Morning Joe Panelists Ask Dem. Sen. Blumenthal About Sessions's Trustworthiness

Friday on Morning Joe, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke about Jeff Sessions’ recusal. The hosts pressed and tried to coerce him into discrediting Sessions. The panelists asked Blumenthal what his opinion of the Attorney General’s current credibility was, as well as his and others’ capability to trust Sessions amid perjury speculation. To say the least, this was curious considering Senator Blumenthal has been severely criticized for lying about serving in Vietnam.

Host Joe Scarborough began with the line of questioning: “Let me start with the most obvious question, can you trust the word of the United States Attorney General?” Blumenthal answered:

The United States Attorney General should be brought back to the judiciary committee so we can know why he apparently falsely denied that he had meetings with the Russians. The only way he can really restore full trust and credibility is to answer our questions under oath and correct and clarify the record so that the integrity and credibility of the Department of Justice is really sustained. And that is very, very important because – the chief law enforcement officer has that obligation.

Scarborough interrupted, aiming to get a different answer: “Let me just ask you point blank, did he lie? When– based on all of the information that you know when he was in front of the judiciary committee and told you and the entire committee in response to Senator Franken's question that he had never met with any members of the Russian government. We found out that he met with him twice. Did he lie in front of the judiciary committee?”

Blumenthal answered again, making an effort to steer clear from conclusively negative statements of Sessions: “He certainly made a – seemingly false statement. There is no way to explain it based on what we know now, other than to say it was a false denial of that meeting- which is why he needs to is come back and testify under oath.”

Scarborough asking a different question this time, wondered: “And what would you like him to say when he comes back?” This time Blumenthal answered with a slightly more specific response: “I'd like him to explain what was said during that September 8th meeting . . . Who said what? How did the meeting take place? Who has notes about it that we can see? And, what came of it? And, also, what other meetings there may have been. Because if he misled us as to that meeting, what other meetings might he also have failed to disclose?”

Scarborough, gave it a try for the fourth time: “If he lied to your committee, do you believe perjury charges against him should be pursued?” Blumenthal replied:

The FBI is at the tip of that sphere and we need to know all of the facts involving potential complicity or connection between the Trump campaign, but also the Trump transition team and the Trump administration and the Russian interference. It was not just an accidental or coincidental interference. It was a sustained attack on our Democratic institution, an act of war – cyber attack- on the United States of America. And, that’s really the focus that I think should be right now. The possibility of criminal charges maybe ought to be reviewed, but the point is that the violations of the perjury statute and false statement statute are complex and difficult to prove. The important thing is to protect the United States of America and the integrity of our Democratic institution.

Co-host, Willie Geist took his turn:

“So Senator, the questions surrounding all of these stories we have been talking about where there is a lot of smoke and not yet fire at the center of it. All of these meetings, including the one that Jeff Sessions had with the ambassador, is was the Trump campaign complicit in this act of war, as you’ve called it with Russia? Where they were working hand in hand to get Donald Trump elected president? Knowing what you know now, do you believe they were working together?

Blumenthal responded: “I believe that there was involvement or knowledge by members of the Trump campaign, certainly some knowledge about what was going on. That's clearly apparent from the circumstantial evidence. But even if there was not, we need to get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and there is a circumstantial case to be made here, but there needs to be more proof before we draw any conclusions.” Geist, seemingly trying to uncover a hidden meaning: “So when you say that, who do you think specifically knew what was going on? And when you say what was going on, what do you mean by that?”

The Senator’s answer surprisingly lacked the assumptions the hosts appeared to be fishing for:

Any connections, contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians give rise to the supposition that there may have been some involvement but that, as yet, has not been shown by the evidence. So let's not lead to conclusions. Let's let the FBI do its work and if there was any connection or complicity, that will be uncovered. The most important point here is to avoid a cover-up because as has been frequently observed on this very show, the cover-up is as bad often as the crime, and that’s why we need to get to the truth. Was there any complicity or improper contact between the Trump campaign and the Trump transition? And the Trump administration, that may have either knowingly or otherwise, encouraged or emboldened the Russians to do what they did. There's no question, apparently none from what the FBI has told us, that the Russians did interfere in the campaign and in the election.

Geist realizing he would not get a different answer out of the Senator: “But you’re not ready to connect those dots you’re–   Let the FBI do it if it's there.” Correspondent Kasie Hunt put forth her best effort for a damning answer as well, asking: “Senator, you've called the FBI the tip of the sphere on this, more broad question about these investigations. Do you have full faith in Jim Comey, the FBI director?”

The Senator responded:

If the FBI is given the resources it needs, I believe that the trained professionals there have a capacity and the determination to uncover the truth. But they need to be given the independence and, in fact,  protection from political interference. And that is Kasie, the key question going forward. Not just the Attorney General recusing himself, but appointing a special prosecutor, an independent prosecutor, who will have the mandate and the independence to conduct an objective, fair, directly involved investigation here which is very, very important. Not only to the outcome but to the credibility and trust of the Department of Justice . . . I think it's not only important for the FBI to investigate, but for him to correct that record and avoid a perjury prosecution if one is required under the record right now. The question of the FBI investigation will concern whether or not perjury was committed in the judiciary committee.

For the last time, political analyst John Heilemann took a crack at it: “Senator Sessions yesterday, helpfully in some ways, put three of his aides in these meetings that he had with the Russian ambassador. So, is the judiciary committee a forum in which those aides could be subpoenaed, brought forward in front of the committee so we can find out the substance or at least try to find out what the substance of those conversations with the ambassador are?” Senator Blumenthal replied:

Part of what I think needs to be done, as a former prosecutor, as a former federal prosecutor and state Attorney General, is for those staff members to be questioned by our committee, the judiciary committee, so that we can reach a conclusion about whether there was perjury. And also why Attorney General Sessions may have falsely denied, in fact, did falsely state that there were no meetings. And so those notes that they took, undoubtedly they took notes and their recollections ought to be tested and ought to be used to refresh his recollection about what happened.

 

The full exchange that took place on March 3

MSNBC - Morning Joe
6:30AM Segment
[6:33:44 - 6:41:56]


JOE SCARBOROUGH: With us now we’ve got member of the judiciary committee Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. Hey Senator, always great to talk to you. Let me start with the most obvious question, can you trust the word of the United States Attorney General?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: The United States Attorney General should be brought back to the judiciary committee so we can know why he apparently falsely denied that he had meetings with the Russians. The only way he can really restore full trust and credibility is to answer our questions under oath and correct and clarify the record so that the integrity and credibility of the Department of Justice is really sustained. And that is very, very important because – the chief law enforcement officer has that obligation.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: So– So Senator, so let me ask you, though. Let– Let me just ask you point blank, did he lie? When– based on all of the information that you know when he was in front of the judiciary committee and told you and the entire committee in response to Senator Franken's question that he had never met with any members of the Russian government. We found out that he met with him twice. Did he lie in front of the judiciary committee?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: He certainly made a – seemingly false statement. There is no way to explain it based on what we know now, other than to say it was a false denial of that meeting- Which is why he needs to is come back and testify under oath.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: And what would you like him to say when he comes back?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I'd like him to explain what was said during that September 8th meeting. Remember, it was at the height of the campaign season, during a time of wide spread reports of Russian interference in our election and possible complicity and connection between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And that kind of meeting requires an explanation. Who said what? How did the meeting take place? Who has notes about it that we can see? And, what came of it? And, also, what other meetings there may have been. Because if he misled us as to that meeting, what other meetings might he also have failed to disclose?

JOE SCARBOROUGH: If he lied to your committee, do you believe perjury charges against him should be pursued?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: What I really believe, Joe, is that he should be cooperative in the investigation that is ongoing right now. The FBI is at the tip of that sphere and we need to know all of the facts involving potential complicity or connection between the Trump campaign, but also the Trump transition team and the Trump administration and the Russian interference. It was not just an accidental or coincidental interference. It was a sustained attack on our Democratic institution, an act of war – cyber attack- on the United States of America. And, that’s really the focus that I think should be right now. The possibility of criminal charges maybe ought to be reviewed, but the point is that the violations of the perjury statute and false statement statute are complex and difficult to prove. The important thing is to protect the United States of America and the integrity of our Democratic institution.


WILLIE GEIST: So Senator the questions surrounding all of these stories we have been talking about where there is a lot of smoke and not yet fire at the center of it. All of these meetings, including the one that Jeff Sessions had with the ambassador, is was the Trump campaign complicit in this act of war, as you’ve called it with Russia? Where they were working hand in hand to get Donald Trump elected president? Knowing what you know now, do you believe they were working together?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: I believe that there was involvement or knowledge by members of the Trump campaign, certainly some knowledge about what was going on. That's clearly apparent from the circumstantial evidence. But even if there was not, we need to get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and there is a circumstantial case to be made here, but there needs to be more proof before we draw any conclusions.

WILLIE GEIST: So when you say that, who do you think specifically knew what was going on? And when you say what was going on, what do you mean by that?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Any connections, contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russians give rise to the supposition that there may have been some involvement but that, as yet, has not been shown by the evidence. So let's not lead to conclusions. Let's let the FBI do its work and if there was any connection or complicity, that will be uncovered. The most important point here is to avoid a cover-up because as has been frequently observed on this very show, the cover-up is as bad often as the crime, and that’s why we need to get to the truth. Was there any complicity or improper contact between the Trump campaign and the Trump transition? And the Trump administration, that may have either knowingly or otherwise, encouraged or emboldened the Russians to do what they did. There's no question, apparently none from what the FBI has told us, that the Russians did interfere in the campaign and in the election.

WILLIE GEIST: But you’re not ready to connect those dots you’re–   Let the FBI do it if it's there. Kasie Hunt has a question for you in Washington Senator.

KASIE HUNT: Senator, you've called the FBI the tip of the sphere on this, more broad question about these investigations. Do you have full faith in Jim Comey, the FBI director?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: If the FBI is given the resources it needs, I believe that the trained professionals there have a capacity and the determination to uncover the truth. But they need to be given the independence and, in fact,  protection from political interference. And that is Kasie, the key question going forward. Not just the Attorney General recusing himself, but appointing a special prosecutor, an independent prosecutor, who will have the mandate and the independence to conduct an objective, fair, directly involved investigation here which is very, very important. Not only to the outcome but to the credibility and trust of the Department of Justice. And I'm going to be calling later in the day, a number of my colleagues and I are going to be writing to the chairman of the judiciary committee asking that Jeff Sessions be brought back and answer these questions under oath, because I think it's not only important for the FBI to investigate, but for him to correct that record and avoid a perjury prosecution if one is required under the record right now. The question of the FBI investigation will concern whether or not perjury was committed in the judiciary committee.

JOE SCARBROUGH: All right. John?

WILLIE GEIST: John?

JOHN HEILEMANN:  Just real quick, Senator. You raised the question of the others who were in these meetings. Senator Sessions yesterday helpfully in some ways, put three of his aides in these meetings that he had with the Russian ambassador. So, is the judiciary committee a forum in which those aides could be subpoenaed, brought forward in front of the committee so we can find out the substance or at least try to find out what the substance of those conversations with the ambassador are?

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Great question. Part of what I think needs to be done, as a former prosecutor, as a former federal prosecutor and state Attorney General, is for those staff members to be questioned by our committee, the judiciary committee, so that we can reach a conclusion about whether there was perjury. And also why Attorney General Sessions may have falsely denied, in fact, did falsely state that there were no meetings. And so those notes that they took, undoubtedly they took notes and their recollections ought to be tested and ought to be used to refresh his recollection about what happened.

WILLIE GEIST: Alright Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, always good to see you, sir.

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