Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions

Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions
© Greg Nash

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions This week: Congress returns for first time since mass shootings GOP senators object to White House delaying home-state projects for border wall MORE (D-Calif.) is requesting that acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and recently ousted Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe McCabe's counsel presses US attorney on whether grand jury decided not to indict US attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal 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 Grassley'Mike Pounce' trends on Twitter after Trump slip at GOP retreat Cruz warns GOP support for expanded background checks could help elect Warren president Lawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes 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 RosensteinHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe McCabe's counsel presses US attorney on whether grand jury decided not to indict US attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal MORE was next in line to be acting attorney general and should maintain oversight of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal 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 ComeyHouse Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe Justice OIG completes probe on FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide Aggrieved Trump rips Dems for 'sad' impeachment effort 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.