Democratic Senator Accuses Attorney General of Perjury

Minnesota Senator Al Franken said he thinks Attorney General Jeff Sessions committed perjury when he failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador during his confirmation hearing. The written defense of Sessions’s testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee did not convince Franken.

“It’s hard to come to any other conclusion than he just perjured himself,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. It was Franken who asked the key question during the confirmation hearing whose response put Sessions in the center of a media and political firestorm. The controversy forced Sessions to recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigation into Russia’s hacking during the 2016 election, coming amidst numerous calls from Democrats for him to resign.

Some context here: Al Franken – who previously was a Saturday Night Live cast member, as well as a liberal pundit and talk radio host – has kept pretty quiet in terms of partisan rhetoric since he was elected to the Senate. Franken and Sessions were both members of that elite political club that which, despite sharp political differences, tends to place an emphasis on decorum among its members.

In other words, accusing Sessions of perjury is not a charge that Franken makes lightly. I’m old enough to remember the controversy surrounding John Ashcroft’s nomination as attorney general. The controversy over Sessions even before the Russia controversy erupted makes Ashcroft look tame by comparison. 

Virginia Poll Results

Quinnipiac University released the results of a new Virginia poll.  Here are the highlights:

  • For the 2018 Senate race, Democrat Tim Kaine leads hypothetical matchups against two Republican women: Laura Ingraham (56-36) and Carly Fiorina (57-36).
  • President Trump has a 38-56 job approval rating in Virginia.
    • Republicans approve 81-11
    • Democrats disapprove 95-3
    • Independents disapprove 57-37
    • Whites approve 46-48
    • Non-whites disapprove 76-20
  • President Trump’s travel ban has a 55-42 percent disapproval rating. (Keep in mind Virginia attorney general Mark Harring has challenged it in court)
  • Virginia voters think Judge Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed to the Supreme Court by a 49-31 margin.
  • Virginia voters think home-schooled students should be able to play on public school sports teams, by an overwhelming 71-23 margin.

DNC Chair Candidates React to Gorsuch Supreme Court Nomination

Sally Boynton Brown:

Ray Buckley:

“This is a stolen seat. The process for Antonin Scalia’s replacement has been delayed by Senate Republicans for nearly a year, and now we have an historically unpopular president who lost the popular vote by three million votes nominating a Scalia clone to the High Court. The American people won’t stand for this, and the Democratic Party will stand in lockstep with them.”

Pete Buttigieg:

Jehmu Greene:

Jaime Harrison:

“The judge nominated by President Obama for this Supreme Court seat, Merrick Garland, was called ‘a consensus nominee’ by Senator Orrin Hatch.  But Senate Republicans refused to even give him a hearing; Mitch McConnell said, ‘Let’s let the American people decide.’  Well, by a margin of almost 3 million, more Americans chose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump to fill this seat.  So President Trump would have been wise to choose a consensus nominee like Merrick Garland.  But given Trump’s radical actions since the start of his presidency, we should not be surprised that he has chosen a judge whose record favoring big corporations and opposing civil rights suggests that he is a right-wing zealot.  Unless the hearings somehow reveal that Judge Gorsuch’s extreme record will not continue on our nation’s highest court, bring out the cots for a filibuster.”

Tom Perez:

“I always say that past is prologue, and today President Donald Trump proved that theory true when he announced a nominee just as extreme and divisive as his past 12 days in office. President Trump’s selection of Judge Gorsuch to serve a lifetime term on our nation’s highest court only further cements what we’ve witnessed over the first 12 days of his administration: that he doesn’t give a damn about upholding the Constitution.

“Judge Gorsuch has already led the attack on women’s reproductive health from the bench and would eagerly overturn Roe v. Wade if confirmed. He has an abysmal record on protecting citizens from police brutality and would seriously jeopardize bipartisan efforts toward criminal justice reform. He would similarly dismantle the gains we’ve made for LGBT Americans and serve as a reliable vote in favor of voter suppression on the high court.  In short, a Justice Gorsuch would discriminate against a majority of Americans from the bench. This alone is disqualifying.

“And just yesterday, Donald Trump demonstrated that what he’s most concerned with is putting in place sycophants who can’t be trusted to hold him accountable when he breaks the law and violates the Constitution. We should expect nothing less from his judicial nominees.

“Simply put, a Justice Gorsuch on the Supreme Court is intolerable and it’s up to Democrats to block his nomination.

“As I’ve said before, we need to afford Donald Trump the same level of cooperation Mitch McConnell afforded President Obama. That starts with making sure that Judge Gorsuch never sits on the Supreme Court.”

I haven’t seen any statements on Keith Ellison’s campaign and congressional websites or any of his social media accounts. This post will be updated if he issues a statement or makes a public comment.

Senate Finance Committee Democrats Boycott Confirmation Votes

Happening this morning on Capitol Hill:

Senate Democrats on Tuesday refused to show up to committee confirmation votes on Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin and Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price.

Democrats led by Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden announced they would not participate in the session just as the panel was scheduled to vote.

Democrats suggested Mnuchin and Price misled senators in testimony to Congress and said they wanted more information.

At issue: in Mnuchin’s case, an explosive report from the Columbus Dispatch alleging he misled the Finance Committee on OneWest Bank’s practice of robo-signing on foreclosure documents.  More details from the story:

“Robo-signing” is the informal term for when a mortgage company employee signs hundreds of foreclosures, swearing they have scrutinized the documents as required by law when in fact they have not.

“OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents,” Mnuchin wrote in response to questions from individual senators, “and as the only bank to successfully complete the Independent Foreclosure Review required by federal banking regulators to investigate allegations of ‘robo-signing,’ I am proud of our institution’s extremely low error rate.”

But a Dispatch analysis of nearly four dozen foreclosure cases filed by OneWest in Franklin County in 2010 alone shows that the company frequently used robo-signers. The vast majority of the Columbus-area cases were signed by 11 different people in Travis County, Texas. Those employees called themselves vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, managers and assistant secretaries. In three local cases, a judge dismissed OneWest foreclosure proceedings specifically based on inaccurate robo-signings.

At issue in Price’s case is the revelation by company officials from Innate Immunotherapeutics that Price did in fact get an offer to buy company stock at a 12 percent discount, contradicting Price’s sworn testimony.   The value of the company’s shares has tripled since the offering.

Here’s the statement from Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon):

Elizabeth Warren’s Senate Committee Shuffle

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren will be a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – which is responsible for oversight of the military and the Pentagon – beginning in January.  Why is this significant? According to the Boston Globe:

The posting which Warren sought and will take effect when a new Congress convenes next year, adds a new set of issues to Warren’s portfolio and promises to fuel speculation about a possible 2020 bid for president. The liberal firebrand — who is best known for dressing down Wall Street CEOs and pushing for ways to bolster the economic health of the middle class — will now be getting elbows deep in debates about defense spending, Russian cyberattacks, and deployment of the nation’s military around the world.

The decision also puts Warren (and by extension the state of Massachusetts) back on the committee that has oversight and importance for defense contractors in her state.  Her previous two predecessors – Ted Kennedy and Scott Brown – were members of the committee. Warren will join the committee in time to participate in the confirmation hearings for General James Mattis (Ret.) to be the next Secretary of Defense. To get this position, Warren gave up her position on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  As the Globe also mentioned, it will give her opportunity to brush up on foreign policy and national security issues ahead of a possible 2020 presidential run.

Ellison Calls for Scrutiny of Rex Tillerson’s Russia Ties

 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) called Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s relationship with Russia “a real concern” during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”

From the transcript:

CUOMO: All right. Donald Trump defending his pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle over his business ties to Russia, paving the way for a big confirmation battle, maybe.

Joining us now to discuss is the Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison. Mr. Ellison is also running to be chair of the Democratic National Committee.

We’ll talk to you about your political fate. Let’s talk about the state of play here. How do you feel about Tillerson, the president-elect has said some people don’t like that Tillerson is friends with world leaders? I don’t think that’s the issue. What do you think?

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: I don’t think it’s the issue, either. I think the issue is, what are the material connections which may undermine, compromise American national security?

If you are the secretary of state or the president of the United States, for that matter, we need to know that there is nothing, absolutely nothing you’re thinking about other than the best interests of the United States. Not your company. Not your business dealings. Not what money you may have on the line.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, that this is a very troublesome situation, because if you expand this to the whole hacking situation, which our intelligence agencies have said that perhaps Russia has favored President-elect Trump, then we have to say what if they turn against him? What if suddenly they don’t like him? Will they expose things about him that they know that we don’t know?

I mean, will he be able to be full-throatedly, 100 percent for us?

CUOMO: Right.

ELLISON: This is a real concern.

Ellison’s comments didn’t go as far as those of South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison – a competitor of Ellison’s in the race for DNC chairman – who called on the Senate to reject Tillerson’s nomination a few days earlier.

UPDATE: Michael McFaul – President Obama’s former ambassador to Moscow – tweeted this:

Senate Democrats Catch Two Lucky Breaks

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is probably breathing a sigh of relief  after getting two bits of good news today.

First: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who was being considered for the Secretary of Energy position in the Trump Administration, announced that he would be remaining in the Senate.  Former Texas governor Rick Perry wound up getting the top job in the government agency he wanted to eliminate as a 2012 presidential candidate but couldn’t name. (Here’s video of the infamous “Oops” moment which derailed his candidacy.)

Second: Donald Trump chose Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) for Secretary of Interior. Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who just finished his first term in the House of Representatives, was considered a serious challenger for Montana Democratic senator Jon Tester’s 2018 reelection campaign.  Political observers weighed in on this development via Twitter: