Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and his statements on what the Trump regime plans to do in order to prevent Russian interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections is heart-stopping.
The answer, as the Lawfare team points out, is "nothing whatsoever."
The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration — dragged out of him with all the elegance of a tooth extraction — that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth and amid focus on his testy exchange with Sen. Al Franken about Russian contacts, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far.
That moment came not in the context of hostile questioning from a committee Democrat but in a perfectly cordial exchange with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse.
With Midwestern gentility, the Nebraska senator told Sessions that he wasn’t going to grill him about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rather, he said, “I would like to continue talking about the Russians but in the context of the long-term objectives that Vladimir Putin has to undermine American institutions and the public trust.… We face a sophisticated long-term effort by a foreign adversary to undermine our foreign policy and our ability to lead in the world by trying to undermining confidence in American institutions.”
Russia will be back in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Sasse argued. “We live at a time where info ops and propaganda and misinformation are a far more cost-effective way for people to try to weaken the United States of America than by thinking they can outspend us at a military level.… So as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as a supervisor of multiple components of our intelligence community … do you think we’re doing enough to prepare for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information space?”
You’d think this question would be a golden opportunity for Sessions. After all, if you’re a man who has had some — ahem — inconvenient interactions with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, you might relish the chance to answer a question about what you are doing to prevent Russian interference in the future, as a chance to go on offense and show how serious you are about tackling a problem that has undermined your reputation.
But Sessions’s answer did not inspire confidence: “Probably not. We’re not. And the matter is so complex that for most of us, we are not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.”
Sessions acknowledged “disruption and interference, it appears, by Russian officials” and noted that it “requires a real review.” But he said nothing about what the department is doing to ready itself.
Sasse followed up, giving him an explicit chance to spell it out. “So what steps has the department taken,” or should it take, “to learn the lessons of 2016 … in fighting foreign interference?” he asked.
Crickets from Sessions.
The department, he said, is specifically reviewing commercial, rather than political, interference from foreigners and the theft of trade secrets and data — an enforcement priority that in fact long predates the Trump administration. “We’ve got indictments that deal with some of those issues,” he said, perhaps not even realizing that he was not talking about the same subject Sasse was asking about. He noted that the department’s national security division has some “really talented people” — which is true but hardly constitutes a step he is taking to combat the Russia threat. And he touted the FBI’s experts, too. Then he acknowledged that, despite all this, the department’s capabilities are still not at the appropriate level yet.
As to a specific answer to Sasse’s question — that is, what has the department done or is planning to do to confront information operations threats from Russia in the future? Not a word.
Nor will there be. The fix has been in on Russian collusion for months now, and Sessions has been in on the game since the start. He's guilty as hell and nobody is more aware of that then Sessions himself. There will be no defense from Russian interference in our elections going forward as long as the GOP remains in power.