Comey questions whether Sessions violated recusal pledge
Former FBI Director James Comey questioned whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions had violated his recusal from the Justice Department’s Russia investigations by recommending Comey’s termination to President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s a reasonable question,” said Comey, who was overseeing the FBI’s investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election when he was fired on May 9th. “If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the Attorney General involved in that chain? I don’t know, and so I don’t have an answer for the question.”
During his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8th, Comey said the FBI’s leadership decided not to inform Sessions about Trump’s attempts to persuade Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties with the Russian government.
“Our judgment, as I recall, was that [Sessions] was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” said Comey. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
Sessions recused himself in March after the Washington Post reported that he misled the Senate during his confirmation process and failed to disclose his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak while serving as a top campaign adviser for Donald Trump.
Sessions, along with Deputy General Rod Rosenstein, cited the FBI Director’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to justify their recommendation to terminate Comey. “I have concluded that a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI,” Sessions wrote to Trump.
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However, in an interview with NBC News, Trump admitted that he fired Comey because of the FBI’s investigation into whether his campaign and transition team colluded with Russia.
“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’,” said Trump.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) have asked the Justice Department’s Inspector General to investigate whether Sessions violated his recusal by recommending Comey to be fired.
“It is clear that Attorney General Sessions had an active role in the termination of Director Comey. 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,’” according to the letter dated May 16th. “Further, the President’s recent admission that Comes was fired, at least in part, due to the Russia investigation only raises further questions about the role of the Attorney General in the termination, his willingness to provide cover for a political decision, and both his and the Department of Justice’s ability to perform an independent investigation. His involvement seems to be a clear violation of his recusal, and can only be construed as an attempt to influence an ongoing investigation that threatens his own role in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as other elements of President Trump’s campaign and administration.”
The letter to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), and Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts).