On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared in front of the House Judiciary Committee where he was intensely questioned about any investigative developments, as well as his knowledge regarding several key issues.
As Washington Examiner reported, Sessions spoke on former FBI Director James Comey, among other issues. Mr. Sessions remarked that Comey “had no power, right or justification in announcing the conclusion of a criminal investigation” in regards to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In March, Comey had announced before the House Intelligence Committee that an investigation was launched into Russian interference in the presidential election, in addition to allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. He noted that authorization by the Department of Justice allowed him to confirm the investigation, despite policies stating that investigations should not be confirmed or denied.
Mr. Sessions and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) both agreed that Comey’s announcement was improper conduct, as well as his July 2016 announcement during a press conference, in which he recommended that Hillary Clinton should not face charges. It was called an “inappropriate departure” from DOJ and FBI policies regarding investigations.
Mr. Sessions called it “a terminable offense,” saying, “it’s not disciplined.”
Even Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked Comey in May, “Why didn’t you just do the investigation as you would normally, with no public announcement?”
Then, Comey had defended his decision, stating, “I faced a choice … I sat there that morning and could not see a door labeled ‘no action here.’” He later referred to the decision as “one of the world’s most painful experiences,” but maintained that it was the right choice.
His actions led to Rod Rosenstein writing a letter on May 9 to recommend Comey’s termination. “[Comey] was wrong to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors,” Rosenstein wrote.
Comey was terminated the same day of the memo, but his poor decisions and unethical conduct have left lingering problems. Republican members of Congress have urged Mr. Sessions to appoint a Special Counsel so the Comey-led investigation can be reopened, and the full extent of Comey’s failures can be examined.
However, Attorney General Sessions is proving resistant, leading many to criticize his lack of action on the issue.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who recently penned an op-ed alongside Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) calling on Mr. Sessions to “do his job,” also fired questions at the Attorney General. Jordan explained a timeline of events regarding the FBI and DOJ investigation of Clinton’s email server, followed by a question: “What’s it going to take to actually get a Special Counsel?”
“It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel,” Mr. Sessions replied, referencing standards imposed by the DOJ manual. He also referenced that Robert Mueller is only the second Special Counsel ever to be appointed, indicating that it was a rare and serious circumstance.
Rep. Jordan was visibly displeased with the answer, asking if an analysis of the case was conducted to determine whether or not a Special Counsel could be appointed.
Did James Comey act illegally?
Mr. Sessions, appearing agitated, replied, “We will use the proper standards, and that’s the only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan. You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard required for a Special Counsel.”
Mr. Sessions announced on Monday that he is directing senior federal prosecutors to look into the cases. However, it is unclear whether he will appoint a second Special Counsel, or even replace Mueller, despite Mueller’s conflict of interest.