“This was supposed to have been the week Donald Trump got a fresh start as president, but now he’s facing major new questions about his campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia,” said Seth Meyers.The Late Night host opened the latest edition of his “Closer Look” segment by complimenting President Trump on his well-received address to Congress—wherein our draft-dodging commander in chief earned patriotism points by honoring Carryn Owens, the widow of slain Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, with a few kind words, followed by a standing ovation. But Owens was killed during what military officials have characterized as a hastily plotted Yemen raid by the Trump administration that dropped SEALs onto a heavily fortified al Qaeda base, resulting in a prolonged firefight; cost the lives of up to 29 civilians, including nine children; and was signed off on over dinner. Trump, who pinned the blame on his generals, has insisted that the mission yielded valuable intelligence—even though 10 military officials told NBC News otherwise.
But the main news concerned Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “So, turns out Trump’s attorney general, who was also a former adviser to his campaign—as well as the first person in the Senate to declare support for Trump—met with the Russian ambassador while Russia was also allegedly engaged in a campaign of cyberattacks to interfere in the election,” said Meyers.
Sessions was found to have met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice last year during the Trump campaign, and not only failed to disclose the meetings, but appeared to have lied about them under oath.
During his attorney general nomination proceedings, Sessions was asked—under oath—by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”“Sen. Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions replied. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians.” Sessions denied having any communications with the Russians about the 2016 election a second time in responses to written questions presented by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
“Surely a senator from Alabama named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions would remember meeting some Russians,” said Meyers, before doing his best Southern accent: Now, we don’t get a lot of Ruskies down in this neck of the woods. Can I get you some lemonade? You must be awfully hot underneath that big ol’ furry hat. When met with the ambassador revelations, Sessions’s camp issued a series of contradictory statements. “First, Sessions’s spokeswoman confirmed that he met with the Russian ambassador, but claimed he did it not as a Trump campaign adviser, but as a senator,” said Meyers. “Then, a White House official told CNBC the meeting involved only ‘superficial comments about election-related news,’ and that was then followed by a third statement by Sessions himself, which 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.’”“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised,” Meyers joked, “since leprechauns always talk in riddles.”
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Sessions announced he’d be recusing himself from any investigations concerning the 2016 campaign, but appeared to sidestep whether or not he’d lied under oath. Trump, for his part, labeled the entire episode a “witch hunt” by the Democrats.
Meyers then presented some curious “coincidences.” For example, one of Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador occurred on Sept. 8, the day after NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum in which Trump complimented Vladimir Putin several times.
“Well, [Putin] does have an 82 percent approval rating,” Trump told Matt Lauer. “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said he is very much of a leader. You can say, oh, isn’t that a terrible thing.” “OK, I will: Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing,” said Meyers.
Then there’s the matter of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager who was axed after The New York Times reported on his deep financial ties to a pro-Putin political faction in Ukraine. On July 27, Manafort was asked by CBS This Morning if Trump had “any financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs,” and his response was, shall we say, less than convincing.
“That… that’s what he said,” mumbled Manafort. “I… That’s what I said. That’s… That’s obviously what our position is.” “Look at him!” exclaimed Meyers. “That’s the face you make when your wife snatches away your newspaper and says, ‘Whose earrings are these?’” “Of course,” he continued, “part of the problem here is we know very little about Trump’s possible ties to Russia—a debate he could settle immediately by releasing his tax returns.”