CNN  — 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions spent just under two and a half hours answering questions from the Senate intelligence committee on his ties – or lack thereof – to Russia as well as his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey.

We live-blogged. I tweeted. And I jotted down some of the best and worst of the hearing that was. My thoughts are below.


* Angus King: The Maine independent senator, again, stole the show. Despite going in the middle of the pack of questioners, King zeroed in on why, exactly, Sessions was invoking executive privilege and how there was absolutely zero legal reason for it. He also got Sessions tied up around a past comment in which he seemed to be just fine in sharing conversations with Trump that seemed to favor the administration. To King’s credit: He also accomplished all of this without coming across as overly partisan or angry.

* Tom Cotton: Democrats will call him a show-boater. They will hate everything he did in terms of firming up Sessions and asking a question that the attorney general thanked him for. But remember Cotton, the Arkansas GOP senator, could care less about what Democrats – or even reporters who cover Congress and might have viewed that as short of “senatorial” – think of him. He’s got his eye firmly on the national horizon. And that performance – and, yes, it was a performance – will get played and replayed at conservative confabs all over the country over the next months. Which is exactly what Cotton wants.

* Martin Heinrich/Kamala Harris: See “Cotton, Tom.” Both Heinrich of New Mexico and Harris of California are relative newcomers to the Senate. (He was elected in 2012, she in 2016.) They showed very little deference to Sessions, which immediately made them heroes – at least for the day – among the liberal left. “You are impeding this investigation,” Heinrich told Session bluntly. Harris repeatedly interrupted Sessions as he tried to play four corners with her time, forcing the attorney general to admit “I’m not able to be rushed this fast – it makes me nervous.” And 1,000 Internet memes were born.

* Jim Comey: Sure, Cotton called him “theatrical.” And Sessions refuted – sort of – the conversation the two men had following the February 14 one-on-one with Trump. But, Sessions didn’t really dispute the basis of Comey’s testimony. And that’s a victory for Comey.

* The Mayflower Hotel: Talk about free promotion! The Connecticut Avenue landmark was all over this hearing! If you happened to be watching this while planning a visit to DC, I bet you looked up the Mayflower. All I know is that if I worked for the Ritz Carlton in DC today, I would not be happy.

* “Lingering”: Did Sessions linger in the February 14 meeting? Or did he just take his time leaving the room? Why? Why not? Was there any malingering? All I know is the people at the Merriam Webster Twitter handle are going to have a field day. Or, fans of The Cranberries.


* Sessions’ memory: I lost count of how many times Sessions “could not recall” when asked a specific question. This lack of memory is not unique to Sessions. Administration officials from across the ideological spectrum often struggle to recall specific details that could get them into trouble. It’s a way of not saying “no” but also not saying “yes.” When you say you simply can’t recall, you can never be cast – if later developments show what you said isn’t right – as a liar.

* Jim Risch: A fascinating behind-the-curtain look at the dynamic between individual senators was revealed when the Idaho Senator muttered – in response to Sen. Richard Burr’s assertion in that the committee was “very much focused on the Russian involvement.” – “doesn’t seem like it.” It felt unnecessarily churlish – particularly given that it was Republican-on-Republican violence.

* “General” Sessions: Burr started by calling the attorney general “General Sessions.” I looked this up. And apparently you can call the attorney general or the solicitor general “General” in a legal proceeding. This was not that. Also, I would like to be referred to as “Multiple Pulitzer Prize Winner” Chris Cillizza.

* Susan Collins: I suspected the noted moderate from Maine might pay a bunch of deference to Sessions, with whom she has a long relationship. And, she did. While she prodded a bit, Collins never really dug in against Sessions.