Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions

Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHarris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Senate talks on stalled Violence Against Women Act reauthorization unravel MORE (D-Calif.) is requesting that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and recently ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne Impeachment tests Barr-Trump relationship Tide, Tigers and Trump: President hopes for home-field advantage in Alabama 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 GrassleyFalling investment revives attacks against Trump's tax cuts Overnight Health Care: CDC links vitamin E oil to vaping illnesses | White House calls Pelosi drug price plan 'unworkable' | Dem offers bill for state-based 'Medicare for All' White House says Pelosi plan to lower drug prices 'unworkable' 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 RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE was next in line to be acting attorney general and should maintain oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 ComeyScores of US dams found in poor condition, endangering thousands of people: analysis Former National Security Adviser John Bolton gets book deal: report Deep engagement is a two-way street 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.