John McCain

Awake McCain Drills Sessions on Recent Interest In Russia, Interrupts Kamala Harris Again

Awake McCain Drills Sessions on Recent Interest In Russia, Interrupts Kamala Harris Again
Looks like John McCain got a good night's sleep for a change.

Possibly because the Diamondbacks weren't playing Monday night, the Arizona senator was fairly coherent during his questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions today during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's hearing on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It was an improvement over last week's performance, when his often-bizarre line of questioning directed at former FBI Director James Comey led armchair physicians to diagnose him with dementia. The senator blamed his performance on staying up too late to watch the D-backs the night before.

During today's hearing, McCain scored points with critics by underscoring a key point that hadn't come yet in the hearing: Before 2016, Sessions had shown little to no interest in Russia.

“I don’t recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues,” McCain pointed out. “In your capacity as the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, what Russia-related security issues did you hold hearings on or otherwise demonstrate a keen interest in?”

Sessions' answer was the same one that he repeated throughout the hearing: "I don't recall."

But what drew more attention was McCain's choice to interrupt Senator Kamala Harris, the only woman of color on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the only black woman in the U.S. Senate.

Harris had been aggressively questioning Sessions about whether he had contacts with any Russian businessmen or Russian nationals, causing him to become visibly flustered.

"I'm not able to be rushed that fast," Sessions told her. "It makes me nervous."

When Harris doubled down, asking Sessions about the policy that allowed him to refuse to answer a number of questions that had come up during the hearing, McCain jumped in.
“Chairman, the witness should be allowed to answer the question,” he can be heard saying off-camera.

As the Huffington Post points out, "Neither Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) nor Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who were fairly aggressive in their questioning, was cut off by their colleagues."

This might be less noteworthy if McCain and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr hadn't done the exact same thing last week Harris had been asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about whether he would sign a letter stating that the special counsel appointed to lead the Russia probe would be fully independent from Department of Justice. 

Rosenstein dodged the question, replying, "Senator, I'm very sensitive about time and I'd like to have a very lengthy conversation and explain that all to you."

As you'd expect from a former federal prosecutor, Harris drilled down.

"Can you give me a yes or no answer?" she asked.

"It's not a short answer, Senator," Rosenstein responded.

"It is," she replied. "Either you are willing to do that or you are not."

But before Rosenstein could answer, McCain interrupted.

"Mr. Chairman, they should be allowed to answer the question," he interjected.

Burr agreed and shut down her line of questioning. And Rosenstein never did give a clear yes or no.

Watch McCain question Sessions, and interrupt Harris, below:

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.