For weeks, we have discussed how the media, Democratic members, and a wide variety commentators have adopted a different standard in dealing with the allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden. As soon as the presumptive Democratic nominee was accused, the rallying cry from the Kavanaugh hearing that “all women must be believed” was dropped. This week, the question may not be the applicability of the Kavanaugh standard but the Sessions standard. The recent declassification of documents shows that United Nations ambassador Samantha Power sought to unmask Michael Flynn’s name not once but on at least seven occasions. Yet, Power insisted that she had no recollection of even a single such request. When former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he had “no recollection” of meetings or other details, Democrats called for his prosecution for perjury. Will the Sessions’ standard apply to Power, or is this another example of standards changing with the affiliation of the accused?
Power testified under oath before the House Intelligence Committee that she had “no recollection” of ever making a single request for the unmasking of Flynn’s name. One would think that this was one unmasking that would stand out. After all, it occurred just before Power left with the Obama Administration and involved one of the top and most visible Trump officials. It also involved one of the highest ranking officials affecting diplomatic matters. Yet, Power said she had no such recollection.
It now appears that she made not one but at least seven such requests. While Power and other Obama officials did not expressly seek Flynn’s name, they asked for the unmasking of the individual under surveillance who was speaking to the Russian ambassador on future policy changes. More importantly, Power was responding to unmasking requests that revealed Flynn’s name and said she had no recollection of such a request, let alone multiple requests. He was unmasked and later someone leaked that information from a classified investigation to the media as the Trump Administration was about to take over.
When Sessions had such gaps, the media spent weeks exploring the need for a perjury investigation and Democratic members demanded such an inquiry. He ultimately was investigation for perjury by the FBI.
Media like Politico lined up prosecutors to say that the “no recollection” claim is transparent and weak as a defense to perjury, including many of the former prosecutors routinely cited for supporting criminal charges against Trump and other Trump officials. Democratic insider and former Watergate prosector, Richard Ben-Veniste, said “Simply repeating the words ‘I don’t recall’ is not a magical amulet to ward off any further trouble.” On NBC.com, Sarah Kendzior declared “The first is that he is a skillful liar, flagrantly flirting with perjury as he denies or pretends to forget.”
However, Biden is not Kavanuagh and Power is not Sessions. The most notable distinction is their party affiliation. Suddenly sexual assault and perjury becomes a more challenging and nuanced question. The media has been virtually silent on this glaring failure to recollect. The fact is that I did not view Sessions as a strong case for perjury and I do not view Powers as a strong case. I also have never supported the view that any accuser must be believed as opposed to must be heard and taken seriously. My problem is the relative easy shown in these cases for Democratic members and commentators in shifting from one position to the other. The only common denominator is not just political identification but political convenience.