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Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions

Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Overnight Health Care: Pfizer could apply for vaccine authorization by late November | State health officials say they need .4B for vaccination effort | CDC: Blacks, Hispanics dying of COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates Major abortion rights group calls for Democrats to replace Feinstein on Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Calif.) is requesting that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and recently ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House The Memo: Team Trump looks to Pence to steady ship in VP debate MORE testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the wake of the Justice Department shakeup.

Feinstein sent a letter to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRepublicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling Democrats warn of ObamaCare threat from Barrett, Trump MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday asking that both men appear before the panel.

Feinstein, in the letter, argued the hearings are necessary to understand why Sessions was ousted last week as attorney general.

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“The circumstances surrounding Attorney General Sessions’ departure raise serious questions, including whether the appointment is lawful and the possible impact on Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” Feinstein said in the letter about holding a hearing with Whitaker.

Democrats have separately argued that Whitaker’s appointment violates the department’s line of succession and likely violates the Constitution. Instead, they argue, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House MORE was next in line to be acting attorney general and should maintain oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

Democrats have called on Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation, given his previous criticism of the probe.

Feinstein added that a hearing with the acting attorney general is needed to “ensure that he will take no action to restrict or otherwise interfere with the Special Counsel’s work.”

Feinstein added that Sessions should come before the committee to answer questions about former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyEx-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals DOJ weakens policy on investigating elections: report 'Comey Rule' exposes entertainment reporting's blinding partisanship MORE’s firing and Russia's election interference.

Republicans have largely brushed off Democratic concerns that Whitaker could interfere with Mueller’s probe.

Though Democrats are weighing how best to respond to the appointment, including a potential lawsuit, they can’t force a Judiciary Committee hearing on their own. 

If they want to force Sessions or Whitaker to testify they would need an agreement with Grassley or a majority of the GOP-controlled committee to subpoena them.