Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions

Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Court-packing becomes new litmus test on left MORE (D-Calif.) is requesting that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and recently ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump 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 GrassleySeniors win big with Trump rebate rule  Klobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll 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 Jay RosensteinThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks MORE was next in line to be acting attorney general and should maintain oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 ComeyTrump says public can see Mueller report Anderson Cooper blasts Trump over McCain attacks: 'He's punching a person who is dead' Clyburn: Trump and family 'greatest threats to democracy' in lifetime 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.