Day 42: Trump Team Catches Perjury Bug Like Toddlers Catch the Flu

Donald Trump has had a tenuous relationship with the truth. Non-partisan website Politifact, for instance, has rated 70% of Trump’s statements “Mostly False,” “False,” or “Pants on Fire”.

We know about non-Cabinet members Spicy and Kellyanne and Miller and Bannon and Flynn. But the Cabinet apples don’t fall far from the Trump tree, either.

Yesterday, both the New York Times and Washington Post broke stories detailing the Trump team’s ties to Russia. They overlapped on many details and generally focused on intelligence gathering and preservation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ two meetings with Russian officials.

Jeff Sessions

Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year, including once at his office. Sessions was a member of the Armed Services Committee at the time. The Post reached out to the other 26 members of the committee. None met with Kislyak.

Sessions — being sworn in in the picture above — committed perjury:

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 a pre-hearing questionnaire, Sessions also lied:

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.”

The Sessions team has responded in extraordinarily confusing ways.

First, they claimed the communication wasn’t relevant to either inquiry, so it wasn’t misleading. The problem is that Sessions doesn’t get to decide what is or is not relevant. He was asked a question. He was under oath to tell the truth. He lied.

Next, Sessions claimed “I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.” If Sessions doesn’t know what the allegation is about, how can he immediately declare it false?

Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos— testifying under oath at her confirmation hearing for Education Secretary in the picture above — also committed perjury:

Steve Mnuchin

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin — testifying under oath at his confirmation hearing in the picture above — denied overseeing a robo-signing scheme at his bank, OneWest, to facilitate faster foreclosures through nefarious and often illegal means.

CNN reported about OneWest’s practice:

During Mnuchin’s tenure, OneWest was charged by federal regulators with filing false documents during foreclosures. Employees also failed to make sure they had the correct loan documentation before the bank seized a home. The scandalous behavior is known as robo-signing. OneWest eventually admitted its wrongdoing in a consent decree with regulators.

That was news to Mnuchin, who denied engaging in the practice during his testimony:

“OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents,” Mnuchin said. He added that the bank was the only one to “successfully complete” an independent foreclosure review process by federal banking regulators looking into robo-signing allegations.

Scott Pruitt

EPA head Scott Pruitt — testifying under oath at his confirmation hearing in the picture above — also had difficulty correlating his words with the truth.

As the New York Daily News succinctly put it:

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he had always used a state email account for government business.

A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.

Pruitt’s use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.

Pruitt fought the release of those emails and the GOP-led Senate jammed Pruitt’s confirmation through just days before the emails were released.

Tom Price

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — testifying under oath at his confirmation hearing in the picture above — has been dogged about a stock deal he made:

Rep. Tom Price got a privileged offer to buy a biomedical stock at a discount, the company’s officials said, contrary to his congressional testimony this month.

The Georgia Republican tapped by President Donald Trump to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services testified in his Senate confirmation hearings on Jan. 18 and 24 that the discounted shares he bought in Innate Immunotherapeutics, Ltd., an Australian medical biotechnology company, “were available to every single individual that was an investor at the time.”

In fact, the cabinet nominee was one of fewer than 20 U.S. investors who were invited last year to buy discounted shares of the company — an opportunity that, for Mr. Price, arose from an invitation from a company director and fellow congressmen.

“I asked Congressman Price directly if he got an exclusive discount on stock in an Australian biomedical firm, and he said no,” Sen. Wyden said Tuesday. “From the committee’s investigation to company documents to the company officials’ own words, the evidence tells a different story. It looks more and more like Congressman Price got special access to a special deal.”

Price’s nomination was forced through the committee stage under unprecedented circumstances.

Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — testifying under oath at his confirmation hearing in the picture above — claimed that ExxonMobil (of which he was the head) never lobbied against sanctions aimed at Russia.

“I have never lobbied against sanctions,” Tillerson said. “To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions.”

The facts don’t line-up with that assertion, as even Bob Corker, a Republican, said to Tillerson, “I think you called me at the time [Russia sanctions were being debated].”

And there’s the Politico story outlining just how involved the oil giant was:

ExxonMobil successfully lobbied against a bill that would have made it harder for the next president to lift sanctions against Russia, clearing the way for the oil giant to restart a program worth billions of dollars if Donald Trump eases those restrictions as president.

The sanctions forced Exxon to step back from a drilling project in Russia’s Arctic, a loss that the company valued in a regulatory filing at as much as $1 billion. Exxon also lobbied the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against previous bills punishing Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the company’s efforts on Capitol Hill.

It’s hard to imagine that Tillerson, as the CEO, was unaware that Exxon was going to lose a $1 billion deal immediately, and was likely to suffer hardships for years into the future.

Lying under oath is perjury, whether it’s at a criminal trial, civil deposition or hearing before Congress. Who’s going to do anything about it in this case, though? Sessions can make most of these issues disappear. And yeah, sure, Congress has impeachment power. But this is the same GOP-led Congress that has only seen a couple of stray votes oppose any of Trump’s nominees.

The Republican Congress will accept profound perjury like they accepted Trump’s nominations to begin with.

42 days in, 1420 to go

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TrumpTimer watches, tracks and reports about Donald Trump and his administration’s policies every day. TrumpTimer is also counting down until January 20, 2021.

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