Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions

Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight MORE (D-Calif.) is requesting that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and recently ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report 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 GrassleyGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle Trump to sign USMCA next Wednesday 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 RosensteinRosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts Journalist alleging Obama administration spied on her seeks to reopen case Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE was next in line to be acting attorney general and should maintain oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay 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 ComeyCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight 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.