Democrats seek hearings on ouster of Sessions

Top Democrats stepped up pressure Sunday on acting US Attorney-General Matthew Whitaker to step aside from overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, vowing to order Whitaker to testify early next year.
People marching through Times Square in New York City on Thursday night, a day after President Donald Trump forced the resignation of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions. The move has cast doubt on the fate of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia inves
People marching through Times Square in New York City on Thursday night, a day after President Donald Trump forced the resignation of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions. The move has cast doubt on the fate of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They say Trump's move is an effort to undermine probe into Russian meddling in 2016 polls

WASHINGTON • Democrats in the US Congress have demanded emergency hearings in the House of Representatives to investigate President Donald Trump's ouster of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, calling the move an effort to undermine a federal probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

Mr Trump forced the resignation of Mr Sessions on Wednesday, a day after elections in which his fellow Republicans lost control of the House but increased their majority in the Senate.

In a letter saying the move placed the country "in the throes of a constitutional crisis", House Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded action from the panel's Republican chairman, Mr Bob Goodlatte, and called for bipartisan legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from any effort to stymie the probe.

Congressional Democrats, including newly elected members, held a conference call on Thursday to discuss Mr Sessions' ouster, Democratic lawmakers and aides said.

Mr Mueller is investigating Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election and any collusion by Mr Trump's campaign. Mr Trump, who denies any collusion, has long complained about the probe, calling it a witch hunt. He frequently publicly castigated Mr Sessions for recusing himself from the case.

During the Thursday conference call, House Democrats said they would try to include legislation protecting Mr Mueller's probe in an appropriations Bill that Congress is due to consider later this year.

Mr Sessions' ouster "just makes us all the more want to make sure we have that special counsel protection Bill passed or added to any spending Bill that may be moving in the (end-of-year) session", said Representative Mark Pocan.

"We are watching what appears to be continued obstruction by this White House," Mr Pocan said.

 
 
 

Mr Trump named Mr Sessions' chief of staff, Mr Matthew Whitaker, as Acting Attorney-General, saying he would soon nominate a permanent replacement for review by the Senate.

That drew criticism from Democrats because Mr Whitaker, who would now take over responsibility for overseeing Mr Mueller and his investigation, has been critical of the Mueller probe and said it should be scaled back.

Separately, House Judiciary Democrats have called on Mr Whitaker to recuse himself.

Tens of thousands of protesters nationwide spent Thursday evening decrying Mr Trump's removal of Mr Sessions. Those gathered in cities and towns from Boston to Houston to Seattle said Mr Trump "crossed a red line" when he picked Mr Whitaker as Acting Attorney-General.

REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'Democrats seek hearings on ouster of Sessions'. Print Edition | Subscribe