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AG Jeff Sessions can't shake Russia controversy

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal, he faded from front pages, but his controversy isn't over.
Image: Jeff Sessions
Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before...
It's been nearly a week since we learned Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with a Russian official during the presidential campaign, despite saying the opposite while under oath. Much to Donald Trump's chagrin, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal soon after.For some, that was effectively the end of the controversy for the A.G., but it's premature to close the book so quickly. More than two dozen members of Congress -- all Democrats -- have called on Sessions to resign as the nation's chief law-enforcement officer, and as Politico noted, a significant number of Americans seem to agree.

More than half of those who responded to a new Quinnipiac poll released this week said Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings when he said he "did not have communications with the Russians" and should resign because of it.Fifty-two percent of those polled by Quinnipiac said Sessions was guilty of lying under oath when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had not been in contact with any Russian official when he had, in fact, met twice with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential campaign. Fifty-one percent of respondents said Sessions should resign over the controversy, which began when The Washington Post reported the previously undisclosed meetings.

In fairness, it's hard to say with confidence just how much the public at large followed the details of the Sessions controversy, and it's likely, if not probable, that some of the results are driven by opposition to Team Trump in general.That said, if Republicans are hoping that the American mainstream is indifferent towards the scandal surrounding Russia and the efforts of Putin's government to put Trump in office, the poll offers evidence to the contrary.And for Sessions, that's not the only development of note.Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee -- the panel Sessions misled about his contacts with Russia -- have asked that the attorney general return to the Hill and answer follow-up questions about his testimony. Republicans have refused to support such a hearing, and Sessions responded to Democratic concerns with a letter -- in which he said his testimony was "correct," evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.Senate Dems, not surprisingly, aren't satisfied. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) believes the attorney general "perjured himself," and he and his fellow Democrats on the Judiciary Committee want the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate Sessions for having given false testimony.And perhaps most importantly, as Rachel noted on the show last night, there are still some core questions that Sessions and his allies haven't answered in any meaningful way. Remember, the underlying Russia scandal has left open the possibility that Team Trump was aware of Russia's illegal intervention in the U.S. campaign, and the Republicans may have even colluded with the foreign adversary in order to win. Those questions have grown louder in the face of evidence that a variety of Trump aides, staffers, advisors, and associates met with Russian officials during the campaign -- despite assurances from the president and others that there were no communications at the time.Which makes Sessions' talks with the Russian ambassador that much more interesting. The Alabama Republican, for example, held his meeting in early September, against the backdrop of reports about Russia's efforts to intervene in the election. Why in the world did Sessions have this private meeting? What was said? What independent steps is the Justice Department prepared to get to uncover the truth?Sessions' controversy has faded from the front page. That doesn't mean it's been resolved.