Oops. Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to have violated his pledge to recuse himself from the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. It happened during a live TV appearance on Fox News.
“I recused myself, not because of any asserted wrongdoing, or any belief that I may have been involved in any wrongdoing in the campaign,” Sessions said during a recent congressional hearing. “But because a Department of Justice regulation … I felt, required it.” He made the official recusal on March 2nd after reports emerged he met with the Russian Ambassador, contradicting his confirmation testimony.
But on Friday, Sessions made an appearance on Fox & Friends where he weighed in on the very probe he pledged not to talk about. As Politico’s Josh Gerstein pointed out, “Sessions seemed a bit uncomfortable with the line of questioning, but responded to the queries anyway.”
The interview started with questions about Trump’s travel ban, but about 7 minutes in turned into queries about the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. The host asked whether Sessions believed the acting special counsel Robert Mueller had conflicts of interest because of his close relationship with former FBI Director James Comey.
“We need to clear the air on this and let the system work its will,” Sessions answered. When asked if he had any concerns about the hires that Mueller has made including some attorneys who have ties to the Clinton Foundation, Sessions responded: “Mr. Mueller is entitled lawfully I guess to hire who he desires but I think he should look for people who have strength and credibility by all people.”
Now, it would have been pretty easy for Sessions to say: “I can’t comment because I have recused myself from the investigation.” But that’s not what he did.
28 CFR 45.2 states that DOJ employees may not “participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.” Is he allowed to make comments about an ongoing investigation that he’s recused himself from? That seems to go against the very nature of the regulation.
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) July 5, 2017
We reached out to the press office of the Department of Justice for comment.