LEGAL EXPERTS AGREE THAT SESSIONS VIOLATED RECUSAL BY PARTICIPATING IN COMEY’S FIRING
June 13, 2017
NYU law professor Stephen Gillers, a national renowned legal ethics expert, said the grounds for Comey’s firing “are plainly encompassed within Mr. Sessions’ description of the broad scope of his recusal.”
“Stephen Gillers, a nationally renowned legal ethics expert from New York University School of Law, told MSNBC that Sessions flatly violated the recusal. ‘The scope of the recusal is very broad — ‘any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President…’ The grounds for firing Mr. Comey in the Rosenstein memorandum are explicitly stated to be Mr. Comey’s public comments about Mrs. Clinton, during the campaign and prior to the election,’ Gillers said. ‘These grounds are plainly encompassed within Mr. Sessions’ description of the broad scope of his recusal,’ he added.”
St. Johns Law Prof. John Barrett said Sessions showed a blind spot by ignoring the connection between Comey’s firing and the Russia investigation.
HORSLEY: “A Justice Department spokesman argues that despite that recusal, there was no reason Sessions should not have weighed in on the decision to fire the FBI director. The spokesman says Sessions’ recommendation was based on Comey’s leadership, not the substance of any investigation. That argument doesn’t wash with Barrett, a former Justice Department lawyer who served as associate counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation.”
BARRETT: “The problem is you can’t sort of say I’m changing the director of the FBI for B through Z and pretend there’s no A involved here. A is this investigation.”
HORSLEY: “Barrett says the attorney general showed a blind spot by ignoring that connection. He argues Sessions should not be involved in choosing a new director for the FBI and suggests the safest course might be to leave the acting director in place until the campaign probe is completed.”
Ethics watchdog Democracy 21 filed a complaint against Sessions for violating his recusal through his involvement in Comey’s firing.
“An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday alleging that his participation in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey violated Justice Department rules and Sessions’s promise to recuse himself from matters involving Russia. ‘Firing the lead investigator is the most extreme form of interfering with an investigation,’ wrote Fred Wertheimer, who signed the six-page complaint on behalf of his organization, Democracy 21…Wertheimer, who has worked on ethics issues since the Watergate scandal, said the attorney general’s participation in the Comey firing violated Justice Department rules requiring staffers to recuse themselves from any criminal inquiry in which they have a ‘personal or political relationship.’”
Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe argued that Sessions clearly violated his recusal commitment and could not “possibly have done it in a fit of absent-mindedness.”
“As I see it, the President’s discharge of FBI Director Comey on a clearly pretextual basis for the obvious purpose (even if unlikely to be achieved) of shutting down the FBI’s then-accelerating investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was on its face an obstruction of justice, the very same charge that the first Article of Impeachment against Richard Nixon made…And part of the evidence supporting the charge of AG Sessions’ conscious involvement in that obstruction is the way in which he violated his public recusal commitment, something he cannot possibly have done in a fit of absent-mindedness.”
Wash. U. legal ethics expert Kathleen Cark said Sessions had an obligation to recuse if he had access to any information that Comey’s firing was related to the Russia investigation.
“Kathleen Clark, a legal ethics expert at Washington University School of Law, was not as conclusive, but said ‘there is strong evidence that the firing was related to the investigation, and if Sessions had any access to any information indicating that they were related — that the potential firing was related to that investigation — he had an obligation to recuse.’”