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The Recusal Double Standard

Yesterday, during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained in great detail the process we went through to recuse himself from participation in the Department of Justice’s counter-intelligence investigation of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

One of the more startling revelations in Sessions testimony was that he refused from day one of his tenure at Justice to take any briefing or receive any files on the Russia investigation because he, and DOJ attorneys, Conway tweetwere reviewing whether he should recuse himself.

What was even more startling was the revelation that he was advised to recuse himself from the investigation because it involved a political campaign to which he had been an unpaid advisor.

Our friend former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy McCarthy, writing for National Review, says judging from the public testimony that former FBI director James Comey has given about the investigation into Russia’s election-meddling, the DOJ regulations did not mandate recusal.

McCarthy points out, Sessions says that he recused himself, on the advice of career ethics experts at the Justice Department, because he thought this was required by the federal regulation controlling “Disqualification arising from personal or political relationship” (28 CFR Sec. 45.2).

However, write McCarthy, section 45.2 states that an official is disqualified from “a criminal investigation or prosecution” if he has a personal or political relationship with a “subject of the investigation or prosecution,” or with a person or organization whose interests would be affected by the outcome “of the investigation or prosecution.” (Emphasis added.)

The probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is not a criminal investigation or prosecution it is a counter intelligence investigation notes McCarthy.

What’s more, Attorney General Sessions seems to be the only DOJ official or attorney who has been advised to recuse himself on the basis of a personal or political relationship with those who may be part of the investigation.

CNN has reported on the pro-Democrat leanings of several lawyers known to have been hired by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including two who gave the legal maximum to Trump’s Democrat rival Hillary Clinton last year one of whom represented Clinton and her foundation and another lawyer who represented a Clinton aide who helped manage her controversial home email server that was surreptitiously used by Clinton for official State Department business.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparked a mini-meltdown in the media Monday with a tweet challenging the fairness of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Gingrich, who also appeared on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” and whose comments were reported on LifeZette.com pointed to the early hires special counsel Robert Mueller has made.

“Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair,” he tweeted. “Look who he is hiring.check fec [sic] reports. Time to rethink.”

He's not wrong about the donations writes LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby.

Four top lawyers hired by Mueller have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, including former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

One of the hires, Jeannie Rhee, also worked as a lawyer for the Clinton Foundation and helped persuade a federal judge to block a conservative activist's attempts to force Bill and Hillary Clinton to answer questions under oath about operations of the family-run charity, noted Kirby.

According to Brendan Kirby’s reporting, campaign-finance reports show that Rhee gave Clinton the maximum contributions of $2,700 in 2015 and again last year to support her presidential campaign. She also donated $2,300 to Obama in 2008 and $2,500 in 2011. While still at the Justice Department, she gave $250 to the Democratic National Committee Services Corp.

Rhee also has contributed to a trio of Democratic senators: Mark Udall of New Mexico, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

James Quarles, who worked on the Watergate investigation as a young prosecutor, has an even longer history of supporting Democratic politicians. He gave $1,300 to Obama in 2007 and $2,300 in 2008. He also gave $2,700 to Clinton last year.

He has supported a number of other Democratic candidates, reported Kirby, including Van Hollen, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), former Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), former Vice President Al Gore, 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, former Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Colorado congressional candidate Gail Schwartz.

In addition, Quarles gave money to former Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) and three current Democratic senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. He chipped in $300 to the DNC Services Corp. $300 in 2012.

Quarles did donate to a couple of GOP politicians — $250 to then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) in 2006 and $2,500 to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in 2015.

Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department lawyer who then worked at Jenner & Block until 2011, contributed $2,300 to Obama in 2008 and $2,000 to the DNC Services Corp. in 2006. Weissmann served as chief of the Justice Department's criminal fraud section and worked on the Enron fraud case.

A fourth lawyer on Mueller's staff, Michael Dreeben, donated $1,000 to Clinton 2006 and $250 to Obama in both 2007 and 2008. He was deputy solicitor general and has appeared many times before the Supreme Court observed Brendan Kirby.

The Trump team is apparently onto this ticking time bomb with Counselor Kellyanne Conway taking to Twitter Tuesday night to call out Special Counsel Robert Mueller for hiring lawyers who gave heavily to Democrats and opposed Trump’s candidacy, writing, “FEC report: Mueller’s team includes big Democrat donors. Some maxed out, none wanted Trump to be POTUS.”

Kellyanne is of course right, but a better question would be why is Attorney General Jeff Sessions the only lawyer in this whole matter who was advised to recuse himself because of his political affiliations?

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