Robert Mueller’s Interview with Jeff Sessions; Palestinians Boycott Pence

Robert Mueller’s Questions for Jeff Sessions

Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as part of the Justice Department’s probe into Russian efforts to meddle with the 2016 election. Jeff Sessions, an early supporter of Trump, was involved throughout Trump’s campaign, and is a significant witness in this investigation.

Mueller’s team hopes to get answers from Jeff Sessions for the following questions:

  • Why did Sessions fail to disclose his meetings with Russian Senior Diplomat Sergey Kislyak and others? (In March of 2017, Sessions recused himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose the fact that he had had meetings with Russian officials.)
  • What, exactly, went on during the 2016 Donald Trump Campaign? Was there collusion with a foreign adversary?
  • Why Did Donald Trump fire FBI Director James Comey? Jeff Sessions was involved in the decision to fire Comey, and wrote the memo recommending the firing. Did Trump, Sessions, or anyone else try to obstruct justice by firing Comey? (Trump had pressured Comey to end the Russia investigation, but Comey did not comply. Was Comey later fired because he refused to squelch the Russia investigation? Or was he fired because the Trump administration was unhappy with how he had handled Hillary’s use of a private server for her emails?

Jeff Sessions is the only known current Trump cabinet member to be interviewed by Mueller’s special counsel. Some speculate that the Sessions interview signals that the investigation is nearing an end. Others, however, say that Mueller’s questioning of Sessions is just the beginning.

AG Jeff Sessions Interviewed in Russia Probe | CBS News [2018-01-23]

Does Sessions Interview Signal Russia Probe is Wrapping Up? | Fox News [2018-01-23]

Palestinians Boycott Mike Pence

Palestinian leaders refused to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel. They have boycotted Pence in protest of Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to move the U.S. Embassy there.

Many Palestinians, aware of Pence’s brand of American evangelical Christianity, accuse Pence of using religion to shape diplomatic policy. For evangelical Christians, Israel, particularly Jerusalem, figures significantly in biblical “end times” doctrine.

Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO official, said, “He brought to bear his ideological fundamentalist literalist interpretation of the bible in order to punish the Palestinians and reward the aggressive Israeli occupier. This is entirely unacceptable. It is not only illegal, it is immoral, it is inhuman.”

Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, said “The Messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists, and has proven that the U.S. administration is part of the problem, rather than the solution.”

Many American Evangelical Christians believe that all Christians support Israel’s position in the Israeli-Palestinian conversation. But in Israel, Christian leaders – not just Muslims – don’t welcome Pence, either.

Rev. Mitri Raheb, of Dar Al Kalima University College, calls Pence a Christion Zionist. “Americans are interested in Armageddon and wars. Instead of focusing on liberation, they’re interested in occupation.”

During his visit to Jerusalem, Mike Pence cited the fact that in the past, the U.S. helped Israel to make peace with Egypt and Jordan, two difficult elements of this conflict. Those treaties have lasted, and it was because both sides were willing to sit down and negotiate face to face.

Mike Pence’s presence, however, reminds Palestinians of Trump’s recent Jerusalem decision – one that had previously been considered a final step in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. That, paired with the recognition of Pence’s evangelical slant, has made the idea of beginning a bridge to negotiations with Israel unpalatable to Palestinians.

Palestinian Leaders Say Pence’s Faith is Shaping Policy | Fox News [2018-01-23]

Palestinians Boycott Mike Pence’s Visit to Israel | Al Jazeerah English [2018-01-22]

Vice President Pence in Israel | The White House [2018-01-24]

Weeding Out States’ Rights: Jeff Sessions Rescinds Obama-era Marijuana Policy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the legal marijuana policy put in place by the Obama Administration. The Obama-era guidelines, which include The Cole Memorandum and two other documents, established a policy of limited Federal interference in individual state laws regarding use of cannabis. Sessions’ move, in effect, reverses this policy, placing the enforcement of marijuana laws back at Federal discretion.

Currently, the use of medical cannabis, as recommended by a physician, is legal in 29 states. In 17 additional states, more restricted use of cannabis products with limited THC content is legal or decriminalized. Eight states have legalized non-medical use of cannabis. Sessions’ reversal of the Obama Administration’s policy no longer protects states from enforcement of Federal cannabis law.

This development is not simply about whether our representatives support or oppose the legalization of cannabis, however. Many see it as being about preserving states’ rights.

Looking backward, states’ rights were important to the likes of Jeff Sessions when it came to, for example, repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Then, Sessions and other Conservatives asserted that states, not the Federal government, should determine whether certain health care costs, known as Essential Health Benefits, should be covered.

Perhaps surprisingly, many Republicans are opposed to Sessions’ actions regarding Federal interference in state marijuana laws. Though Donald Trump supports Sessions’ move, stating that Federal Law on cannabis comes before states’ rights, several GOP leaders, such as Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), say that this stance “contradicts what Trump and the Conservatives stand for.”

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, who originally opposed legalization of recreational marijuana in his home state, has threatened to block all Justice Department nominees in response, saying that he is “incensed” at the Federal usurpation of states’ rights.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker, of New Jersey, states, “Before Sessions was confirmed, he pledged that this was not what he would do…It is a failure of this administration, who said, as our President did during his campaign, that he would honor what states are doing; it’s a betrayal (by) our Attorney General, who gave a commitment to at least one Republican member of this body; but most significantly, it will hurt America. It is ignoring a growing bipartisan consensus that the war on drugs has failed.”

We should note that, though Jeff Sessions has once again placed enforcement of Federal cannabis laws at the discretion of U.S. attorneys, he has not allocated additional funds or resources for that purpose. Many U.S. attorneys have already stated that they will not prosecute these cases.

GOP Senator Rips Sessions over Marijuana Policy | CNN [2018-01-04]


Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Marijuana Policy Change | C-SPAN [2018-01-04]