House Republicans give AG Sessions an ultimatum: Investigate Clinton-Comey or resign

House Republicans give AG Sessions an ultimatum: Investigate Clinton-Comey or resign

The Justice Department is not actually promising to prosecute Hillary Clinton

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill.

Let's back up: Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee sent letters to Sessions in July and September asking for a special counsel to look into more than a dozen issues. But that's demonstrably not true, which would make a special counsel appointment very odd. But the bells (in this case, at least) may be ringing prematurely.

In several angry tweets November 3, the president called again for investigations of Clinton and Democrats, saying, "at some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper".

Politically motivated prosecutions are, indeed, a danger.

The line of questioning came weeks after Trump publicly called for the Justice Department to investigate Clinton, lamenting that the "saddest thing is that because I'm the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department".

But it also raised deeper concerns about the impartiality of the administration of justice. Thus, even if the politics of the moment actually support the criminalization of partisan differences, government lawyers have an obligation to play the long game, not just for today's defendants, but for tomorrow's victims.

Republicans have said special counsel Robert Mueller can not impartially investigate the matter because he led the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time of the deal. He said the decision about whether to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the Uranium One deal and large donations made to the Clinton Foundation would be made according to longstanding rules. The former is always going to be necessary but awkward; the latter is the stuff of banana republics.

President Trump has repeatedly called on the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in recent weeks to investigate "crooked Hillary". Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote it in response to written requests from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and several of his colleagues.

In a few more (and more pleasant) words, the basic but undeniable gist of the communique is that the Justice Department will look into the matter, period.

To be sure, such a letter is hardly normal.

A federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, said the move is particularly frustrating because numerous subjects Sessions says could fall under the purview of a special counsel were previously investigated by the FBI or are under investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general.

But these are not normal times.

At a moment where Sessions' leadership and credibility is being questioned - the president himself has openly pondered firing him, and Democrats are accusing him of lying about his knowledge of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign - the attorney general is giving the appearance that he's bowing to the political demands of the president.

Things may never be the same for Sessions or the Justice Department he leads. "It wouldn't be the first time".

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