Why Jeff Sessions Should Resign by Luke Perry
Earlier today the Justice Department confirmed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russian officials in 2016 after previously claiming to have no communication with the Russians during his Senate confirmation hearing. Sessions stands by his answers, claiming to have not discussed the 2016 election, yet also claiming to not fully remember what was discussed.
Sessions was a Senator for twenty years and well aware of the intent of the questioning-- to ascertain the extent to which he communicated with the Russian government during Trump's campaign, where he served as chair of his National Security Advisory Committee.
Sessions was also aware of the ramifications of his answers. He chose to respond untruthfully.
Democrats are calling for Sessions to resign, including leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. The White House believes Sessions was “100 percent straight with the committee” and those “choosing to play partisan politics with this should be ashamed of themselves.”
Several Congressional Republicans disagree. Few are rushing to defend Sessions, surprised by this revelation and unsure what may come next. Some have called for Sessions to recuse himself, including Jason Chaffetz, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Senator Susan Collins, who introduced Sessions at his confirmation hearing.
Speaker Ryan does not believe Sessions should recuse himself unless he becomes the subject of investigation. Leader McConnell, on the other hand, has been noticeably quiet. McConnell views himself as a defender of the Senate, so he can’t be pleased with this from an institutional perspective, yet knows his input will shape where things go from here.
The Attorney General should resign for procedural reasons, not political ones. America’s political system is premised on strong rule of law. The top law enforcement official in the country must be fully transparent and truthful, particularly under oath. Failing to do so disqualifies someone to hold this office.
America’s political system is also premised on free and fair elections. Sessions had an ethical, national, and professional obligation to be completely transparent with his Senate colleagues so they could effectively perform their duty of advice and consent on behalf of the American people. Sessions' failure to do so further eroded the efficacy of the electoral system and the public trust in general.
The resignation of Michael Flynn was unprecedented so soon into an administration. The fate of Jeff Sessions is coming dangerously close to creating a pattern. At the very least, President Trump needs better vetting mechanisms to avoid situations like these.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Associate Professor of Government at Utica College.