House Judiciary Democrats Write Letters to Acting Attorney General Whitaker and Chairman Goodlatte Concerning Firing of Attorney General Sessions

Nov 8, 2018 Issues: Russia Investigation

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) led House Judiciary Committee Democrats in sending letters to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) regarding the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions by President Donald Trump in what appears to be a clear effort to change the supervisory structure for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigation.

In the letters, the Members wrote:  “The forced firing of Attorney General Sessions appears to be part of an ongoing pattern of behavior by the President seeking to undermine investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.  These actions include, among other things: (i) attempting to end the FBI’s investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn;[1] (ii) firing FBI Director James Comey because of “this Russia thing;”[2] (iii) distorting the facts in the response to revelations that senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russian operatives at Trump Tower prior to the election;[3] (iv) repeatedly threatening to fire Special Counsel Mueller;[4] and (v) recklessly threatening to selectively disclose classified information relating to the investigation.[5]

In their letter to Acting Attorney General Whitaker, the Members demanded clarity on who had been given authority over the Special Counsel given the highly suspect circumstances of Attorney General Sessions’ removal, the President’s continued pattern of threatening to end the Mueller investigation, and the need for Whitaker to recuse himself from supervising the Special Counsel given his well-documented bias against the investigation.

The Members also called on Chairman Goodlatte to hold emergency hearings in order to investigate the circumstances of  Attorney General Sessions’ firing and to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation was free to continue unhindered and without interference from the White House.

A copy of the letter to Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker can be found here.
 
A copy of the letter to House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte can be found here.


[1] Michael S. Schmidt, Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation, N.Y. Times, May 16, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/james-comey-trump-flynn-russia-investigation.html

[2] Interview with President Donald Trump, NBC News, May 11, 2009.

[3] Jo Becker, et al., Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said, N.Y. Times, July 11, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/11/us/politics/trump-russia-email-clinton.html.

[4] In addition to his near constant reference to the Mueller investigation as “witch hunt,” President Trump reportedly wanted to fire Mr. Mueller in December 2017 when he grew “furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas.”  In addition, he ordered Mr. Mueller to be fired in June 2017, relenting only when White House Counsel, Donald McGahn threatened to resign.  See Michael S. Schmidt & Maggie Haberman, Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, But Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit, N.Y. Times, Jan. 25, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/us/politics/trump-mueller-special-counsel-russia.html.

[5] On September 17, 2018, President Trump called for the “immediate declassification” of highly sensitive materials related to Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, including portions of the FISA order to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. On September 21, 2018, President Trump walked back the order, announcing over Twitter that he would ask the DOJ Inspector General to “review these documents on an expedited basis.” See Jeremy Herb and Laura Jarrett, Trump backs away from demand to declassify documents related to Russia investigation, CNN, Sept. 21, 2018, available at https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/21/politics/donald-trump-fisa-declassification-walk-back/index.html. President Trump maintained the threat of reckless declassification, however, tweeting “in the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary.” See President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump), Twitter, Sept.r 21, 2018, 9:41 AM.

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