Dems ask: Did AG Jeff Sessions violate his recusal terms?
WASHINGTON — House Democrats are suggesting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be removed from office for the role he played in President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The suggestion, made in a letter released Thursday by two senior Democrats and signed by 32 others, is directed to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who investigates misconduct. The letter asks Horowitz to consider “whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions violated his recusal from matters relating to the presidential campaigns in 2016 when he participated in President Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.”
The letter notes an intent to “make clear that our request is separate and apart from Special Counsel (Robert) Mueller’s investigation which concerns only whether any criminal acts occurred.”
They instead are focused on “the protocols governing recusals” at the department. The letter states: “According to this law, the administrative penalty for any Department official who violates such a recusal could be termination.”
Sessions appeared to address the question in recent testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The recusal involved one case involved in the Department of Justice and in the FBI. They conduct thousands of investigations. I’m the Attorney General of the United States. It’s my responsibility to our Judiciary Committee and other committees to ensure that the department is run properly,” he said.
Thursday’s letter was signed by the ranking Democrats on the House Oversight and House Judiciary committees, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan. In it, they restated Sessions’ own terms of recusal.
“The Attorney General has made clear repeatedly in broad and unequivocal terms that he recused himself from all matters involving both the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns,” the letter states. “Collaborating directly with President Trump to fire Director Comey” indicated a “lapse in judgment by our nation’s top law enforcement official.” The letter noted Sessions’ involvement also “violated multiple promises made by the Attorney General and his aides.”
The letter says Sessions made a pledge not to get involved in matters involving former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during his under-oath Senate confirmation process, and also on March 2 when he announced his recusal “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
The letter was signed by senior Democrats, and copied to the Republican chairmen of the two influential committees. For Cummings, it is the third investigative letter released in recent weeks to be sent out without a chairman’s co-signature.
Last week, Cummings sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus saying he has serious concerns about whether the White House is “properly safeguarding classified information,” and requesting information about the security clearances of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, senior adviser Jared Kushner and other officials.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on June 13.