Shortly after being sworn in as the Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions explained his decision to recuse himself from the most consequential, politically charged case since Watergate. Sounding more like a Boy Scout than the nation’s top lawyer, Sessions announced his intentions:
During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career Department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaign for President of the United States.
Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.
What could possibly explain such a move by one of Donald Trump’s earliest supporters? Sessions was the first senator to endorse Trump and rapidly became a trusted Trump advisor. Yet he allowed pressure from the left over two minor contacts with a Russian ambassador to make the decision for him.
During the July 2016 Republican National Convention, Sessions gave a speech at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. Afterward, he spoke to a group of ambassadors, which included Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This wasn’t even a one-on-one discussion.
Then, in September 2016, Sessions held a meeting with Kislyak in his office. Why he failed to disclose these interactions during his Senate Confirmation hearings is a mystery as each contact, especially the first that he had no control over, could have been so easily dealt with at the time. Holding a meeting with a Russian ambassador in his office, in and of itself, is innocuous. “Ambassadors are in Washington to represent their country’s interests, which often requires contact with legislators involved in debates over trade, defense, or anything else, really.” Nevertheless, when asked if he had any involvement with Russians during his confirmation hearing, he said no.
Later, when the encounters with Kislyak came to light, Sessions was accused of lying under oath. Predictably, there were even calls for his resignation. It was this intense pressure that led to his decision.
Even after the fact, Sessions could have explained away his remarks. Perhaps he didn’t consider a brief meeting in his office with a Russian ambassador to be “involvement with the Russians.” Politicians have gotten away with far more serious “misstatements” by simply saying, “I misspoke.” Just ask Hillary Clinton.
At any rate, Jeff Sessions is apparently not the “tough it out” kind of guy. So, with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein standing behind him, Sessions explained that he talked it over with his staff and decided the best way to handle it was to recuse himself.
Considering Rosenstein had so many conflicts of interest in this case, Session’s decision was irresponsible and ill-considered. It is inexplicable that Sessions would turn the case over to an Obama-era official with such a long history of involvement with the Clintons. There were so many reasons why this was a bad idea.
First, Rosenstein’s wife, Lisa Barsoomian, is a Washington Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) attorney. Dick Morris explains:
“She is a protégée of R. Craig Lawrence, whose law firm defends clients, all Democrats, against FOIA requests. They have represented Hillary Clinton 17 times, Bill Clinton 40 times, Barack Obama 45 times, Robert Mueller three times and on five occasions, the FBI.”
Rush Limbaugh reminds us that Rosenstein himself was a member of the prosecution team that exonerated Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater scandal (and both Clintons in the Travelgate and Filegate scandals). Shortly after Rod Rosenstein cleared Hillary, his wife represented Bill Clinton in a 1998-99 civil case in federal court.
In addition, Rosenstein had signed off on one of the renewal applications for the FISA warrant used to spy on Carter Page.
Shortly after Trump took office, Rosenstein wrote a memo detailing the reasons why FBI Director James Comey should be fired.
And, in what may have been Rosenstein’s most egregious act, he appointed his longtime friend and mentor, Robert Mueller, as special counsel. To make matters worse, the appointment was made the day after Trump rejected Mueller’s bid to get his old job back as Director of the FBI.
Aside from Mueller’s close personal relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein flouted the DOJ regulations by appointing a Washington insider for the job. The selection guidelines stipulate, “The Special Counsel shall be selected from outside the United States Government.” Mueller spent his entire career working for the government, including 12 years as the FBI Director.
In a previous post, I provide a detailed list of Rosenstein’s conflicts of interest. Suffice it to say that Jeff Sessions’ two brief interactions with the Russian ambassador pale in comparison to Rosenstein’s many conflicts.
By the time of Session’s recusal, the enormity of this case was undeniable.
Given its importance, why would Sessions exclude President Trump, or any members of his legal team, from this critical decision?
It’s understandable that Trump would be irate over such a decision. The New York Times reported that several days after his recusal, Sessions traveled to Mar-A-Lago about other business.
Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.
Mr. Sessions refused.
Of course, Mueller is investigating this episode as he mulls obstruction of justice charges against Trump. The NY Times gleefully reports:
The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.
Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal?
Reporters questioned Rudy Giuliani about Trump’s request that Sessions reverse his recusal. He replied: “a request that Mr. Sessions reassert control over the Russia investigation would be within the bounds of the president’s authority. ‘Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation.’ It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly.”
Unfortunately for the country, Sessions recused himself, and we’ve all had to endure the ensuing witch-hunt. But the only way through it is through it. The Mueller investigation has now entered its second year. And before he even began, the FBI had conducted its own yearlong counterintelligence probe. Neither group has found any evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians to win the election. Although Trump has accomplished so much already, the investigation has cast a shadow over his presidency. If Mueller has anything valid to charge the President with, he needs to reveal that now. If not, it’s time to end this farce.
The Truth Must be Told
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