist Scott Lemieux notes, Sessions did not look kindly on President Bill Clinton during that president’s impeachment.
— Scott Lemieux (@LemieuxLGM) March 2, 2017
It now appears very likely that Sessions committed the very same crime he once voted to convict President Clinton of. The federal perjury statute forbids anyone who has “taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person” from “willfully and contrary to such oath” making a statement on “any material matter which he does not believe to be true.”
There is, to be fair, some wiggle room in this statute. To convict Sessions, for example, a prosecutor would have to prove that Sessions did not believe that his reportedly false statements about “the Russians” to be true. Thus, if Sessions had somehow forgotten about those meetings, that would provide him with a defense.
This is the sort of argument that Sessions’ defense attorneys could make on his behalf at trial. And Sessions, of course, should be afforded the same presumption of innocence that attaches to anyone accused of a crime.
Nevertheless, by Sessions’ own standard, if he committed perjury, then “equal justice requires that he forfeit his office.”