The person in charge of the Department of Justice, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared earlier this morning, has to be impartial and above reproach. That’s why Attorney General Jeff Sessions must resign after his testimony in the Senate has come under scrutiny, Schumer demanded. He also wants an impartial special prosecutor appointed to investigate any potential connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 2, 2017
“It would be better for the country if he resigned,” Schumer told reporters.
“You have to be above reproach,” he added.
Earlier, Nancy Pelosi also demanded that Sessions resign, along with other Democrats in Congress:
“The Attorney General must resign,” Pelosi wrote in a statement. “There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal and financial connections to the Russians.” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House oversight committee, also called on Sessions to resign, as did Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
In a statement in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Sessions said, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign.”
This standard appears to have come rather recently. Nine months ago, none of these Democrats seemed terribly concerned when Attorney General Loretta Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix while the FBI was developing its recommendations on their investigation of Hillary Clinton’s secret e-mail system. That action hardly demonstrated independence, bipartisanship, or a status of being “above reproach.” Democrats at the time rejected calls for either Lynch’s recusal or a special prosecutor, making their sudden outrage and demands for both today look a lot more like serving themselves than the American people. At least, it looks like Sudden Scruples Onset Syndrome.
These hysterical demands for resignations and special prosecutors looks like a phenomenon that the media likes to watch when it happens to Republicans — overplaying a hand. Demands for recusal seem rather reasonable at this point, given that the FBI has an investigation into whether these types of contacts amount to coordination or other nefarious purpose. A recusal does not require a special prosecutor, however, nor should one be used at this point. As Schumer himself notes, the acting deputy AG, Dana Boente, is an Obama appointee who already has the confidence of Congress, and Boente can take over as the final decider on the outcome of the investigation. Appointing a special prosecutor in this case is not just overkill, it’s completely unnecessary.
Despite the histrionics, it’s not at all unusual for Senators to have contacts with diplomats in the US. Joe Manchin told CNN that he also had contacts with the Russian ambassador, and there’s nothing nefarious about it:
The Hill points out, as Charles Cooke noted earlier, that Claire McCaskill has done the same despite her own denials this morning about it. Sessions should have noted the meeting in his testimony, but it’s pretty clear that he comprehended the question as within the context of campaigning — and Sessions didn’t see this routine contact as part of that context. A request for recusal at this point is reasonable, but treating this as the End Of The Republic is lunacy … especially given the flexible standards Democrats have had on Attorney General conflicts of interest lately.