Attorney General Jefferson Sessions has decided that he will not recuse himself from the investigation into Donald Trump’s attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen.
By staying involved in the Cohen probe, Sessions is entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation, which is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York. That could put Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump, who strongly condemned the FBI raid on his longtime lawyer, to divulge information about the Cohen investigation.
Donald Trump has repeatedly made it clear that he regards the decision by Attorney General Jefferson Sessions to recuse himself from the Russia investigation as little short of an act of betrayal.
“The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself,” the president told reporters at the White House on Monday evening, “or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself and we would have used a — put a different attorney general in.”
Trump views the attorney general’s role as an extension of his personal legal services, and has repeatedly attacked Sessions for failing to stay in position to provide obstruction on demand. But, even though the investigation is strongly tied to Trump’s campaign, and even though the reason that Sessions gave for recusing himself was his own involvement in that campaign, Sessions is sticking close this time. Sessions’ original announcement seemed unequivocal.
“During the course of the last several weeks, I have met with the relevant senior career Department officials to discuss whether I should recuse myself from any matters arising from the campaigns for president of the United States,” he said in his written recusal released on March 2. “Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”
But now that it is the future, those investigations are in the present. And even though the Cohen matter is directly related to Trump’s campaign, Sessions has decided to that he might as well just give justice, the law, and the American political system the middle finger—so long as keeps him from getting a mean tweet.
This is just the next in a long series of Sessions’ violations of his own recusal.
Despite his recusal, Sessions has found ways to wade into the investigation. In some instances, experts see a clear violation; in others, a series of improper comments and acts whose cumulative effect is that the attorney general is, in fact, a player in the Russia investigation.
But it’s certainly the most clear-cut, obvious, and objectionable. It puts Sessions not just in the position to listen in and tell Trump everything that’s going on in the case, but gives him nearly carte blanche to interfere.
Sessions could also weigh in on specific decisions by prosecutors, including whether to pursue subpoenas and indictments.
As far as that statement Sessions gave, about recusing himself from “all matters” … forget it.
“The attorney general considers his potential recusal on a matter-by-matter basis as may be needed,” the department said in a statement. “To the extent a matter comes to the attention of his office that may warrant consideration of recusal, the attorney general would review the issue and consult with the appropriate Department ethics experts.”
After all, Sessions is the master of forgetting things. During his own testimony before Congress, “I do not recall” was Sessions’ stock answer to his own actions in the campaign, and forgotten encounters with Russian officials, and the contents of the lengthy private meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak held in Sessions’ Senate office.
Now that things are getting serious, Sessions is simply … not recalling that he ever gave a damn about even pretending to do the right thing.