Attorney General Jeff Sessions displayed flashes of anger during questioning by Sen. Ron Wyden when the senator pressed him about suggestions that he had failed to provide full disclosure about his meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. USA TODAY
Each week, USA TODAY’s On Politics blog will take a look at how media from the left and the right reacted to one of the week’s top political news stories, giving liberals and conservatives a taste of life in the other’s media bubble.
This week, we look at the articles and opinion pieces that got political junkies’ attention on social media that were written about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday.
From the right: Sessions nailed it
Political pundit Charles Krauthammer spoke for many conservatives who thought Sessions crushed it during his Senate testimony. Krauthammer said the attorney general “exposed the absurdity of the whole exercise” about alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I mean this is supposed to be about Russia meddling in our election. That wasn’t even an issue,” Krauthammer said during an interview with Fox News. “Then it was supposed to be about the collusion. There’s not an ounce of evidence.”
The conservative commentator called the efforts to build a case of impeachment against Trump “un-American” and said that Sessions testimony was a “side show of a side show.”
From the left: It was Kamala Harris vs. room of ‘old white men’
For many liberals, the hearing was all about Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
“California Sen. Kamala Harris has once again shown a room of old white men how to do their damn jobs,”wrote Jezebel’s Prachi Gupta in a post headlined, “Kamala Harris just handed Jeff Sessions his a–.”
She tried to pin Sessions down on what notes he took—calendar appointments, memos, emails—about these critical conversations and meetings, and asked him to submit them to the committee. He dodged, eventually giving a wishy-washy assurance that he will give “documents” pending a conversation with lawyers as to what is “appropriate.”
Then came the moment that grabbed the most attention on left-leaning media: the exchange between Harris and Sessions over his claims he couldn’t talk about his conversations with President Trump:
It was at this point, in her last question, when other Senators interrupted her to come to the defense of the poor old white guy with the bad memory. They did not, of course, so rudely cut off any of the men who spoke beyond their allotted time before her.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions says Senator Kamala Harris’ speedy pace of questioning “makes him nervous.” USA TODAY
From the right: Sessions put ‘leakers and the media on notice’
A post on Sean Hannity’s website lauded Sessions for slamming “leakers and the media over false news reports and innuendos.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions lashed out at federal “leakers” who spread false rumors, saying “they will not intimidate” him from fulfilling his responsibilities at the Department of Justice.
From the left: Sessions had no grounds to remain silent
Democratic senators challenged Sessions’ claims that there is a Justice Department policy which prevents him from sharing the details of his conversations with the president.
Vox‘s Sean Illing said he reached out to 10 legal experts to ask if “Sessions’s claim that he’s protecting the president’s constitutional right to executive privilege makes any sense.”
All but one of the experts rejected Sessions’s argument on its face, insisting that Sessions is legally permitted to discuss conversations with the president, provided the president hasn’t yet invoked executive privilege (which he hasn’t). One expert believes there is a precedent for Sessions’s actions, but that Congress can — and should — compel him to answer their questions.
From the right: Sessions testimony was ‘good-news, bad-news’
“Not all conservatives thought Sessions’ appearance at the hearing was a total success. While Sessions was effective in arguing he colluded with the Russians, he “did little to dispel” the evidence that Trump “tried to interfere” in the Russia investigation,” wrote The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Warren.
Sessions was unable to provide any more context to this question: Did Trump fire Comey because of, or in response to, the FBI director’s refusal to “let go” of the investigation into Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn? Because this question has gotten reasonably complicated.
From the left: Sessions made a ‘damning admission’
Sessions refusal to talk about his conversations with Trump may have meant there were no major revelations from the attorney general’s testimony, but he did admit to a stunning lack of curiosity about Russian efforts to interfere in the election, wrote David Corn for Mother Jones.
So the person picked to be attorney general—one of the chief national security officials in the US government—had not bothered to educate himself about the Russian operation. He had not even read the public report issued by the intelligence community. This seemed a strong indication that the Trump camp really didn’t give a damn about Putin’s clandestine effort to undermine American democracy.