Last night’s news was pretty frantic as shoes began to drop implicating the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia’s meddling in the last election and, now, trying to cover it and their butts up.
The New York Times reported the Obama White House rushed to protect those documents out of concern that records of the Russian meddling in the last election would be possibly be destroyed.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates. [..]
Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.
At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.
It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed. Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama. [..]
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel.
At about the same time that this as being reported, the Associated Press revealed that the Trump White House staff was told to preserve all material related to Russia
White House lawyers have instructed the president’s aides to preserve materials that could be connected to Russian interference in the 2016 election and other related investigations, three administration officials said Wednesday.
The instructions, which were sent to White House staff on Tuesday, come after Senate Democrats last week asked the White House and law enforcement agencies to keep all materials involving contacts that Trump’s administration, campaign and transition team — or anyone acting on their behalf — have had with Russian government officials or their associates.
The Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, has also asked more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals to preserve relevant records.
Then last night, as the most of the cable news channels were discussing these stories, another shoe dropped by the Washington Post. Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions lied under oath during his Senate confirmation hearing about his contact with Russian officials:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.
The Republicans are scrambling to deny that Sessions deliberately lied when he responded to the question by Sen. Al Frankin (D-MN). Sessions, himself, has already proffered several conflicting explanations of why he lied.
New statement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He denies meeting with Russian officials to discuss the Trump campaign pic.twitter.com/cRj6Kcy6cj
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) March 2, 2017
He is now claiming that he was only speaking about conversations he had as a Trump surrogate and that his meetings were in his official capacity as Senator. Of course, we only have his word on that.
Under clear federal ethics regulations found in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, if a federal prosecutor has “a personal or political relationship” with someone involved in the conduct under investigation or with someone who will be directly affected by the outcome of the inquiry, that prosecutor is barred from participating in a criminal investigation. Since the FBI reportedly expanded its inquiry into alleged Russian contacts with Trump campaign advisors, Sessions has no choice but to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor. If, as they all claim, that that there was no involvement of the Russian interference, why balk at a special prosecutor? The refusal of Sessions, the Republicans and the White House to do so just makes them all look guilty of corruption.