Senator Chuck Schumer has called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, said DOJ must immediately appoint a special prosecutor, and if the DOJ refuses, Republicans should work with Democrats to create a new independent counsel law, and the DOJ Inspector General must immediately begin an investigation into Sessions involvement in the investigation so far.
Last night, when I read the revelations regarding Attorney General Sessions’ contact with the Russian Ambassador and his decision to mislead Congress about those contacts, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach…
I worried about the future of our country with foreign influence in our elections – it goes to the very wellspring of our democracy.
For weeks, I have said that the Attorney General needs to recuse himself from any investigation into contacts between the president and his associates on the campaign and transition and Russia.
For weeks, I made clear that I believe Attorney General Sessions’ close relationship with the Trump campaign requires that he recuse himself from the executive branch investigation into the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is a matter of DOJ guidelines that I’ve read to you all several times. The guidelines are clear as day. Yet, Attorney General Sessions has demurred.
The information reported last night makes it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that Attorney General Sessions cannot possibly lead an investigation into Russian interference in our elections or come anywhere near it. With these new revelations, he may very well become a subject of it.
It would be of Alice and Wonderland quality if this administration were to sanction Attorney General Sessions to investigate himself.
Recusal should have been a given, but this goes beyond that. He had weeks to correct the record but he let it stand. There cannot be even the scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness of the Attorney General. After this, it’s clear that he does not meet that test.
Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, the Attorney General should resign.
Whatever one’s views are on resignation, the most important thing we must do is ensure the integrity of the investigation.
Has it already been compromised? What can we do to ensure it moves forward in a way that ultimately leads to the unvarnished truth? To that end, I am calling for three things today:
First, the Justice Dept. must immediately appoint a special prosecutor. Given that Attorney General Sessions’ impartiality is compromised, that responsibility will fall to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, Dana Boente, who is a career civil servant originally appointed U.S. Attorney by President Obama. It is incumbent upon him to select an individual who is beyond reproach, completely impartial, without any significant ties to either political party.
The choice for special prosecutor will be scrutinized. Even the hint of partiality in that choice…even the hint that this person will not be able to get to the bottom of these troubling questions would be disqualifying. The prosecutor must be of great experience and unimpeachable impartiality.
That is not just common sense, it is what DOJ regulations require. They say that a Special Counsel should be appointed when a standard investigation “would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances and…it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special counsel.” The regulations also require that a Special Counsel be “a lawyer with a reputation for integrity and impartial decision-making.”
There cannot be even the shred of a connection between the Attorney General and his Dept. of Justice and the investigation into the events of the 2016 election.
Second, if the Justice Department drags its feet and refuses to appoint a special prosecutor, or selects someone with insufficient independence, there is another route. We will then urge Sen. McConnell and Speaker Ryan to work with Democrats to create a new and improved version of the independent counsel law – which would give a three-judge panel the authority to appoint an independent counsel.
This was a law that was on the books – put in place after Watergate to avoid a repeat of events like the Saturday Night Massacre. It was designed just for this purpose. Unfortunately, it was not drafted with enough constraints.
Congress allowed the authority to expire after Ken Starr’s investigation into Whitewater went out of control. Ken Starr went too far, and tested the boundaries of the authority he was given. The law was not drafted tightly enough. But in this case, cognizant and wary of that history, we would work to craft a narrow authority, with specific guidelines for this investigation, to prevent this from becoming a political witch hunt.
We hope that, if the administration fails in its responsibility, that Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan will rise to theirs.
And finally, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice must immediately begin an investigation into the Attorney General’s involvement in this matter thus far, to discover if the investigation has already been compromised. The IG doesn’t need any permission and should go forward immediately.
We know the AG met with the President several weeks ago. What did they discuss? Have there been other contacts between the President or senior admin officials and the AG regarding this matter? Have there been any attempts to interfere with the investigation in any way? Has the AG or his close associates personally managed the work of career officials at the Department of justice or FBI in the course of their investigation? The Inspector General should find out answers to these questions and more.
The revelations are extremely troubling and raise even more questions about the President and his associates’ contacts to Russia.
Did the President know about these meetings between then-Sen. Sessions and the Russian Ambassador? Were these the only two meetings between the Attorney General and the Russian ambassador, or other Russian officials? Did the Attorney General disclose these meetings during the FBI background check for his nomination?
There has been revelation after revelation, mistruth after mistruth, stories shifting like quicksand – if there is truly no “there” there, why won’t they tell the truth?
The bottom line is — we have an obligation to get to the truth. We must evaluate the scope of Russia’s interference in our election and assess if agents of their government have penetrated to the highest level of our government. Nothing less than the sanctity of our democratic process, the primacy of the rule of law and the integrity of our executive branch is at stake.
We now know the only way that will happen is if an independent, impartial, special prosecutor who has no attachment to this Administration, conducts the investigation. If the Administration is unwilling or unable to manage that, Congress should reinstitute the law allowing us to bring in a special counsel to do it for them.