Senate Judiciary Dems Call For Sessions Hearing, Inspector General Probe

Alex Brandon/AP

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committees called on the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), to schedule a hearing for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “clear the air” regarding his contact with the Russian ambassador and recusal from campaign-related investigations.

A handful of senators from the committee also called on the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate Sessions’ recusal decision.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, five of the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), called for the inspector general to investigate Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”

Sessions recused himself from campaign-related matters after the Washington Post reported that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign.

“Sessions said that this decision followed the recommendation of Department ethics officials,” they wrote, “though he has not explained why he failed to come forward and correct his sworn testimony before reports of his contacts with the Russian Ambassador became public, why there was a delay in recusing himself until those public disclosures, or why his recusal was limited to campaign-related investigations and not investigations of post-election Russian contacts with the Trump transition team and administration.”

The five senators — Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), in addition to Feinstein – also called on Horowitz to investigate whether Sessions spoke to ethics officials regarding his recusal, and to investigate Sessions’ communications with the White House on the matter.

In a separate letter to the committee’s chair, Sen. Grassley, every Democrat on the committee called on him to schedule another hearing for Sessions.

The senators wrote that Sessions “has not explained why he failed to come forward and correct the record before reports of his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak became public, why there was a delay in recusing himself until those public disclosures, and why he only recused himself with respect to campaign-related investigations and not Russian contacts with the Trump transition team and administration.”

In an email, a spokesperson for Grassley told TPM that “there are no plans to Attorney General ask Sessions to come before the Judiciary Committee before an annual Justice Department oversight hearing, as is customary.”

“Attorney General Sessions did the right thing by recusing himself, and he did exactly what he said he’d do regarding potential recusals when he was before our committee,” Grassley himself said in the email. “It’s unfortunate that the Democrats didn’t even have the decency to give him an opportunity to clear up confusion to the statement in writing.”

This post has been updated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.

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