It’s amazing what gets revealed when a bully is under fire. We’ve seen bluster, braggadocio and bilious rage when Donald Trump feels threatened because bullies can’t accept any sort of challenge. But U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who was grilled today by the Senate Intelligence Committee, is no ordinary bully. He’s a folksy charmer, a sub-classification of bully who can be insidiously harmful. Charming bullies show a genial face in public, but don’t hesitate to harm anyone who disagrees or doesn’t conform to their world view. Things get really interesting when their veneer gets stripped away.
U.S. senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), held Sessions’ feet to the fire during the committee hearing, and, as the temperature rose, so did his temper.
“You are obstructing…and I think your silence speaks volumes,” Heinrich told Sessions after the attorney general continuously refused to answer questions.
“I would have to say that I have consulted with senior career attorneys in the department,” he countered.
“I suspect you have,” Heinrich shot back.
Sessions’ bully personality was in even higher reveal when Wyden pointed out that the American people “have had it with stonewalling.” USA Today reports this exchange then occurred:
"Sen. Wyden, I am not stonewalling," Sessions said. "I am following the historic policies of the Department of Justice."
As their exchange continued, Wyden asked about Comey's testimony, in which he said that there were problematic issues with Sessions' recusal from the Russia investigation.
"What are they?" Wyden asked.
At this, Sessions grew visibly agitated.
"Why don't you tell me?" Sessions answered. "There are none, Sen. Wyden. There are none. I can tell you that for absolute certainty. This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don't appreciate it."
But the senator that got Sessions red in the face was Harris, the former California attorney general and prosecutor. It was clear from the start that he didn’t like the fact that she refused to allow him to deflect or prevaricate. As the Los Angeles Times reported:
When Sessions said he didn't recall any conversations with Russian businessmen at the 2016 Republican convention, Harris interrupted again.
“Will you let me qualify it?” he responded in a tone of annoyance. “If I don't qualify it, you'll accuse me of lying. So I need to be correct as best I can. I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”
Harris continued to pressure him to answer her question about what policy Sessions was citing when he refused to discuss his conversations with Trump. That’s when McCain interrupted Harris for the second time in two weeks.
“Mr. Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question,” he said. Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-SC) told McCain that he’d handle things, but upheld McCain’s demand.
The relief on Sessions’ face was obvious.
Photo credit: ABC News