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Sessions’ testimony: Lost memories are Russian back to him

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies at a House

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan SmialowskI

Hole in the recollection basket

How is it that Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps forgetting about contacts with Russians he had or knew about while serving in Donald Trump’s campaign?

It’s because the hard drive of the campaign overloaded his memory, Sessions explained to the House Judiciary Committee.

“It was a brilliant campaign, I think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one,” he said. “We traveled some times to several places in one day. Sleep was in short supply and I was still a full-time senator ... with a very full schedule.”

One episode came back to him after the arrest and guilty plea of George Papadopoulos in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, Sessions testified Tuesday. He even remembered the meeting where Papadopolous suggested getting Trump together with Vladimir Putin.

“I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper,” Sessions said. Previously, Sessions has forgotten and then remembered two meetings with the Russian ambassador.

“I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory,” Sessions said, and to accuse him of lying “is a lie.”

Don’t lock ’er up yet

Some Republicans on the committee are as anxious as Trump to see Sessions name a special counsel to look into their suspicions about Hillary Clinton misdeeds. Trump’s public hectoring has stoked doubts about Sessions’ job security.

A day before his appearance Tuesday, Sessions asked senior Justice prosecutors to make a preliminary review. But he denied under questioning by Democrats that he buckled under pressure.

“I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced,” Sessions said.

He also seemed to hose down GOP expectations. When Rep. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said it “looks like” various transgressions occurred, Sessions responded: “I would say ‘looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.”

Janison: Call them WikiFlacks

The leaked private messages to Donald Trump Jr. from WikiLeaks don’t exactly square with the group’s claim to be nonpartisan crusaders for transparency.

Fugitive Julian Assange’s group acted more like a political consulting firm, offering intel and inviting collaboration to help the Trump campaign inflict maximum damage on Hillary Clinton. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

New Twitter gaffe 

Hours after the latest fatal shooting rampage -- in northern California -- the president issued a sympathetic tweet  regarding the Texas church massacre, which occurred nine days earlier. 

"May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived," Trump tweeted at 11:14 p.m. Tuesday.

One of his many followers on the social-media site asked: "Did u just copy & paste this & forget to change the city?"

"I think that is EXACTLY what happened," replied another.

Eight hours later the Trump tweet had not been revised. Indeed, Trump first issued the Texas message on Nov. 5, adding: "I am monitoring the situation from Japan."

Will president get a twofer?

Senate Republicans said they will try to attach a repeal of Obamacare’s personal health insurance mandate to their tax cut bill. Trump has urged such a move to achieve two of his top legislative goals.

There’s a practical reason, too. Republicans need to find revenue sources to make up for steep reductions in the corporate tax rate. They are already calling for elimination of some popular tax breaks.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated repealing the requirement that people buy health coverage would mean 4 million additional uninsured people by 2019 and 13 million more by 2027.

New York ripe for squeezing

Republicans and Democrats alike in New York predict the state will suffer economic damage if Congress passes tax legislation that strips away most or all state and local tax deductions. Trump’s budget director said New York will just be getting what it deserves.

“Whose fault is that? Is it the federal government’s fault that New York taxes are so high that they’re driving people out of the state?” Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman, told reporters. “I don’t think it’s up to the federal government to save New York from its bad decisions.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) cited a study that said South Carolina gets back $1.35 for every federal tax dollar it sends to Washington, while New York gets 79 cents. “The fact is that states like South Carolina are living off New York,” King said. “Is that fair?”

See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

Just plane false

Touting his “very good relationship” with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte before leaving Manila Tuesday, Trump wanted to show how bad it was between Duterte and former President Barack Obama.

As Trump told it, Obama was en route to the Philippines, but the country refused to let Air Force One land. “Many of you were there, and you never got to land. The plane came close, but it didn’t land,” Trump told reporters.

No, that didn’t happen. Not even close. Obama canceled a planned meeting with Duterte while attending a conference in Laos last year after the Philippine leader called him a “son of a whore.” Obama met with other leaders there.

What else is happening

  • Trump judicial nominee Brett J. Talley of Alabama has never tried a case in court, but does have a rare talent: He ain’t afraid of no ghosts. Talley was part of The Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group from 2009-2010, the Daily Beast reports.
  • Sessions refused to answer whether any White House officials tried to influence the Justice Department review of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Inc. The latter owns CNN, a frequent target of Trump. “The Justice Department does not reveal privileged conversations or conversations with the White House,” Sessions said.
  • Three UCLA basketball players arrested in China on shoplifting charges flew home Tuesday after Trump said he sought Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help in the case.
  • Trump is returning home from Asia under increasing pressure to help push Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore out of the race because of accusations of past sexual misconduct with teenagers, Politico reports.
  • Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) weighed in on the matter by tweeting: "It's about time for that creepy Roy Moore dude to exit stage left."
  • Trump will nominate Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan to permanently lead the agency, the White House announced. Homan, a career ICE employee, supports Trump’s hard-line views.

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