Political Focus: Jeff Sessions’ recusal

Melissa Deatsch, Sports Editor

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made headlines last week as news surfaced that he had met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during 2016. Sessions did not disclose these meetings to Congress during his hearing process.

After facing political pressure, Sessions has recused himself of any investigations of the Trump campaign — meaning he will not participate in the investigations, despite being the chief law enforcement officer of the country.

Multiple incidents have brought the Trump administration under scrutiny for being too tied to Russia. One of which was when former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired after news broke that he had met with Kislyak and privately discussed U.S. sanctions.

Under pressure

Following the news of Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak, many Democrats immediately called for his resignation. Congressional leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren said he has lied under oath, and therefore his resignation is the next necessary step.

Pelosi and Warren weren’t alone; at least 28 other Democratic members of Congress have publicly called for Sessions to resign. Others, including some Republicans, called for the attorney general to recuse himself, meaning he would put his deputy in charge of certain investigations.

In response to the pressure, Sessions announced on Thursday, March 2 that he would recuse himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign. He noted that he was taking the advice of Department of Justice ethics officials.

“They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation,” Sessions said in Wednesday’s press conference. ” . . . I believe those recommendations are right and just.”

This means that any investigations related to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, whether they exist now or in the future, will be overseen by Sessions’ deputy attorney general. These include the FBI’s current investigation into Russian hacking during the election.

Did Sessions lie under oath?

Looking at the transcript from Sessions’ Jan. 10 confirmation hearing, he certainly left out relevant information, but he didn’t necessarily make false statements. This was pointed out by his spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores to The Washington Post.

“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores told The Washington Post in a statement.

However, in a separate questionnaire in January, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Sessions directly, “Several of the president-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?”

Sessions responded, “No.”

It is the only answer in the entire 38-page questionnaire on which he did not expand in any way.

It is very difficult to prove a person guilty of perjury because you must prove that there was intent to deceive. So far, there is no out-and-out evidence of that intent at Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

Going forward

Many government officials are not satisfied by Sessions’ recusal. They feel it’s necessary for his deputy to hire a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election.

Dana Boente currently serves as deputy attorney general. However, Trump’s pick for the position, Rod Rosenstein, began hearings for his Senate confirmation on Tuesday.

Rosenstein has a reputation and some key endorsements from both Republicans and Democrats for putting politics aside and making decisions based on fairness.

Once he’s confirmed, we will see if Rosenstein moves forward with the hiring of a special prosecutor.