Date
21 November 2018
Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions “appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior” of the US president to undermine a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, US Democratic lawmakers say. File photo: Reuters
Donald Trump’s firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions “appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior” of the US president to undermine a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, US Democratic lawmakers say. File photo: Reuters

Democrats seek hearings on Trump’s ouster of Sessions

US Congressional Democrats on Thursday demanded emergency hearings in the House of Representatives to investigate President Donald Trump’s ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Arguing that the sacking of Sessions appears to be an effort by Trump to undermine a federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, democratic lawmakers called for immediate hearings, Reuters reports.

Trump forced the resignation of Sessions on Wednesday, a day after midterm elections in which his fellow Republicans lost control of the House but increased their majority in the Senate.

In a letter that accused Trump of placing the country “in the throes of a constitutional crisis,” House Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded action from the panel’s Republican Chairman Bob Goodlatte, and called for bipartisan legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any effort to stymie the probe.

Congressional Democrats, including newly elected members of the House of Representatives, held a conference call on Thursday to discuss Sessions’ ouster, according to the report.

Mueller is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and any collusion by Trump’s campaign.

Trump, who denies any collusion, has long complained about the probe, calling it a witch hunt. He had frequently publicly castigated Sessions for recusing himself last year from the case.

During the Thursday conference call, House Democrats said they would attempt to include legislation protecting Mueller’s investigation into an appropriations bill that Congress is due to consider later this year.

“This (Sessions’ ouster) just makes us all the more want to make sure we have that special counsel protection bill passed or added to any spending bill that may be moving in the (end-of-year) session,” said Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.

“We are watching what appears to be continued obstruction by this White House,” Pocan told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said Democrats were concerned about what the Trump administration might do next concerning the special counsel probe: “Anyone writing even a dime store novel knows what the next couple of steps are on this.”

Trump named Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general, saying he would soon nominate a permanent replacement for review by the Senate.

That drew criticism from Democrats because Whitaker, who would now take over responsibility for overseeing Mueller and his investigation, has been critical of the Mueller probe, saying it should be scaled back.

House Judiciary Democrats, in their letter, called on Whitaker to recuse himself and keep the Mueller investigation under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a career Justice Department official who has given the special counsel full scope to pursue leads.

Rosenstein had the role of supervising the probe because of Sessions’ recusal. 

The Democrats said they also want the Justice Department to protect the integrity of Mueller’s investigation and to preserve relevant documents.

“The forced firing of Attorney General Sessions appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior by the president seeking to undermine (the) investigation into Russian interference,” said the letter, written by Representative Jerrold Nadler, the committee’s top Democrat, and 16 other Democrats who sit on the panel.

Nadler is expected to become House Judiciary chairman when a Democratic House majority, elected in Tuesday’s midterm elections, takes over in the new Congress that convenes in January.

“The president’s actions have plunged the country into peril,” the Democrats added. “By forcing the firing (of) the attorney general, the president now threatens the rule of law itself.”

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RC

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