And no one is happier about that than Jeff Sessions. Two months ago, the new Attorney General faced bipartisan pressure to recuse himself from any involvement in the investigations of alleged Russian collusion with or penetration into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In short order, Sessions did announce his full recusal, which leaves any investigative or prosecutorial decisions to Rod Rosenstein, who got confirmed Wednesday as his deputy AG. Welcome to the party, pal.
Technically, the probe of Michael Flynn’s potential violations in his personal dealings with Russia from his consulting work might not necessarily fall under the scope of his recusal. However, when Today host Matt Lauer asks him about it, Sessions seems more than willing to take a pass on that case, too:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 28, 2017
“My recusal deals with the campaign issues,” Flynn told NBC’s “Today” show. “But I would expect not to be involved in this one.”
“You would recuse yourself from any decision dealing with general Flynn?” asked Today anchor Matt Lauer.
“Yeah,” Sessions replied.
Note that Sessions immediately — and wisely — distances himself from the immunity question, too. Not my job, man. Sessions also emphasized that he has no idea whether an investigation has begun into the latest Flynn issues, nor would he reveal it if he did know. Besides,Sessions might not have any case from which to recuse himself, at least regarding Flynn’s potential violations. That would likely require a referral from the Department of Defense, as they would be the first agency to investigate Flynn. The DoD could decide to handle the issue in-house with military discipline, such as a loss of rank or other potential penalties, rather than opting for a criminal prosecution in civil court.
That didn’t leave Sessions off of every hook regarding Flynn, however. The AG got peppered with questions about Flynn on ABC’s Good Morning America today too, and also stated that he’d likely be recused from any Flynn questions. Rather than pursue the legal issues, Amy Robach instead tried to pin Sessions down on how Flynn’s vetting managed to miss something as significant as undisclosed payments from Russia and demands to have him register as a foreign agent for his dealings with a Turkish firm. Sessions replied that vetting doesn’t necessarily catch every little thing:
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“We need to do a good job of vetting, but that’s a complex issue and I’m not sure anyone could be expected to find that,” Sessions told ABC News’ Amy Robach live on “Good Morning America” today.
“I’m comfortable that they’re working hard to do vetting. But it’s obvious that often times you don’t catch everything that might be a problem,” Sessions continued. “I don’t know the facts of this case; maybe there’s an explanation for it.”
Ahem. Not getting a change of address correct or overlooking a couple of domestic speaking gigs in a vetting process might be understandable. Missing $35,000 in payments from Russians to a potential national security adviser, or for that matter acting as a consultant/lobbyist for foreign firms, aren’t just trivial details that a competent vetting process doesn’t “catch.” Sessions may be confident in the White House vetting process, or more likely is trying to provide a little cover for his boss here, but he’s being foolish in trying to convince anyone that this is anything but rank incompetence at best. In the future, Sessions might want to “recuse” himself from these questions, too.