Attorney General Jeff Sessions talks spy fiction at Senate hearing

As multiple investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections hang like a cloud over Washington, the current US political drama often reads like a spy novel.

Today, one of its main characters admitted that he is a fan of the genre.

In a snappy exchange with Sen. Tom Cotton during his Senate intelligence committee hearing Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions demonstrated a surprising knowledge of espionage thrillers.

“Mr. Sessions, are you familiar with what spies call ‘tradecraft’?” Cotton asked, adding “Do you like spy fiction? John le Carre? Daniel Silva? Jason Matthews?”

Sessions quickly added to Cotton’s list.

“Alan Furst. David Ignatius,” he said. “I just finished Ignatius’s book.”

A bestselling novelist and journalist, Ignatius has penned nine novels and one work of nonfiction. His most recent book, “The Director,” tells the fictional story of Graham Weber, a CIA director tasked with saving a compromised agency. It’s a movie-ready tale of cybercrime, strategy and deceit.

While Ignatius may be recognized on The New York Times’ Top 10 list of the year’s best books, Alan Furst is hardly a household name. Best known for his 14-book “Night Soldiers” series, Furst was one of the first successful American spy novelists. His work focuses on pre-WWII Eastern Europe — from stories about a Bulgarian fishing town to a Moscow spy academy.

Cotton didn’t stop there.

“Do you like James Bond or Jason Bourne movies?” he asked.

“No,” Sessions joked, before admitting, “Yes, I do.”

When asked by Cotton whether the collusion of a sitting US senator and a foreign ambassador would ever appear in one of these “fantastical situations,” like a clandestine meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, Sessions used another literary reference to demonstrate what he sees as the ridiculousness of such a theory.

“Thank you for saying that, Sen. Cotton,” Sessions said. “It’s just like ‘Through the Looking Glass.’ I mean, what is this? I explained how, in good faith, I said I had not met with Russians.”