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]

U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital; U.N. General Assembly Rejects Move

On December 6, President Trump announced that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump also stated plans to eventually move the United States embassy there from its current location in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem, a key piece in the peace process between Israel and Palestine, has been divided since 1967, with East Jerusalem occupied by Palestine. Trump’s move only declares official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but does not establish or move city boundaries for Israelis or Palestinians.

On December 21, however, the United Nations General Assembly voted to reject Trump’s position on Jerusalem. In the vote, 128 nations supported the U.N. General Assembly stance that the United States’ move will have no legal impact over Jerusalem. Nine countries voted against the U.N. position, and 35 abstained.

UN Overwhelmingly Condemns Trump’s Jerusalem Decision | CBS This Morning |  [2017-12-22]

UN Votes to condemn US decision on Jerusalem | Fox News [2017/12/21]

Up to now, the United States has refrained from officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The sensitive issue of Jerusalem, its boundaries, and its status, has long been seen as one of the ultimate considerations in the final peace negotiation process between Israel and Palestine. Many feel Trump’s move signifies that the United States has abandoned its neutral position in Israel-Palestine peace negotiations, and that as a result, the process has been disrupted.

What’s more, Trump’s decision is said to be in violation of several U.N. Security council resolutions pertaining to the Israel-Palestine conflicts. It also is seen as endorsing a move by Israel that may be a violation of a portion of the Geneva Convention that “prohibits appropriation of lands won in war to the territory of an existing nation,” according to CBS’ Jeffrey Wright.

UN Condemns Trump’s Jerusalem Decision | CBS News [2017/12/21]

US should dial back the rhetoric against UN: Larry Korb | Fox Business [2017/12/21]

The city of Jerusalem is considered holy to three major religions. It’s where Solomon is said to have built the first Jewish temple; where Christ is said to have been crucified; and where the prophet Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven.

One issue that has not widely been discussed regarding the question of why Trump made such a move is the fact that Jerusalem is significant to American Evangelical Christians (81 percent of whom voted for Trump). The city figures significantly in what Evangelicals refer to as the “end times.” In order for Biblical prophecy to be fulfilled, they say, Jerusalem needs to be in the control of Israel. In order for Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to his base, Jerusalem needs to be recognized as the Israeli capital.

Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and to move the U.S. embassy there has exacerbated hostility from groups who align solidly with the Palestinians. On the other hand, since the U.N. has trounced support of the decision, many feel Trump’s move will be contained in its worldwide impact.