After news broke of his two undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reluctantly announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from any investigation of Russian meddling in the campaign on Trump’s behalf.
For the moment at least, that’s a fair resolution of the situation. We have no evidence that anything illegal or improper happened in those conversations; all we know for certain is that they should have been disclosed but for some reason weren’t. Absent such evidence, it’s hard to argue that Sessions ought to resign, as some Democrats continue to demand. Session’s recusal does what was needed: It bolsters hope that investigations can continue unimpeded by politics so that we can all find out what the hell has been going on.
However, another part of the Russia/Trump mystery just got considerably deeper.
Back in July, you may recall, Trump campaign operatives were accused of intervening with the drafting of the Republican platform, blocking adoption of a plank that called for supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons to defend itself against Russian incursions. That intervention was odd for a number of reasons, including the fact that with the exception of the Ukraine plank, the Trump campaign had paid very little attention to the platform process. The change also directly contradicted longstanding GOP policy on Ukraine and Russia.
At the time, J.D. Gordon managed the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, led by Sessions. Gordon was also identified by GOP delegates as the person who had intervened to force the platform change, a charge that he denied at the time.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager and a man who had worked extensively with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine, strongly and emphatically denied that the campaign played any role at all in the change.
“It absolutely did not come from the campaign. I don’t know who everybody is, but I guarantee you it was nobody that was on the platform committee,” Manafort said on “Meet the Press.” Asked again if anyone from the campaign was involved, he replied “No one, zero.”
That blunt denial was also echoed by the man himself, Donald Trump, who stressed repeatedly to ABC News that “I was not involved with that” and had no knowledge of it:
Quite the mystery, right? Somebody had forced the change, because GOP delegates who got overruled on their own platform had become pretty upset about it. But who? And why? And who ordered it?
It turns out that Mr. Gordon, who apparently is no longer connected to Trump, is now willing to admit his own involvement in the change and also point the finger at the man who ordered it:
“This is the language that Donald Trump himself wanted and advocated for back in March,” Gordon told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Thursday.