Two prominent conservative lawmakers say Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop leaks to the media about the Russia probe or step down as attorney general.
Sessions “has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, write in an op-ed published Thursday by the Washington Examiner.
“It is time for Sessions to start managing [the Justice Department] in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations,” the lawmakers wrote.
Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and Jordan, a former chairman of the group, write that the attorney general hasn’t done enough to stop leaks about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, including alleged collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign:
The alarming number of FBI agents and [Department of Justice] officials sharing information with reporters is in clear violation of the investigative standards that Americans expect and should demand. How would New York Times reporters know any of this information when the FBI and DOJ are prohibited from talking about ongoing investigations?
If Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now.
The FBI is part of the Justice Department, which Sessions runs as attorney general. The former Alabama senator recused himself from any Russia probe because of his role in the Trump campaign.
The two lawmakers specify a Dec. 30 story in The New York Times that they say used “four current and former anonymous intelligence officials to suggest that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign volunteer, was a ‘driving factor’ who triggered the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign.”
The Times reported that Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, told an Australian diplomat that Russia had emails embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the election.
The lawmakers lay out detailed questions, in five categories, that they say must be answered to understand why government officials leaked the information in the first place.
Their last group of questions:
Why won’t the FBI answer questions from Congress on this very topic? Why do they continue to refuse transparency on whether they paid Christopher Steele for the Russian dossier? We in Congress have asked them repeatedly to tell us what was in the application they took to the FISA court to get a warrant for spying on the Trump campaign. Did they use the dossier in their application?
Steele, a former British intelligence officer, authored a document containing allegations about Trump’s connections with Russia. Steele wrote the so-called dossier for Fusion GPS, a research company that was paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
“It seems remarkably odd that instead of the FBI answering the critical questions that Congress has repeatedly asked, they instead leak a far-fetched and ill-supported story to the New York Times,” Jordan and Meadows write. “If this is the truth, then give us the documentation we’ve asked for to prove it.”
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