Trump keeps trashing his Attorney General

As others have expressed here, it is easy to become numb to what Donald Trump says. Incredulity is turning into boredom due to the number of outrageous things he says.

Media don’t help as they keep reporting on stupid but trivial things, like his comments on the hurricane Florence flooding “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water”. Mocking Trump is like breathing air.

But Trump’s ongoing involvement and interference in judicial matters and investigations is (or should be) a major concern.

Like Trump says ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh guilty of allegation

Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

This is mild involvement by Trump’s standards, but it would normally be prudent for President stay right out of things like this (Trump us not known for prudence).

However some of the most serious interference from Trump is his ongoing attacks on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Hill.TV INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Trump eviscerates Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,”

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it”

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

“He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself”.

“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”

What Trump seems to be sad about is that Sessions is acting for the United States of America, as he absolutely should be, and not in Trump’s own personal interests.

And as is common, Trump is wrong in the recusal.  Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation, 28 CFR 45.2, required it.”

Trump appears to see himself as above the law.

He has been trashing Sessions for some time, because Sessions is not doing what he wants, and doesn’t do what Trump says he wants him to do.

Trump has the power to sack Sessions. That he hasn’t done that despite his ongoing criticism suggests that it has been made clear to him that it would likely lead to a crisis in his presidency, and would possibly making his own position untenable.

If Trump sacked sessions it may (and should) precipitate mass resignations from his administration, and it may even force Republican politicians to stand up for their country rather than rolling over for Trump.

Trump versus US Attorney General

Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions, who had been a strong support of Trump for the presidency, hit back in his defence.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News: Trump’s tweet on ‘disgraceful’ DOJ puts Jeff Sessions in a bind

That last word is just remarkable.

As an old Justice reporter, let me pose this question:

How credible would it be if Sessions, a big Senate supporter and surrogate of the Trump campaign, who’s recused himself from the Russia probe, was overseeing an investigation of how the Obama DOJ handled a surveillance request against a Trump adviser who had contacts with Russia?

That’s why you have an independent inspector general.

Is Trump trying to embarrass Sessions into quitting? He’s not a big fan of Rod Rosenstein, who would become acting AG, and the No. 3, Rachel Brand, recently quit. The battle for the Senate to confirm a new DOJ chief would be a drawn-out spectacle.

For the moment, the president has left his attorney general little choice but to defend his department.

Reuters: Trump flays Sessions for ‘disgraceful’ decision, sparking new clash

It is a disgraceful decision by Trump to spark a clash with the AG.

Long-simmering tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney general erupted anew on Wednesday after Trump lambasted Jeff Sessions’ decision on a surveillance abuse investigation as “DISGRACEFUL.”

Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign, responded to the public rebuke with an uncharacteristically terse statement in which he pledged “to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”

The latest fracas began with Trump flaying Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – not prosecutors – examine how the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.

“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Horowitz was sworn into his post in 2012, during the Obama administration, after serving on a sentencing policy commission to which he was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Trump’s tweet appeared to reveal a lack of understanding of the function of Horowitz’s office, which serves as an independent watchdog that investigates misconduct in the Justice Department and can refer wrongdoing to prosecutors.

Many of Trump’s tweets reveal a lack of understanding of many things.

In his statement, Sessions called the referral to Horowitz “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

“As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” he said.

Sessions’ statement was his strongest defense against repeated attacks from Trump.

Republican politicians have backed Sessions.

“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.

Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”

Fox News: Trump’s punching bag: How much longer will Sessions endure the thrashing?

President Trump’s latest outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions – escalating a year-long public flogging of the mild-mannered former senator – is raising the question: How much longer will Sessions endure?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey backed Sessions’ decision to ask the IG to investigate FISA abuse, calling the move “precisely the right choice.”

“If anyone at DOJ should look into the circumstances of this FISA application, it is the IG, who reports to both the Attorney General and Congress,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s attack was the latest in a long line of public swipes at the AG, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is otherwise aligned with Trump’s base on issues like immigration and crime.

But their relationship soured within months of Trump taking office, largely over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia meddling investigation.

If the attorney general chooses to stay, it would seem unlikely Trump would look to fire him outright, especially given the chaos that followed the ouster of FBI boss James Comey.

Doing so could fire up the already-piqued interest of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who the Post reports is already investigating a period last summer where Trump tried to push Sessions out, amid concerns Trump was looking to replace him with someone who would exercise control over the Russia probe.

Image result for trump train wreck

Alarming cannabis claim from US Attorney General

One would hope that the US Attorney general was well informed, but apparently he is not.

At a Heritage Foundation event celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday this week, Jeff Sessions made a familiar argument: Easy access to marijuana is helping fuel the opioid epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that the vast majority of heroin addiction starts with prescription painkillers, he acknowledged, but “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”

Accordingly, last month, Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance to deprioritize prosecuting dispensaries in states that had legalized marijuana.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that legal access to medicamarijuana could in fact help reduce overdose deaths. The latest study, published by the RAND Corporation this week, found that states that allowed liberal access to marijuana through legally protected dispensaries saw reduced deaths from opioid overdoses. States that legalized the drug but didn’t allow dispensaries didn’t see the same pattern.

The most comprehensive review on the medical effects of marijuana to date, published last year by National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than 10,000 studies on marijuana and found evidence that marijuana and its synthetic cousins, cannabinoids, reduce chronic pain, as well as muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis and nausea from chemotherapy. The study also found evidence of downsides, like increasing the risk of bronchitis, schizophrenia, and anxiety.

A 2016 Journal of Pain study found that marijuana use was associated with a 64 percent reduction in opioid use among patients with chronic pain.

Vox: Jeff Sessions: marijuana helped cause the opioid epidemic. The research: no.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation to the Reagan Alumni Association this week, Sessions argued that cutting prescriptions for opioid painkillers is crucial to combating the crisis — since some people started on painkillers before moving on to illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl. But then he expanded his argument to include cannabis.

“The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent,” Sessions said. “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”

Attorney general interferes with State cannabis law

US states have been progressively liberalising cannabis laws, with decriminalisation coming into effect in California at the start of this year.

But the US Attorney General has rescinded policy that will now enable much stronger federal enforcement of drug laws.

States are not happy, and Republican politicians are amongst those with concerns about the potential effects.

Steve Kurtz at Fox News:  Should pot be legal? Let states decide that question, not the federal government

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama administration policy that blocked U.S. attorneys from prosecuting marijuana cases in states where the drug is legal. He announced Thursday that he is instead leaving it up to federal prosecutors to use their discretion in determining whether to enforce the federal law banning the sale and use of the drug.

It’s not clear what the full effect of this new policy will be. But it suggests the Justice Department may be planning to strongly enforce federal drug laws against the budding marijuana industry.

Regardless of one’s views on marijuana, or drug use in general, this is an unfortunate move by the federal government. There are many issues which, by their nature, are federal issues. Punishment for drug use is not. In general, states should be allowed to police themselves.

For decades now there has been a movement to decriminalize marijuana. In recent years, it’s picked up steam, and there seems to be a general shift in public views on cannabis. Attorney General Sessions may not agree with this shift, but he should at least recognize it represents the beliefs of his fellow citizens.

Washington, D.C., and eight states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington – have legalized recreational marijuana. Another 29 states allow for its medical use. These numbers seem likely to increase.

The people have spoken. They should not be overruled by the Justice Department. As Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado put it, Sessions’ decision “has trampled on the will of the voters.”

Gardner went further, noting that President Trump has said legalization should be up to the states. Gardner also said that before he “voted to confirm Attorney General Sessions, he assured me that marijuana would not be a priority for this administration.”

So what is Sessions up to? Pushing a personal barrow over the top of state law? Is Trump behind it, or in support of it? It is contrary to state cannabis trends and also contrary to public opinion.

Bloomberg: Marijuana Crackdown by Sessions Leaves GOP Fearing 2018 Backlash

Marijuana legalization has grown in popularity: 64 percent of Americans favor it, according to an October 2017 Gallup poll.

Support was 57 percent to 37 percent in a Pew Research survey released a year earlier — including a remarkable 71 percent of millennials, currently the largest group of eligible voters in the country.

State Republicans are unhappy.

An early indication of the issue’s potency was the fierce reaction of Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state where voters legalized cultivation and possession in 2012. Gardner, who also is chairman of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, slammed the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “a trampling of Colorado’s rights, its voters.”

“Why is Donald Trump thinking differently than what he promised the people of Colorado in 2016?” Gardner said in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, evoking Trump’s campaign promise to leave the issue of marijuana legalization to states. “Thousands of jobs at risk, millions of dollars in revenue, and certainly the question of constitutional states rights — very much at the core of this discussion.”

The issue looms large in Colorado, Nevada and California, which legalized marijuana and where several congressional Republicans already are facing tough re-election battles. Nevada Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei are Democratic targets, as is Colorado Representative Mike Coffman. And some half-dozen GOP-held California House seats are in play, including three rated “toss up” that are represented by Steve Knight, Dana Rohrabacher and Darrell Issa.

“This is a freedom issue,” Rohrabacher said Thursday in a conference call with reporters, calling for a change in federal law to protect legal marijuana in states. “I think Jeff Sessions has forgotten about the Constitution and the 10th Amendment,” which gives powers to the states.

“By taking this benighted minority position, he actually places Republicans’ electoral fortunes in jeopardy,” Rohrabacher said in a statement later Thursday.

David Flaherty, a Colorado-based GOP consultant at Magellan Strategies, said the Justice Department’s decision could lead to a “major backlash and a spike in younger voters” if it disrupts the current system in Colorado. “Folks that are 44 and under here in Colorado are much more comfortable with the legalization of marijuana,” he said.

This is an odd move without popular or political support.

The Oaf in the Oval Office

What sort of game changer will it take to sort out the Oaf in the Oval Office?

It has been an eventful week in US politics. The inability of Donald Trump and Republicans to progress major legislation was highlighted by the failure of a watered down (‘skinny’) health repeal bill failing to overturn ‘Obamacare’.

WSJ:  The Republican ObamaCare Crack Up

After promising Americans for seven years that it would fix the Affordable Care Act, the Republican Party failed. This is a historic debacle that will echo politically for years.

A divided GOP Senate could not muster a majority even for a simple bill repealing the individual and employer mandates they had long opposed. Nor were they able to repeal the medical-device tax that some 70 Senators had gone on record wanting to repeal in previous Congresses.

The so-called skinny bill that failed in the Senate would have gone to a conference with the House, which had signaled its willingness to work out a compromise. That arduous process is the way the American legislative system works. A strong majority of the GOP caucuses on both chambers supported the effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare, but that was undone by an intransigent and petulant minority

The sacking of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus was done in a public and ugly way, but it may do something to sort out the chaos in the White House. May. Trump seems to be a significant cause of the chaos and may not be controllable.

Trump had campaigned he would ‘drain the swamp’, an attack on the mess that Washington politics has become and something that was a popular aim. If he cleaned up US politics he would deserve a lot of credit. But the jury is still not even out yet to decide whether trump is making Washington murkier, with his apparent inability to separate business interests from politics.

Trump’s declaration by tweet that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military seems to have been a decision on personal whim that blindsided just about everyone, including the military and his own staff.

I think of greater concern is Trump’s concerted effort over a week to publicly undermine his attorney general Jeff Sessions.The legal balance and checking of political power and abuse of power is a fundamental cornerstone of US democracy. Trump seems to be prepared to drain judicial independence, which is alarming.

Andrew Sullivan sums up A Week of Reckoning

We have become, at this point, inured to having an irrational president in an increasingly post-rational America. We’ve also come to tell ourselves that somehow

(a) this isn’t really happening,

(b) by some miracle, it will be over soon, or

(c) at some point the Republican Party will have to acknowledge what they are abetting, and cut their losses.

And yet with each particular breach of decency, stability, and constitutionality, no breaking point seems to have arrived, even as the tribalism has deepened, the president’s madness has metastasized, and the norms of liberal democracy are hanging on by a thread.

But surely this week must mark some kind of moment in this vertiginous descent, some point at which the manifest unfitness of this president to continue in office becomes impossible to deny.

Compare it with any other week in modern political history. Day after day, the president has publicly savaged his own attorney general for doing the only thing possible with an investigation into a political campaign he was a key part of: recusing himself. And the point of the president’s fulminations was that the recusal prevented Sessions from obstructing that very investigation.

The president, in other words, has been openly attacking his own attorney general for not subverting the rule of law.

After the last few days, someone in the GOP leadership somewhere is surely going to have to take responsibility for running this country since we have a president who cannot.

Sullivan sees some hope that the system will hold out on a reckless president.

The Congress as a whole has effectively torpedoed any intention the president might have of lifting sanctions against Russia, by passing a bill by massive margins to prevent it.

And on the related matter of the investigation into Russian interference in the last election, Senator Chuck Grassley made it clear this week that, if the president were to fire Sessions, his Judiciary Committee would not hold any hearings on a successor.

That’s a checkmate for Trump for the time being, because it would leave the Justice Department under the control of Rod Rosenstein, who hired Robert Mueller in the first place. Put all these developments together and you have an inkling of how the Constitution can still protect us from the worst of this presidency — if the Senate wants to play the role it is designed to play.

Shunting Sessions sideways would look as bad as firing him.

Finding someone willing to replace him given Trump’s public displeasure at not being able to subvert justice may not be easy, especially if it is not a candidate who is widely considered to be credible and able to be act independently of the White House.

As new chief of staff John Kelly may be able to sort out most of the White House, but it must be doubtful he can straighten out the crucial part – the Oval Office, more particularly the Oaf in Office.

Russian ambassador spoked to Sessions about campaign

The Russian doesn’t like going away for Donald Trump and his administration.

Reuters: Russian envoy overheard saying he discussed campaign with Sessions

Russia’s ambassador to Washington was overheard by U.S. spy agencies telling his bosses that he had discussed campaign-related matters, including issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that Ambassador Sergei Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions, then a U.S. senator and key foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump, were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was nothing automatically inappropriate about Sessions, then a U.S. senator as well as a Trump supporter, discussing policy matters or even Trump’s thinking about them with a foreign diplomat.

“The question is whether he crossed the line and discussed classified information or talked about deals like lifting sanctions if the Russians were interested in investing in the U.S. or had dirt on Secretary Clinton,” said a second official familiar with the intercepts, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His memory is another matter.”

Sessions at first failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

As Attorney General, he recused himself in March from matters connected to an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any connections to the Trump campaign following his admission that he had talked to the Russian envoy.

Sessions has denied discussing campaign issues with Russian officials and has said that he only met Kislyak in his role of U.S. senator.

The Post cited one U.S. official as saying that Sessions provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.”

The newspaper reported that a former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.

A day or two ago:  Trump says he should not have picked Sessions as attorney general

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not have appointed Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, according to a New York Times interview.

“Sessions should have never recused himself and if he was going to recuse himself he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” the Times quoted Trump as saying.

Not surprisingly this comment was strongly criticised. It is criticval the Attorney General be independent of the president, especially when investigating things related to the president. And when the Attorney General was also linked to aspects of any investigation they had no choice to recuse.

Trump scandal ‘worse than Watergate’

NZ Herald:  Former US intelligence chief ranks watergate less of a scandal than Donald Trump Russia investigation

A former US intelligence chief today ranked Watergate as less of a scandal than the revelations now ripping through the administration of President Donald Trump.

“I think if you compare the two that Watergate pales really in my view compared to what we’re confronting now,” James Clapper told the National Press Club in Canberra.

There even were concerns among US intelligence authorities about forwarding information to the Trump White House, according to Clapper, Director of National Intelligence under President Barak Obama.

Clapper pointed to the possibility of further damaging revelations when James Comey, the former FBI director sacked by Mr Trump, gives evidence on allegations of Russian interference in US politics before a congressional hearing Thursday, Washington time.

The Comey evidence is yet to come, but in a preliminary to his appearance Top intel officials Coats and Rogers say they’ve never been ‘pressured’ on Russia investigations

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told a Senate panel Wednesday that they would not answer questions about whether President Trump asked them to downplay possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials in last year’s election, but they said they did not feel “pressured” to interfere or intervene in the Russia investigation.

Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he did not believe it was appropriate for him to publicly discuss conversations he has had with the president.

“I have never felt pressured to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relation to an ongoing investigation,” Coats testified in response to a question from Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va.

Rogers also refused to answer Warner’s questions about his conversations with Trump about the Russia investigation.

“In the three-plus years that I have been the director of the National Security Agency, to the best of my recollection, I have never been directed to do anything I believe to be illegal, unethical, immoral or inappropriate,” Rogers said, adding that he has never felt “pressured” to do so.

This saga is likely to continue for some time yet. Comey’s appearance will be on Friday New Zealand time.

In the meantime there are other potential problems for Trump:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested he could resign amid rising tension with President Trump

As the White House braces for former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony Thursday, sources tell ABC News the relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on.

Trump’s anger over the recusal has not diminished with time. Two sources close to the president say he has lashed out repeatedly at the attorney general in private meetings, blaming the recusal for the expansion of the Russia investigation, now overseen by Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

But sources say the frustration runs both ways, prompting the resignation offer from Sessions.

There seems to be a lot of frustrations and diversions in Trump’s administration, but he and his Fox friends are trying to look positive.

This may or may not be evident here:  Under Trump, regulation slows to a crawl

Before he took office, Donald Trump promised to roll back the reach of the federal government, saying that he would end the “regulation industry” on the first day of his presidency. The effect has been immediate and dramatic: According to data compiled by POLITICO, significant federal regulation since Trump’s inauguration has slowed to an almost total halt.

From Inauguration Day until the end of May, just 15 regulations were approved by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House department that reviews important new federal rules. That’s by far the fewest among comparable periods since recordkeeping began in the 1990s: Ninety-three rules were approved during the same period in Barack Obama’s administration, and 114 under George W. Bush.

The near-total freeze in regulations is likely to keep GOP supporters happy, converting on a long-held conservative dream of a government that stays out of the way. “It’s a reason to celebrate,” said Stephen Moore, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who informally advised Trump during his campaign.

But rulemaking is the key way a White House shapes policy, and for an administration that has struggled to populate federal agencies and get laws passed through Congress, the rulemaking gap denies the administration its biggest chance to make an impact on how America runs. The slowdown has begun to concern some business groups, who worry that key regulations simply aren’t being issued as expected—and liberals warn it could leave the government playing catch-up with major changes.

Trump has said he will live tweet during Comey’s appearance – good grief!

UPDATE: But he has been preempted with the release already of Comey’s prepared statement:

CNBC:  ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty’ — read James Comey’s explosive statement about Donald Trump

  • Former FBI Director James Comey will testify that President Trump told him “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”
  • “I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed,” Comey says in his prepared remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

 

US discussion

News or views or issues from the USA.USFlag


The White House is in another clash, this time with ‘sanctuary cities’.

Wikipedia describes sanctuary cities as:

…a city which permits residence by illegal immigrants to help them avoid deportation. … Approximately 300 U.S. jurisdictions, including cities, counties and states, reportedly have adopted sanctuary policies.

Washington Times: Sessions says he’ll punish sanctuaries, cities could lose billions of dollars

The Trump administration officially put sanctuary cities on notice Monday that they are violating federal laws and could lose access to billions of dollars in Justice Department grants if they continue to thwart efforts to deport illegal immigrants.

And counties and cities that have taken money in the past, despite refusing to cooperate with federal agents, could have that money clawed back, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. That would mean Chicago, Philadelphia and other prominent sanctuaries would not only lose money going forward, but might have to pay back tens of millions of dollars from their treasuries.

But Mr. Sessions didn’t say when he would actually start withholding money, making his announcement more signal than substance.

“Countless Americans would be alive today — and countless loved ones would not be grieving today — if the policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions were ended,” Mr. Sessions said from the White House, saying the time is ripe to take action.

But mayors have responded.

Fox News: Sanctuary city mayors fire back at Trump administration’s threat to cut fed funding

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the significance of Sessions’ message and said in his weekly television segment Sessions was more “saber-rattling.”

“If they actually act to take away our money, we’ll see them in court,” vowed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said taking federal funding from the city would be “unconstitutional.”

“We will fight to protect the safety and dignity of all Angelenos,” Garcetti said. “We will work closely with our representatives in Congress to make sure that Los Angeles does not go without federal resources that help protect millions of people every day.”

More on sanctuary cities.

While not a technical term, “sanctuary cities” are seen as communities that have refused to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials after detaining illegal immigrants. By federal law, they are required to inform the feds when they have an illegal immigrant in custody, even if he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Sessions claims ‘American people’ support but polls contradict that.

Sessions cited a report released last week by the Department of Homeland Security underscoring the message. In one recent 7-day span, there were more than 200 instances of jurisdictions refusing to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests with respect to individuals charged or convicted of a crime.

“The American people are not happy with these results,” Sessions said on Monday. “They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe.”

But a recent Fox News Poll taken this month showed that 53 percent of voters opposed the administration’s plan to penalize cities by cutting their federal funding.

I don’t know how Sessions justifies “countless Americans would be alive today…if the policies of these sanctuary jurisdictions were ended”.

That doesn’t make sense. Ending sanctuaries now is not going to bring people back to life, even if their deaths were due to not handing over arrested immigrants to federal authorities.

This illustrates the complexities of US politics, with the White House, the Senate, Congress, states and cities all competing and clashing on policies and practices.

Republicans now calling on Sessions to recuse himself

The testimony of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Russian contacts is becoming an escalating problem. Some Republicans are now calling on Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations into Russian interference in the US election.

Washington Post: Top Republicans call on Sessions to recuse himself from Russia investigation

Top Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from federal investigations of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election amid revelations that he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States as a senator but failed to say so at his recent confirmation hearing.

For the second time in President Trump’s nascent administration, the truthfulness of one of its top officials is coming under intense scrutiny, prompting Democratic leaders to call for Sessions to resign as attorney general. The swift response among some Republicans signaled increasing concern about the potential political fallout.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted early Thursday that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”

More government by Twitter.

He later told reporters: “Let’s let him clarify his statement, and I do think he should recuse himself.” Asked whether his committee would investigate the matter, Chaffetz said, “There are things we are looking at.”

Other calls for Sessions to step down came from across the GOP spectrum. Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), held in high regard at the White House, said in a statement that Sessions “is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe.”

Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents a swing district in Northern Virginia and is a former Justice Department official, said that Sessions should recuse himself from Russia inquiries and that he “needs to clarify any misconceptions from his confirmation hearing on the matter.”

The comments from prominent Republicans follow revelations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during election season.

According to Justice Department officials, Sessions, a top Trump supporter, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016, including a private meeting in September in his office.

Under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions said that he had not met with any Russian officials.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed calls for Sessions’s recusal as politically motivated.

“There’s nothing to recuse himself,” Spicer said in an interview on Fox News Channel. “He was 100 percent straight with the [Judiciary] committee and I think that people who are choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves.”

But Sessions has compromised himself – perhaps he’s the one who should be ashamed of himself.

If he doesn’t recuse himself he will leave himself open to allegations and implications of personal interests. At the very least sessions will be a distraction from any investigations.

Questions over Sessions’ testimony

New US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has come under fire over sworn testimony given during his confirmation hearing that appears to deny contact with Russian officials during the election campaign.

Fox News: Sessions, Russian ambassador spoke twice during presidential campaign

Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during last year’s presidential campaign, while Sessions was still a senator.

Reports about the meetings appeared to contradict a statement Sessions made during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general. Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., how he would respond “if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign.”

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” answered Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest and most prominent supporters during the campaign. “I have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

When contacted by Fox News late Wednesday, Sessions said, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

But he has at least two meetings with Russian government representatives. He should have at least been open about this.

The disclosure caused renewed calls for Sessions to step aside from an ongoing FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The White House has already acknowledged that Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, misled top officials about the nature of his contacts with Kislyak. Flynn initially told Vice President Mike Pence and other Trump advisers that he did not discuss sanctions with the envoy during the transition, though it was later revealed that he did.

It’s fair to question this lack of frankness.

G W Bush’s ethics lawyer:

Washington Post: Sessions met with Russian envoy twice last year, encounters he later did not disclose

One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote.

Sessions responded with one word: “No.”

In a statement issued Wednesday night, Sessions said he “never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Sessions may think that semantics give him a way out of this but it doesn’t look good for him or for the Trump administration.

Full and open disclosure at the hearings would have avoided this. Now it looks like Sessions has been avoiding open disclosure, which raises questions about whether he deliberately tried to hide contact with Russians.