WASHINGTON – Deja vu happened again in the nation’s capital Thursday. Once again a top aide to President Trump got caught telling an untruth. Once again Democrats demanded that the top aide resign, and once again senior Republicans offered less-than-enthusiastic statements of support.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ day as a punching bag seemed a duplicate of the one then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn experienced in mid-February.
And in both cases, one member of Congress stood strong in the corner of the embattled Trump administration official: Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.
Soon after Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other Democrats called for Sessions’ scalp amid revelations that he misled Congress on his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Collins issued a statement.
“I know Attorney General Sessions personally and he is a man of integrity,” Collins said in a statement.
Similarly, amid revelations that Flynn had lied to Vice President Pence about Flynn’s contacts with the Russian ambassador, Collins said: “I think some people are trying to blow this up, you know, make a mountain out of a mole hill.” Flynn resigned soon after that.
It’s all further proof of something Collins has been proving for a year now. Whenever times get tough for Donald Trump, Collins will be there for him.
Collins was the first member of the House to endorse Trump for president, and he has defended Trump and his appointees at every turn ever since.
Democrats in the Western New York congressional delegation – led by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer – uniformly said Sessions should resign.
“The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, and already his integrity and independence are in question,” Schumer told reporters. "It would be better for the country if he resigned.”
In response, Collins said: “These allegations are just the latest political witch hunt launched by Minority Leader Schumer and Democrats in their endless attempts to delegitimize President Trump’s electoral victory.”
Democrats did indeed seem united in calling for Sessions to quit. Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas E. Perez – a Snyder native – called for Sessions’ scalp. So did House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and lawmakers ranging from Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.
“It’s clear that Attorney General Sessions gave false testimony under oath at his hearing,” Gillibrand said. “This should disqualify him from leading the Justice Department.”
Higgins said pretty much the same thing.
“The attorney general of the United States obviously misled Congress,” he said. “That in itself is justification for him to step down.”
Several other congressional Republicans started calling for Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s election.
Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah – chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – said the attorney general should remove himself from any involvement in the probe.
And late Thursday afternoon, Sessions did just that.
Asked for comment on the situation, Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, said he had spoken to Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, about the committee’s probe into Russian meddling in last November’s elections.
“I am confident in the committee’s pledge to provide a fair and thorough review and recommendation for appropriate action,” Reed said.
For his part, Collins wondered why there was any probe in the first place – even though U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI have agreed that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails and leaked them through WikiLeaks in order to benefit Trump.
“From the outset, I have said I do not believe an investigation regarding alleged Russian interference in the election is warranted and that stance has not changed,” Collins said.
This story was corrected online after it was brought to the attention of the News that the original version of the story incorrectly identified Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer as majority leader.