Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sessions' Recusal Only the First Step | Russian Role in Election Requires Independent Review | Russian Role in Election Requires Independent Review

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sessions' Recusal Only the First Step | Russian Role in Election Requires Independent Review | Russian Role in Election Requires Independent Review

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision Thursday to recuse himself from any investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election represented a first step toward an independent review of this serious matter.

The need for independence -- which could be provided by either a joint congressional inquiry or the appointment of a special prosecutor, or both -- has been highlighted by evidence that Sessions misled, at best, or outright lied to former Senate colleagues during his confirmation hearing. The question is: Why?

Sessions met with a small group of diplomats, including the Russian ambassador, the week of July 18 -- months after he was selected to lead the national security advisory committee for the campaign of now-President Donald Trump. On Sept. 8, Sessions met privately in his Senate office with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Yet, in his confirmation hearing in January, Sessions testified: "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn't have -- did not have communications with the Russians."

Right, and ex-President Bill Clinton "did not have sexual relations with that woman."

The Justice Department on Wednesday confirmed Sessions' contacts, but a day later asserted they were insignificant and did not relate to the Trump campaign; the meeting in Sessions' office, the department maintained, was related to his Senate work.

Nevertheless, under pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike, Sessions properly said he would remove himself from the investigative process.

But that is not enough to ensure the independence of the Justice Department so long as Sessions is the attorney general.

Federal law enables the department's second-in-command to appoint independent counsel. That step should be taken in light of the complete picture.

The concerns about Sessions' statements are compounded by the fact that, in late December, Michael T. Flynn, who eventually became Trump's National Security Adviser, discussed U. …

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