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Guess What, Donald? Sessions Has Already Recused Himself from Investigating Hillary Clinton.

Trump has called Sessions “VERY weak” for not investigating alleged Hillary Clinton “crimes.” But Sessions has bowed out of any Clinton probes.

July 26, 2017

Pres­id­ent Trump is furi­ous at his Attor­ney General. He’s steam­ing mad that Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia invest­ig­a­tions and is going soft on Hilary Clin­ton.

What he does­n’t seem to have real­ized yet is that Sessions has recused himself from Clin­ton matters too. And he did it when there was still time for Trump to put a halt to the hiring process. If only Trump had listened to Sessions’ testi­mony at his confirm­a­tion hear­ing.

Let’s turn back the clock to Janu­ary 10, 2017. Donald Trump had not even been sworn in as Pres­id­ent. But Sessions was already facing ques­tion­ing as part of the routine Senate confirm­a­tion process.  

Within 10 minutes of taking ques­tions from the Senate Judi­ciary Commit­tee, Sessions was asked by the panel’s Chair­man, Chuck Grass­ley (R-Iowa), whether he could approach the Clin­ton issues impar­tially. Sessions replied

Mr. Chair­man, it was a highly conten­tious campaign. I, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign. With regard to Secret­ary Clin­ton and some of the comments I made, I do believe that that could place my objectiv­ity in ques­tion. I’ve given that thought.

I believe the proper thing for me to do, would be to recuse myself from any ques­tions involving those kind of invest­ig­a­tions that involve Secret­ary Clin­ton and that were raised during the campaign or to be other­wise connec­ted to it. 

The remainder of the exchange is worth quot­ing at length:

GRASS­LEY: OK. I think, that’s—­let me emphas­ize then with a follow up ques­tion. To be very clear, you intend to recuse your­self from both the Clin­ton e-mail invest­ig­a­tion and any matters involving the Clin­ton Found­a­tion, if there are any?

SESSIONS: Yes.

GRASS­LEY: Let me follow up again, because it’s import­ant. When you say you’ll recuse, you mean that you’ll actu­ally recuse and the decision will there­fore fall to, I assume, a deputy attor­ney general? I ask because after Attor­ney General Lynch met with Pres­id­ent Clin­ton in Phoenix, she said she would, quote/unquote, “defer to the FBI,” but she never offi­cially recused.

SESSIONS: No, she did not offi­cially recuse. And there is a proced­ure for that, which I would follow. And I believe that would be the best approach for the coun­try because we can never have a polit­ical dispute turn into a crim­inal dispute. That’s not in any way that would suggest anything other than abso­lute objectiv­ity. This coun­try does not punish its polit­ical enemies, but this coun­try ensures that no one is above the law. 

There are some import­ant threads running through the exchange. They are worth teas­ing out a bit:

First, impar­ti­al­ity and the appear­ance of impar­ti­al­ity are para­mount values for the Attor­ney General of the United States. So much so that the hint of bias or predis­pos­i­tion is enough to compel recusal. It does­n’t matter if there is actual bias or object­ive evid­ence of bias. Why? If the Depart­ment’s decisions are viewed as politi­cized then fully half of the coun­try, the half that holds oppos­ing polit­ical views, will doubt the fair­ness and justice of the legal system. And that is a prescrip­tion for a down­ward spiral in the cred­ib­il­ity of law enforce­ment.

Second, crim­in­al­iz­ing polit­ical disputes is the path to ruin for demo­cracy. Sessions under­stands that. If he didn’t under­stand the obverse, that politi­ciz­ing crim­inal disputes is not healthy either, he almost certainly does now as the Pres­id­ent tweet storms his anger at the Russia “witch hunt.”

Finally, recusal is a formal and seri­ous process. Sessions honored it when he recused himself from the Russia invest­ig­a­tions in March. He used a whole 209 words. Tellingly, he referred to “campaigns” plural in his recusal announce­ment: “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 what’s that against 140 char­ac­ters? Time will tell.

(Photo: AP)