- - Thursday, March 2, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Trump delivered the most successful speech of his short political career on Tuesday night.

Even Democrats and liberal pundits were caught off guard and left in shock by Mr. Trump’s address to Congress. But the high praise was short-lived as the Democrats immediately embarked on a witch hunt to discredit Attorney General Jeff Sessions after it was learned that he had spoken with a Russian envoy twice last year while he was senator and a top adviser to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Sessions has denied wrongdoing but announced late Thursday that he was recusing himself from the probe. But Republicans should carefully study the episode for clues as to how the minority Democrats are going to wage partisan warfare over the next four years.

Smelling blood, Democrats immediately turned to character assassination tactics against the attorney general, with the clear ambition of taking down another one of President Trump’s closest allies. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded Mr. Sessions’ resignation and accused him of lying during his confirmation hearing.

Having taken down National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Democrats are seeing if they can do it again with a new target.

Since Election Day, Democrats have been focused on delegitimizing Mr. Trump’s presidency and obstructing his Cabinet picks. Now the Trump administration and Republicans must stand by the attorney general and not allow the Democrats and the liberal media to dictate the narrative.

Even prior to the election, the Democrats have accused Trump campaign officials of having ties to Russia, which they believed influenced Hillary Clinton’s shocking loss. But the new storyline — that the sitting attorney general colluded with the Russians during the campaign and lied to Congress about it under oath — is a far stretch.

The reality is that lawmakers like Mr. Sessions frequently meet with ambassadors, so frequently that even Democrats can be fuzzy about the particulars. In an incident rich with irony, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri demanded Mr. Sessions’ head, tweeting out that “I’ve been on the Armed Services Committee for 10 years. No call or meeting with Russian ambassador. Ever. Ambassadors call members of the Foreign Relations Committee.”

It later turned out that Ms. McCaskill did meet with the Russian ambassador and had to revise and extend her remarks to correct the misstatement.

Former Secretary of State of Ohio Ken Blackwell put it well in a statement Thursday, noting that, as a senator on the Armed Services Committee, “it is part of [Mr. Sessions’] job to meet with international dignitaries and ambassadors from other countries.”

Ms. McCaskill, he went on, “is today being reminded of her meetings with the same Russian ambassador. United States senators should be meeting with and talking to ambassadors from other countries. It’s part of their job description.”

It seems clear that Mr. Sessions, asked an unexpected question from Democratic Sen. Al Franken based on a breaking CNN report about any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, denied he had had any meetings with Russian officials in his role as a prominent surrogate for Mr. Trump. His meeting with the ambassador was part of his duties as a senator, not a surrogate.

In the confirmation exchange, Mr. Franken specifically asked about “a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”

Mr. Sessions’ response, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

As the attorney general said Thursday, his response to Mr. Franken’s question was “honest” as he “understood it at the time.” According to Mr. Sessions, he never had a discussion with the Russian ambassador on campaign activities, which was the initial question. Even so, the attorney general’s recusal decision was the right call, in an abundance of legal caution.

Still, it’s telling that the relentless Democrats show no signs of letting up, even knowing full well that Mr. Sessions’ comments were taken out of context. So my advice to President Trump and congressional Republicans is to give no quarter and stand four-square behind Mr. Sessions.

The president has already stated that he has “total confidence” in his attorney general, one of his campaign’s earliest supporters, but that won’t stop the liberal media and the Democrats from spending endless hours trying to build a case that Mr. Sessions colluded with the Russians.

It’s all part of an all-consuming obsession with the fantasy that the Russians stole the election and Mr. Trump’s victory was not legitimate. It seems the Democrats’ witch hunt will never end.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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