Top Republicans said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from federal investigations of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said during an appearance on MSNBC that Sessions should bow out to maintain “the trust of the American people.”
Minutes later, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, joined McCarthy’s call, tweeting that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.”
The calls from two of the House’s most prominent Republicans follow revelations that Sessions met with the Russian ambassador during election season. Under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions had said that he had not met with any Russian officials.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday morning will join growing Democratic calls for Sessions to either resign or recuse himself from any investigations into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections.
Schumer is also set to insist that the Justice Department’s inspector general carry out an investigation of Sessions himself regarding any previous communications with Russian officials and what related steps, if any, he has taken since assuming leadership of the department.
Schumer believes the investigation of Sessions is necessary to ensure that the integrity of the Justice and FBI investigations into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 elections has not already been compromised, aides said Thursday morning.
According to Justice Department officials, Sessions, a top Trump supporter, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice in 2016, including one September meeting in his office.
In a statement following the revelations, Sessions denied he had met with “any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false,” he said.
McCarthy and Chaffetz are the first prominent Republicans to call for Sessions to recuse himself. Some Democrats went further, calling on Sessions to resign, demanding an independent investigation and, in a few cases, accusing Sessions of lying under oath.
“After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement released late Wednesday. She added that “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country.”
The demands by Pelosi, Schumer and others are a clear sign that Democrats have lost all faith in the Trump team to carry out the Russia-related investigations.
Though Congress has the power to appoint a special prosecutor, it has traditionally deferred the choice to Justice Department officials. This time, however, Democrats want to ensure that a non-political Justice Department official makes the selection.
The second in command at the Department of Justice is Dana Boente, an Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia who Trump tapped to serve as Acting Attorney General when he fired former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates.
Schumer is also expected to call for legislation to give Congress a better backstop, if lawmakers aren’t satisfied with the choice, by rewriting the independent counsel law. The new legislative proposal would be more narrowly tailored than the previous independent counsel law that has long since expired. Under the New Democratic plan, a three-judge panel would be tasked with appointing the prosecutor, according to Schumer aides.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is also demanding a special counsel to investigate the Trump administration for ties to Russia, “given AG Sessions’ false statements about contacts with Russia.”
And House Oversight and Government Affairs ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings, Md., called for Sessions to resign. He criticized the attorney general for keeping “secret” his conversations with Kislyak, even after then-national security adviser Michael Flynn was fired for misleading Vice President Pence about his contacts with the same Kremlin official.
“When Senator Sessions testified under oath that ‘I did not have communications with the Russians,’ his statement was demonstrably false, yet he let it stand for weeks,” Cummings remarked in a statement. “Attorney General Sessions should resign immediately, and there is no longer any question that we need a truly independent commission to investigate this issue.”
Original article via TheCannabist