Opinion

Sessions is Apparently Ready to Violate His Recusal Pledge

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not recuse himself from the current investigation into President Donald Trump‘s lawyer Michael Cohen. If this is true, it’s a blatant violation of Sessions’ promise to the American people.

While prosecutors have kept mum on the specific offenses they’re looking into, reports have indicated that Cohen could face charges that include campaign finance violations. Even though it may not have anything to do with Russia, it still falls under Sessions’ promise to recuse himself from campaign-related matters.

When Sessions first announced that he was recusing himself from the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, he did not simply limit the announcement to the Russia probe. Sessions said at the time that due to his ties to the campaign, he was recusing himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”

The Cohen investigation certainly appears to fit the bill, given reports that authorities are looking at payments made to women before the election to keep quiet about alleged affairs they had with Trump. This comes after complaints were filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice claiming that such payments may have been illegal and unreported campaign contributions.

Someone familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Sessions will look at specific issues related to Cohen and make determinations as to whether to stay away from individual questions. Of course, recusals don’t really work that way. As Walter Shaub noted, recusals apply to entire investigations, not just a “particular matter.”

Ironically, Shaub says Sessions might be okay if the Cohen investigation is separate from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia probe, because that’s what Sessions is currently recused from. While that may be legally accurate as far as Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation is concerned, it also supports the idea that if there’s reason for Sessions to avoid any issues in the Cohen investigation, he should recuse himself from the whole thing.

Even if legal, failing to recuse himself now would also still be a violation of Sessions’ promise. The Attorney General told the country that because of his involvement with the Trump campaign, he would recuse himself from any investigation that is connected to the campaign in any way.

[Image via AFP/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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