After it was discovered that Sessions had lied to the Senate during his confirmation hearing about contacts with Russia, he back-filled by saying he'd recuse himself from any involvement with investigations into links between the Trump Administration or the Trump Presidential Campaign, and Russia.

NY Times: Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Probe

It has been reported, by the Trump White House, that the firing of FBI Director, James Comey, whose FBI was investigating the allegations of Russian meddling, along with claims of links to the Trump Administration and campaign, was at the recommendation of Deputy AG Rosenstein, along with AG Jeff Sessions, who approved, passed along and concurred with the recommendation.

NY Times: FBI Director James Comey Fired By Trump

Since he just recommended removal the person in charge of an investigation that he promised to recuse himself from, did Sessions violate his pledge to not get involved?

If so, what, if any consequences are there, short-term (I suspect "none") are there for violating that promise?

  • 6
    I think this is very close to “______ sucks, am I right?" And have voted to close.
    – user9389
    May 10, 2017 at 18:38
  • 4
    Input, opinions, perspective, etc. aren't copacetic with the SE Model. May 10, 2017 at 18:59
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    @zibadawatimmy - If Sessions had, for instance, said something like "Since I promised to recuse myself, I had a panel of deputies who vetted any recommendations and I agreed to pass their recommendations on without editing or deciding whether or not they should be moved forward" - opinion about that or not, that would be a process that I was not aware of. Now, maybe everyone thinks it's entirely opinion based because there's nothing that we're missing. That's what I'm really looking for - information that I'm not aware of, or, confirmation that I'm not missing any pieces. May 12, 2017 at 13:38
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    Violate what? Is there a law that makes his promise legally binding, is there a differentiating line between what is interference and what isn't? Sounds like a primary opinion based question. For that reason, I've voted to close it; since it has been re-opened, and I can't vote to close it again. May 12, 2017 at 14:45
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    @PoloHoleSet Did he lie under oath? When Al Franken asked: "But if it's true, it's obviously extremely serious and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?" and Sessions answered "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. 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, and I'm unable to comment on it." Did that mean he did not communicate with Russians as a Trump Surrogate? May 12, 2017 at 15:04

1 Answer 1


An AP reporter recently asked this exact question in a brief article. As she states, "the answer partly depends on what you see as the real motive behind the director’s firing."

Sen. Al Franken is a prominent example of someone who sees a contradiction. As quoted on The Hill:

“I am also deeply troubled by the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who pledged to recuse himself from the Russia investigation because of his own Russia connections, involved himself in Director Comey’s firing,” Franken said in a statement. “This is a complete betrayal of his commitment to the public that he wouldn’t be involved in the investigation.”

Also Sen. Ron Wyden, as quoted on Huffington Post:

“I urge people to compare the statement that the attorney general made with respect to recusal to the events of the last day or so, with the president of the United States specifically mentioning in connection with those letters, the investigation of Russia. I think it showed a blatant disregard for the commitment to recuse himself,” Wyden said.

HuffPo further quotes a legal scholar who thinks there is a legitimate case here:

Stephen Gillers, a New York University School of Law professor specializing in legal ethics, said Sessions “reneged on his recusal promise to the Senate,” pointing to Sessions’ statement from March: “I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.”

“That’s ‘campaigns’ plural,” Gillers said. “The grounds for firing Mr. Comey in the Rosenstein memorandum are explicitly stated to be Mr. Comey’s public comments about Mrs. Clinton during the campaigns. These grounds are plainly encompassed within Mr. Sessions’ description of the broad scope of his recusal.

But the AP piece includes a dissenting opinion:

Sessions recommended Comey’s firing, writing in a letter that “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI.” And President Donald Trump said he based the firing on Comey’s very public handling of the bureau’s investigation into Clinton’s emails.

In that context, the move can be seen as purely a personnel decision based on Comey’s conduct, and Sessions should have been involved given his job as attorney general, said Susan Hennessey, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and managing editor of the Lawfare blog.


There’s no legal penalty for Sessions if he should have stayed out of the firing, though Congress could grill him over it or seek an inspector general investigation, Hennessey said.

  • Good stuff. Look forward to seeing if others come up with anything else. It will be interesting if Trump's statements that he really didn't do this on the recommendation of anyone - that had already decided he was firing Comey, regardless, creates a "shield" of sorts. May 12, 2017 at 15:46

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