The fervor over whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied during his Senate confirmation hearing exemplifies once again the bitter political divide in this Country. Republicans have lined up to support him, arguing in essence that if Sessions “misspoke,” he can correct his testimony - after being confirmed as our Attorney General. Democrats have called for an independent investigation, and some have demanded his resignation, alleging that Sessions committed perjury.
Though the political battle lines have been drawn predictably, the controversy runs much deeper and affects the very system of justice that our Attorney General has been designated to lead, as well as the institution of truth that is fundamental to our way of life. Sessions swore to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth prior to testifying at his confirmation hearing. It is the same oath required of witnesses in civil and criminal trials, as well as in depositions. And it is an important oath, for the underpinnings of our system of justice presume, and rely upon, the sanctity of this oath. But some people, and perhaps Sessions himself, treat the oath as no more than meaningless boiler-plate that can be disregarded upon a whim.
Here are some fundamental truths, perhaps self-evident. When people lie under oath, it makes Truth and Justice harder to obtain. When people lie under oath, it undermines our system of justice. When people lie under oath, unless they are sociopaths, they often experience extreme guilt that negatively affects their physical and mental health. And whether Sessions committed perjury, or just failed to tell the whole truth in response to the questions about meeting with the Russians, he knew better. As a former federal prosecutor, he knew better. As the putative leader of the American system of justice, he knew better. And his transgression, whether intentional or careless, will encourage others to do the same, and our America will not be a better place for it.