House Dems ask DOJ watchdog to investigate Sessions's role in Comey firing

House Dems ask DOJ watchdog to investigate Sessions's role in Comey firing
© Greg Nash

House Democrats from both the Judiciary and Oversight committees on Thursday asked the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General to investigate whether Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants DOJ wades into archdiocese fight for ads on DC buses Overnight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector MORE violated the terms of his recusal when he participated in the dismissal of former FBI Director James Comey.

“The actions of [Sessions] in collaborating directly with President Trump to fire Director Comey reflect a lapse in judgment by our nation’s top law enforcement official and appear to violate multiple promises made by the Attorney General and his aides,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

“Since the Department has failed to respond to multiple previous inquiries on this matter — despite promising to do so — we now ask that your office investigate and report back to us with any findings and recommendations you determine are warranted.”

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Sessions, who in March recused himself from any investigations into the Trump campaign, has faced scrutiny for signing a recommendation that the president fire Comey.

Democrats have argued that Sessions’s participation in the dismissal was a violation of that recusal. Democrats from both committees have pushed the Justice Department for more information on the matter. 

The White House formally declared at the time that the dismissal was related to Comey’s handling of the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE’s private email server.

But the president at the time said that the decision was linked to the FBI’s investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia.

“Regardless of which is true — that the President fired FBI Director Comey because of his investigation into the Clinton campaign or his investigation into the Trump campaign — both matters were supposed to be off limits for the Attorney General,” Democrats wrote.

According to the public statement Sessions gave in March, he stepped back from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” citing conflict of interest arising from his role in the Trump campaign.

Sessions has defended his participation in Comey's dismissal, saying that his involvement was wholly appropriate in his capacity as the attorney general. 

“It is absurd, frankly, to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various Department of Justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations,” he said during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month.

That reasoning, Democrats wrote, was an apparent attempt to "dramatically narrow the scope" of his recusal.