Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified he had no knowledge of Trump campaign officials having any contact with Russians. That could be perjury.
During his confirmation hearing in January, then-Senator Jeff Sessions, in sworn testimony, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not aware of anyone on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign who had contact with Russian officials. Sessions stuck to that argument while being questioned by Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota).
“I did not [communicate with Russians] — and I’m not aware of anyone else that did,” Sessions said at the time. “I don’t believe that it happened.”
However, the recent revelations from George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea have since revealed that Sessions, in his capacity as the Trump campaign’s chief foreign policy advisor, personally nixed Papadopoulos’ proposal of a face-to-face meeting between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a March 31 meeting.
This comes on top of what we already knew — that Sessions made that statement despite having had contact with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel in April of 2016 — well after Sessions had been then-candidate Trump’s chief foreign policy advisor.
Here's a notable Getty pic from the April 27, 2016 Mayflower Hotel event—Kislyak & Sessions both named in the official caption pic.twitter.com/epubUUfkKc
— Kerry Eleveld (@kerryeleveld) June 1, 2017
18 USC § 1621 is clear in its definition of perjury. The crime is seen as a “crime against justice,” as the person committing it is undermining the courts. Those who are found guilty of the offense can be jailed for up to five years, or fined, or both:
Whoever having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true… is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
While most associate the Constitution’s impeachment clause (Article 2, Section 4) with presidents, impeachment can be applied to “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States,” which includes cabinet members like the Attorney General. While the clause says these officials can be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” perjury is a felony under federal law, which could constitute a “high crime.”
First, the House of Representatives must investigate any charges that are levied after one of its members introduces articles of impeachment. If the House votes in favor of impeaching a public official by a simple majority vote, then the impeachment trial itself is held in the Senate, where the public official’s fate is ultimately decided.
However, because Jeff Sessions is the appointee of a Republican president, it’s unlikely that a Republican-controlled House and Senate would impeach him. Should control switch back to the Democrats after the 2018 midterms, impeachment may be a possibility.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.