May 17, 2017

Senators seek answers on Sessions’ role in Comey firing

Gage Skidmore

Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. Flickr /cc

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led 11 senators in calling for an investigation into Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey violated his recusal from any investigation into Russian ties with those close to President Donald Trump.

The letter, which was also signed by New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, was sent to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday.

In the letter, the senators said Session’s “recusal language itself could not be clearer.”

They also seek answers to three questions: to what extent Sessions was required to recuse himself from the investigation, the scope of his recusal and the timeline of his involvement in Comey’s firing.

The letter notes that Sessions met with Trump and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to discuss the removal of Comey on May 8. A day later, Sessions sent a letter to Trump recommending that Trump remove Comey from his position leading the FBI.

“It is clear that Attorney General Sessions had an active role in the termination of Director Comey,” the letter reads. “This seems to be in direct violation of Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from ‘any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.’”

The letter comes at a time of chaos within the White House, with two recent scandals related to Russia and Comey’s firing.

Earlier this week, Trump reportedly revealed classified information during an Oval Office meeting with Russian government officials. That information, the Washington Post reported, could be used to discover the identity of an intelligence asset of a close ally in the Middle East. Later reports indicated the source of the classified intelligence information Trump shared was Israel.

Then, the New York Times reported that Trump had asked Comey to end the investigation into MIchael Flynn, his former National Security Advisor. The Times reported on a memo Comey wrote immediately after meeting with Trump. Trump fired Flynn after the extent of Flynn’s ties to Russia became more apparent.

In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, Trump mentioned the Russia scandal that has plagued his administration when explaining why he fired Comey.

“And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’,” Trump said.

Still, the senators seek to know what role Sessions, himself a former U.S. senator, played in the Comey firing.

“It is imperative that the American people have faith in the institutions that are investigating the influence a hostile foreign power may have had on our presidential campaign, election, and the current administration of President Trump,” the senators wrote. “We believe the Attorney General’s involvement in the termination of Director Comey has injected the exact ‘partiality’ in these investigations he claimed to wish to avoid.”