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Other View: Sessions' dodge on Russia

This appeared in Friday’s Washington Post.

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“I did not have communications with the Russians.” At the least, Attorney General Jeff Sessions misled Congress when he said this in his January confirmation hearings. The Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions had contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on at least two occasions — once after he spoke at a Heritage Foundation event at the Republican National Convention last July, and again in Sessions’ Senate office in September.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, Sessions began by reading a prepared statement arguing that his declaration was “honest and correct as I understood it at the time.” That, he claimed, was because he was referring to his role as Trump campaign surrogate, not his position as a senator who regularly meets ambassadors. In fact, his extemporaneous response to a question was more fitting: “In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said, ‘but I did meet one Russian official a couple of times.’ “ Yes: If not at that time, then at least following the hearing, when Sessions and aides should have reviewed the testimony he had just given — under oath — and noticed that his statement was deeply misleading. Imagine Republicans’ reaction if Hillary Clinton had attempted to spin her way out of a dubious statement in such a hair-splitting way.

The Post reached out to the other 26 Senate Armed Services Committee members, where Sessions served, and all 20 who responded, including Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said they did not meet with the Russian ambassador last year. Even so, as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a Thursday morning news conference, there are a variety of plausible and appropriate reasons Sessions may have met with Kislyak. The damning issue is that Sessions misled senior government officials and the public about his contacts. This was the same lapse that brought down former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and it underlines broader questions about the opaque relationship between Trump and the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those questions remain unanswered.

Sessions at least announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.” He should have taken this step weeks ago — and it should extend to any probe of after-the-election conversations between Kislyak and Flynn. Sessions should appoint a special counsel capable of conducting a thorough and unbiased inquiry into all of the contacts between Trump and his associates and Russia — including Sessions’.

The attorney general promised to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with a full explanation of his misleading testimony. The integrity of the committee’s work is now at stake, and its members owe themselves and the public nothing less than a thorough probe. Beyond that, what is still needed is a broader investigation into Russia’s attempted interference in the election. If ongoing investigations by congressional intelligence committees are stymied by partisanship, an independent commission should be empaneled.


Mailbag
Letters of Thanks

Cheer Expo a success

I want to extend a warm thank you to all who helped make the Magic Valley Eagle’s all-star cheer expo the success it was! We host this event each year to showcase the talent of the Magic Valley’s cheerleaders, dancers and gymnasts. Funds raised benefit my scholarship athletes, and each team donates canned food items that we donate to South Central Community Action.

First of all, thank you to the teams who participated: Robert Stuart cheer and dance, O’Leary cheer, Canyon Ridge High School cheer, Filer High School cheer, Pure Energy, CSI cheer, E’mya Morfin, and our MVE teams. The talent level we have in this valley is impressive. Thank you, also, to Zach Dong for helping us get set up at Filer High School and Jennifer Drysdale for walking me through things.

Secondly, thank you to the individuals and businesses who donated to our raffle prizes or silent auction: Pepsi, Kiwi Loco, Alice VanStraalen from Fringe Salon, the Daisher family, the Tingey family, Sam Barker at Magic Valley Medicine, the Morfin family, Glanbia, CSI, Brian Pursifull at Commercial Tire, Rui at Buffalo Wild Wings, Eric at Middlekauff, Sizzler, Garibaldi’s, McAlister’s, Costa Vida, Rock Creek, Buffalo Cafe, John Hughes at CSI, Maggie at Studio M, the Breedings with Prepped for Success, Ashley Furniture, Arctic Circle, the Kyles at McDonald’s, Debra Trelles, Sara Weber and Jamberry, Sunsations, Starbucks, Lyndsay Pitz at Twisted Scissors, Kenya Williams, Pizza Pie Cafe, Mardi Katz, Harvest Bread Company, and Idaho Flowers.

Lastly, thank you to my MVE parents who helped with set up, food donations, clean up, and trying to keep me sane on that crazy day! You all are priceless to me! I couldn’t have done it without you all!

Andrea Bearup

Magic Valley Eagles cheer

Thank you, from Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor would like to thank the following people for their hard work and generous heartfelt donations: Kensee Mussmann, Laird Stone, Kiwanis, Idaho Milk Producers, Blanket Blessings, Mary Hinman, Emma’s Wish, Carter Kier, Great Harvest Bread, Darla, Fern, Magic Valley Alarm, Christ’s Church, Randy and Marcia Jensen, Twin Falls Senior Center, Lori Werk, Steve Westphal and sons, Mark Carpenter, Tom Newnham, Randy Ford, Paul 1st Ward, First Presbyterian Church, Lyn Ellis from Keller Williams, Carol Jones from Keller Williams, Big Heart Benefits, Dallin Powlus, Justen and Tara Frederickson and family, Dave Plew, and anonymous gifts, and all the volunteers.

Dale Metzger

Chairman, Safe Harbor

Twin Falls

The Letters of Thanks column will publish letters of up to 200 words from:

Organizations thanking contributors or supporters.

Individuals thanking public agencies and businesses for extraordinaryservice.

Send letters to letters@magicvalley.com. If you would like to purchase a classified ad to express gratitude of a personal rather than public nature, call The Times-News Customer Service department.


Editorial
Our View: Cheers and Jeers

Cheer

Congratulations to Jessie Shaw, a 12-year-old from White Pine Elementary School in Burley who on Monday won the Times-News regional spelling bee.

Jessie will represent the Magic Valley at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

In total, 52 students in first-through-eighth grades from 24 south-central Idaho schools competed. These were the best of the best, students who won their school spelling bees to advance to the regional competition.

Jessie beat out seven other competitors in the final round, winning on “dehydration.”

“I studied and I tried to memorize a lot of the words, though sometimes you can’t do that,” the sixth-grader told the crowd at Twin Falls High School’s Roper Auditorium. “So you break down the words and try to do it by that way.”

The paper will sponsor Jessie’s trip to Maryland.

Jeer

Someone is stealing cars in Jerome. But car owners are making it pretty easy.

At least four cars have been stolen in the past four days. In each case, the vehicle was left running with the keys in the ignition, according to the Jerome Police Department.

It’s not immediately clear if police suspect the same thieves who stole at least five cars under similar circumstances in Wendell in December.

Police say the victims left the cars running to warm them up in the mornings.

So what’s the fix?

Police say it’s understandable to want to start your day with a warm car. But they recommend using two sets of keys: Start your car, leaving it running and lock the doors, and use the other set to unlock your car when it’s warmed up and you’re ready to go.

Cheer

In Idaho, the Senate tends to be the body that squashes some of the more harebrained ideas that percolate out of the Legislature.

It did its duty again Wednesday, when senators voted resoundingly to reject a call for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.

Don’t get us wrong: We’d love to reign in out-of-control federal spending. But an amendment isn’t the right fix.

Essentially, backers of the plan want to hold a convention of states for the purpose of crafting a constitutional amendment. But opponents in a nearly three-hour debate in the Idaho Senate raised plenty of good questions about how that would work.

The big fear is that once the convention opens, delegates could craft all kinds of other amendments to the Constitution, opening a Pandora ’s Box that jeopardizes the sacred document. Something like that already happened once — when the founders scrapped the Articles of Confederation and wrote the Constitution as we know it.

Call us cynical, but modern-day delegates probably wouldn’t be as adept as the Founding Fathers.

Besides, voters already have a system for controlling the federal budget: electing fiscally conservative lawmakers. If enough voters elected representatives and senators in the vein of Idaho’s delegation, we’d quickly get federal spending under control.


Mailbag
Letter: CSR money would be better spent on roads

Your article Sunday regarding the city facing $9 million in road problems due to winter weather made me reflect back to the opinion of Bob Penney (Jan. 22) regarding the cost to install a walkway path only two-thirds of a mile down the Canyon Springs Road at a cost of $4 million. Per Mr. Penney, this path would benefit only a handful of pedestrians (150 per day) during a few months of the year. Seems to me the Canyon Springs path money would be better spent toward repairing our city streets, which would benefit all the people all of the time instead of spending $4 million on a few of the people some of the time.

Our City Council should take a good hard look at how they spend the taxpayers’ money. I can fully support spending the $1.7 million to improve the rock fall risk and drainage concerns on Canyon Springs Road, but it appears, at this time, there are more important road projects on which to spend the other $4 million. Just thinking …

Liz Lopez

Twin Falls