Groups Inform AG Sessions that Federal Regulations Require His Recusal from Investigation of Russia’s Intervention in the 2016 Presidential Election

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  • David Vance

In a letter sent today to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, 25 organizations and individuals, including those with legal and ethics expertise, called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to promptly recuse himself from all Department of Justice investigations and actions regarding:

  • any interactions between President Donald Trump, his campaign staff or other individuals supporting his campaign and Russian actors during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign;
  • any Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election;
  • the activities of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian actors; and
  • any leaks concerning these matters.

According to the letter, “Published reports indicate that the FBI and intelligence agencies are already investigating matters dealing with Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign as well as Flynn’s post-election communications with Russian actors.”

The letter stated that the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations require that Sessions recuse himself from the matters set forth in the letter:

Per 28 CFR § 45.2(a):

(a) …. no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with:

(1) Any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution; or

(2) Any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.

The letter to Sessions further stated:

Your history of personal and political affiliation with President Trump and his presidential campaign, and with White House staff, clearly meet 28 C.F.R. § 45.2’s definition of a political or personal relationship.

The letter detailed these relationships including the facts that:

  • Sessions was the first Senator to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump in February 2016.
  • Sessions was chosen to formally nominate Trump as the Republican candidate for president at the Republican National Convention.
  • Sessions participated in at least nine Trump campaign rallies and attended at least 45 campaign events.
  • Sessions was the first Senator to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump in February 2016.
  • Numerous press reports said Sessions had a critical role in the campaign. A New York magazine article said, “A source close to the campaign [said] Trump only truly consults one person, Alabama Republican senator Jeff Sessions: ‘When Jeff Sessions calls, Trump listens.’”
  • Press reports said Sessions played a critical role in the transition. A Washington Post article said, “Sessions became a daily presence at Trump Tower in New York, mapping out the policy agenda and making personnel decisions.”
  • Several of Sessions former employees and individuals with whom he has personal relationships with work at the White House, including current White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn who served as Sessions’ chief of staff and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, who served as Sessions’ communications director.

The letter to Sessions said that, “Cumulatively, these examples overwhelmingly demonstrate that you have a “close identification with an elected official … a political party, or a campaign organization, arising from service as a principal adviser thereto” under 28 C.F.R. § 45.2(c). Most significantly, these facts clearly demonstrate that you have a close identification with President Trump.”

The letter noted that upon being nominated to serve as Attorney General, Sessions said, “I look forward to fulfilling my duties with an unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality.”

The letter said, “‘Unwavering dedication to fairness and impartiality’” requires that you recuse yourself from all of the matters described earlier in the letter.”

The letter to Sessions concluded:

In conclusion, your well-established and widely known affiliation with President Trump and his campaign and White House staff clearly meet 28 C.F.R. § 45.2(c)’s definition of a political or personal relationship. That relationship precludes any possibility of avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest. We call on you to promptly recuse yourself from all matters described in this letter. Your immediate and complete recusal from these matters is vital to ensure ongoing public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of the Justice Department.”

To read the letter, click here.

The signers to the letter include:

Bus Federation

Campaign Legal Center

Center for American Progress

Center for Media and Democracy

Common Cause

CREDO Action


Demand Progress

Democracy 21


Every Voice

Institute for Science and Human Values

Mi Familia Vota

National Action Center

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Norman Eisen, chief White House Ethics lawyer 2009-2011

Norman Ornstein

People For the American Way

Public Citizen


Revolving Door Project

Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2005-2007

The National Center for Lesbian Rights

Thomas Mann

Win Without War