Breitbart had a disturbing article on Thursday (2 November). In it, Kristina Wong quoted Rep. [score]Matt Gaetz[/score] (R-FL) as stating that Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of congressmen in September that he had comprehensively recused himself from any matter having to do with the 2016 election, or a candidate in the 2016 election.
According to Gaetz, that was how Sessions said he interpreted his recusal from the “Russia” investigation.
Gaetz said that when he asked Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the 2010 Uranium One deal and Fusion GPS, the attorney general stood up, said he could not discuss the matter because he had recused himself, and walked out of the room, leaving them with a group of Rosenstein staffers “who showed no interest.”
“He said that anything that had to do with 2016 election, or Russia, or the candidates in the 2016 election, fell under the scope of his recusal, and he left the room,” Gaetz said.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department says other (DOJ) people present don’t remember those specific words being said (although she does acknowledge that the subject was discussed).
But Sessions’ continuing failure to act or even comment, with evidence mounting that the Uranium One sale was approved in 2010 in spite of a known history of Russian influence operations relating directly to it, speaks loudly enough. Whatever the DOJ attendees think they heard in September, Sessions is certainly behaving as if it’s Gaetz’s memory that is accurate.
For the record, Wong lists these other members of the House as attending the meeting:
Other House members present at the meeting were Chairman [score]Robert Goodlatte[/score] (R-VA) and Reps. [score]Jim Jordan[/score] (R-OH), [score]Ron DeSantis[/score] (R-FL), and [score]Louie Gohmert[/score] (R-TX).
She doesn’t offer quotes or commentary from them, one way or the other.
Gaetz’s analysis and frustration:
“It was Sessions’ position that his recusal on the Russia matter divorced him from any oversight on Uranium One and Fusion GPS. That’s troubling. Sessions’ recusal is a function of his involvement in the Trump campaign. In no world does that impact his judgment as it relates to Fusion GPS and Uranium One. But he views the recusal more broadly. That’s troubling because that puts Rosenstein in charge,” he said.
Gaetz’s point on Uranium One is particularly unassailable. The events in the Uranium One saga have nothing to do with the 2016 election or the Trump campaign. They all relate to a period that spans 2004 to early 2015.
And given Rosenstein’s connection with DOJ and what it demonstrably knew about Russian influence operations in the U.S. uranium industry, before the Uranium One sale was approved by U.S. authorities in 2010, it is clearly not Sessions who should recuse himself from making decisions about that case now. It’s Rosenstein.
Recall the information outlined about the Russian bribery case – an actual case, investigated and prosecuted by DOJ, not just a pile of analysis done by journalists – in the article by John Solomon and Alison Spann at The Hill on 17 October (emphasis added):
“As part of the scheme, Mikerin, with the consent of higher level officials at TENEX and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities) would offer no-bid contracts to US businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to some offshore banks accounts,” Agent David Gadren testified.
“Mikerin apparently then shared the proceeds with other co-conspirators associated with TENEX in Russia and elsewhere,” the agent added.
The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.
If Jeff Sessions recuses himself from all issues that may have a tangential relationship to 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton, that means Rod Rosenstein, who should have no vote on whether to look into DOJ conduct in this case, has the deciding vote.
We would not, and should not, fault any president of either party for removing an attorney general whose recusal from reviewing cases was actively setting up a situation like this.
I’ve never thought poorly of Jeff Sessions, and my purpose here isn’t to go after him with a torch and pitchfork. For what it’s worth, I assume he is doing his best, according to his lights, to behave honorably and do the right thing for justice and the American people.
But this effect is not justice. Rod Rosenstein may himself be a tower of integrity, but in no event should it fall to him to make decisions about the very disquieting issues coming to light on Russian bribery and the Uranium One sale. In fact, everyone who is acting in a privileged capacity now – Robert Mueller, Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe – was in DOJ or FBI in a responsible position during the Russian-bribery period, and would have had knowledge of the issues. None of them should be making decisions about whether to look into DOJ and/or FBI conduct of the relevant cases.
The Sessions recusal is an active obstacle to proper review of those bizarre circumstances. We don’t even need Gaetz’s word for it; Sessions’ inaction tells us enough. From what Gaetz says, the Sessions recusal may be an obstacle to a proper review of Fusion GPS and the dodgy dossier as well.
If severance of these various investigatory issues from each other is what is necessary, in order to have an honest accounting and serve justice, the answer is not to recuse an attorney general who was connected to Trump’s 2016 campaign. It’s to appoint an attorney general who can do his job: i.e., credibly make the decisions on how or whether to sever the issues.
At this point, Sessions’ acceptance of the premise that he’s tainted makes him useless for that purpose. He needs to resign, and President Trump needs to appoint an attorney general who won’t be leaving the big decisions to the already implicated.