Thursday, 27 July 2017 12:19

Blame Trump for any Sessions-Russia conflict, recusal

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sessions hearing2It’s the President’s own fault that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was legally required to recuse himself from all things Russia. Trump admitted that FBI Director James Comey was fired to derail the FBI’s investigation into his campaign and even bragged about it to Russian diplomats the very next day. It was a stunningly brazen, ultra vires act no matter how it’s spun.

Trump planned on firing Comey, he said, almost from the start. It was his right and the decision needed no justification. Instead of just doing what he could do all along, Trump ordered Sessions, and Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein, to compel a firing of Comey by finding cause where little, or none, existed and none was required. It made no sense. 

Trump’s end-game was to make Comey’s firing look like it was done for reasons other than Russia. It was a needlessly inept and inelegant move that meant Sessions had to recuse himself from anything to do with the topic.

It was Trump, alone, the President forgets, who made Sessions a percipient witness to allegations of obstruction of justice and any other applicable complaints. Sessions, in passing, has his own distinct challenges, including those stemming from truthfulness at his confirmation hearing, after-disclosed meetings with Russians, and pejorative conversations, if any, that he may have had with Trump, et cie, pertaining to Russian collusion in the 2016 election. These, too, required a recusal.

Rosenstein’s current situation is less clear since he, also, could be called as a witness against Trump and his men. The test in Rosenstein’s case is the amount of actual control he has over Special Counsel Robert Mueller. From outward signs, that control looks more administrative than substantive. Someone has to keep track of the budget. 

The Sessions affair has made strange bedfellows. You know something is topsy-turvy when even Ted Kennedy Democrats and much of the left are supporting Sessions, as is much of the right, including high-ranking White House officials.

Barry Goldwater’s slogan, “In your heart you know he’s right,” is applicable. People know Sessions was right to opt out of Russia. There was no other choice. This issue transcends Robert Mueller and his investigation. It’s about respect for those portions of the law that keep courts, and their officers, free from outside influence and conflicts of interests by mandating voluntary recusals. The virtue of an independent administration of justice knows no party affiliation as bi-partisan support for Sessions demonstrates. 

Justice Department requirements are clear, as is the law pretty much everywhere from Maine to Maui. If a lawyer is going to be a material witness in a case he can’t be an advocate in it, too. There are penalties for material misfeasance.

 

Sessions’ testimony, if taken, could prove or disprove that Trump’s firing of Comey was an act in the furtherance of a conspiracy to win an election by collusion with a hostile power and to conceal whatever, if any, violations of law that may have entailed. Trump should applaud Sessions for his recusal not excoriate him.

 

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