© Keren Carrion
Democratic senators are pushing for the Justice Department's top watchdog to probe Attorney General Jeff Sessions's role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Eleven Democrats sent a letter to Michael Horowitz, the DOJ's inspector general, asking if Sessions's "direct role" in Comey's dismissal violated his pledge to recuse himself from the investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
"His involvement seems to be a clear violation of his recusal, and can only be construed as an attempt to influence an ongoing investigation that threatens to examine his own role in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well other elements of President Trump’s campaign and administration," the Democrats wrote in the letter.
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Sessions decided to recuse himself in early March after The Washington Post reported that he had spoken to the Russian ambassador during the campaign, when he was acting as a surrogate for Trump, contradicting testimony he gave during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Democratic senators argued that Sessions "appears to have been intimately involved" with Comey's firing, pointing to reports that Sessions was a part of high-level talks ahead of Trump's decision to fire Comey. They also pointed to Trump's initial statement on Comey's dismissal, which cited a recommendation from Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein.
"We believe the Attorney General’s involvement in the termination of Director Comey has injected the exact 'partiality' in these investigations he claimed to wish to avoid," they wrote.
Despite initial statements from Trump and White House officials that emphasized the DOJ recommendation to dismiss Comey, Trump later told NBC News that he was prepared to fire the FBI chief "regardless" of the recommendation.
Democrats have seized on Trump acknowledging that "this Russia thing" was on his mind when he decided to fire Comey.
Comey was leading the FBI's investigation into any coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia before his firing.
The Democratic senators said Trump's comments about Russia in firing Comey spark further questions about Session's role and if he would "provide cover" for the president.
In addition to determining if Session's involvement violated his recusal, Democrats want to know what impact it could have on the ongoing investigations.
They also want Horowitz to clarify the extent and scope of Sessions's recusal, a timeline for his involvement in Comey's firing and if he has broken any DOJ rules or precedents.