WASHINGTON — Thank goodness we live in a country where the people who represent us in Congress have the power to investigate and grill federal officials to root out wrongdoing in our government.
Not only to cross-examine these officials for as long as it takes, but — in sworn testimony — to compel them to tell the full and complete truth or else face criminal charges of perjury.
This can’t be done in dictatorial nations like Russia or China or countless other countries around the world.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was called before the House Judiciary Committee, yet again, to face a battery of questions about the Trump presidential campaign’s efforts with Russian go-betweens to arrange a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sessions had been cross-examined by the committee last month about the Trump campaign contacts, but didn’t seem to remember anything about Trump surrogates who had met with Russians.
He said then that he didn’t know anything about such meetings or communications, adding that “I’m not aware of anyone else that did, and I don’t believe it happened.”
But Sessions’ memory was much improved at Tuesday’s committee hearing, saying he now recollected that Trump foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos said that he had been in contact with people who were able to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin.
“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at the Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” he testified.
But he went on to say, “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.”
In effect, Sessions was revising his previous statement, saying at first that he could not remember anything about people in the Trump campaign having communications with the Russians, and then suddenly recalling details of what was said at a key meeting, and what he said in response.
What had changed between his earlier testimony and his revisionist testimony this Tuesday?
Well, maybe it was Papadopoulos’ guilty plea early last month that he had lied to the FBI, confessing that he told Trump, Sessions and other officials in the campaign that he knew well-connected Russians who could make a Trump-Putin meeting happen.
Or that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had recently told the House Intelligence Committee that he had informed Sessions about his plans to go to Moscow.
In the Judiciary Committee’s sometimes tense hearing, which lasted over five hours, Sessions was questioned in detail about the alarming discrepancies between his first testimony and his admissions Tuesday.
Yet Sessions insisted that he had “always told the truth” and grew angry when lawmakers suggested that he was less than truthful in his earlier testimony.
News accounts of widespread Russian meddling in the election, and new findings in the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, had apparently sharpened his memory, he said.
As for Moscow’s cyberwar skullduggery in the 2016 presidential election, it seems that President Trump is the only free world world leader who believes that the whole story is made up by the American news media.
It’s “fake news,” he has said over and over again, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
Whose testimony is he relying on? Why, none other than former Stalinist, KGB thug and now longtime Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, whom Trump admires.
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters while he was flying home Saturday aboard Air Force One.
“I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. ... He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are are saying he did.”
Trump said he believes Putin is “sincere” in his denial.
Well, not everyone is that gullible. British Prime Minister Theresa May charged Monday night that Russia is trying to “undermine free societies” and “sow discord” in Britain and its western allies by “deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories.”
“So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed,” she said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy joined May in condemning Russia for an “avalanche” of bots spreading “fake news” about Spain over Catalonia’s independence referendum.
The truth about Russia’s deceitful, duplicitous fake news war on America’s constitutional, democratic elections will eventually be known by everyone. It is only a matter of time.