Watergate Reporter Claims Sessions Might Be Criminal Target
Former U.S. attorney slams Bernstein's baseless speculation as 'reckless and irresponsible'
It is not often that a respected journalist makes two preposterous statements during the same cable news segment, but Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein pulled off the feat Thursday on CNN.
Bernstein first suggested that the selection of independent-minded former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as FBI director would be evidence that President Donald Trump was trying to maintain influence over the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign.
“There is a possibility … Jeff Sessions could be one of those who is being looked at, or may be looked at as part of this criminal investigation.”
Later in the segment, Bernstein made a more outrageous assertion — that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be a target of that investigation, now run by independent counsel Robert Mueller.
“Let me say one other thing about Jeff Sessions. There is a possibility — I won’t want to say I know this — but certainly there is the possibility that Jeff Sessions could be one of those who is being looked at, or may be looked at as part of this criminal investigation,” he told anchor Brooke Baldwin. “It doesn’t mean he’s done anything illegal, or that he’s the focus of anything. But he was the head of national security matters for the Trump campaign. That may or may not figure in part of the FBI’s investigation, and we should keep it in mind.”
Bernstein generously added that he did not want to “cast any aspersions” on Sessions. But he said that, “It’s relevant and one more reason why he should have recused himself, perhaps even earlier than he did.”
Joseph diGenova, who served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under Ronald Reagan, blasted Bernstein's evidence-free speculation.
"It is absolutely reckless and irresponsible for a seasoned reporter to make statements like that," he told LifeZette.
Evidence suggesting the Sessions committed a crime during the campaign or would be a target of a criminal probe is breathtakingly thin, based on the public record. It basically consists of Bernstein's observation that Sessions advised Trump on national security matters during the campaign. He also failed to disclose a pair of meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last year — once in the office of then-Sen. Sessions and once when the diplomat was among dozens of foreign ambassadors who attended an event outside the Republican National Convention, where Sessions spoke.
It is hard to imagine any prosecutor making that the basis of a criminal investigation.
On the same CNN segment, historian Tim Naftali claimed that the appointment of Mueller indicates that it is likely Americans worked with Russian agents during the campaign.
"If it's become a criminal investigation, it means there reason to suspect collusion by Americans," said Naftali, who was director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum from 2007 to 2011. "It means that there is probable cause of suspecting collusion."
That interpretation contradicts Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote in a letter explaining that his decision to appoint Mueller was "not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted."
DiGenova told LifeZette that the term "special counsel" supplanted the original name for the office, "special prosecutor," because of concerns that the original name was prejudicial since some matters investigated might reveal no criminal activity.
DiGenova said Naftali is mistaken to suggest the Mueller's appointment indicates that there is probable cause.
"That is absolutely false and, indeed, it is inconsistent with what the deputy attorney general said in his letter," he said. "The librarian should stick to books."