FACT CHECK: SESSIONS RESISTED RECUSAL FROM RUSSIA PROBE FOR WEEKS
June 13, 2017
Sessions has given conflicting statements about the timeline and decision-making that led to his recusal on March 2nd. While he has claimed that the process that led to recusal began immediately when he took office, Sessions actually resisted recusal for weeks before public reports of his meetings with the Russian ambassador forced back him into a corner.
During his January confirmation process, Sessions told Senators that he saw no reason to recuse himself from investigations involving President Trump.
Q. “By the recusal standard that you put forth in that op-ed, is it fair to expect you to recuse yourself from any matters regarding Mr. Trump or his finances?”
RESPONSE: “There are significant differences between the issue discussed in the op-ed referenced above and the broad hypothetical presented regarding an investigation into the President. Secretary Clinton was under investigation at the time Attorney General Lynch met with President Clinton. If merely being a supporter of the President’s during the campaign warranted recusal from involvement in any matter involving him, then most typical presidential appointees would be unable to conduct their duties. I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. If a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed. As I made clear at my confirmation hearing, I will always be fair and work within the law and the established procedures of the Department.”
As late as mid-February, advisors to Sessions said he saw no need to recuse himself from the Russia probe.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions faced growing pressure on Tuesday to remove himself from any role in investigating President Trump’s aides and their relationship with Russia, but advisers to Mr. Sessions said he saw no need to do so.”
And remember…throughout that time, Trump was (and apparently still is) vehemently opposed to Sessions recusing himself from the probe, and has made his feelings known to the Attorney General.
“In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation…A senior administration official said Mr. Trump has not stopped burning about the decision, in occasional spurts, toward Mr. Sessions. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who was selected by Mr. Sessions and filled in when it came to the Russia investigation, ultimately appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to lead the probe.”