Democracy 21 filed a complaint today with the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) calling on OPR to promptly investigate Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ violation of Justice Department regulations requiring him to recuse himself from the FBI investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

The Democracy 21 complaint states that the recusal requirement applied to all matters dealing with i) any interactions between President Donald Trump, his campaign staff or other individuals supporting his campaign, and Russian actors during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, (ii) any Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, (iii) the contacts between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian actors, and (iv) leaks concerning these matters.

The complaint calls on OPR:

to promptly take all necessary steps to address this matter, including, if warranted by the results of OPR’s investigation, public findings that Attorney General Sessions is violating Department of Justice regulations and that he is required by Justice Department regulations to recuse himself from the matters listed above and from any involvement in any consideration and decision about whether to appoint an outside special counsel to deal with these matters.

“This is a very serious matter that involves ensuring public confidence in the impartiality and fairness of the Justice Department and of Attorney General Sessions,” according to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

“The credibility of the new Attorney General is at stake here,’ Wertheimer stated. “If Attorney General Sessions is not prepared to recuse himself immediately from the matters outlined in our complaint, the Office of Professional Responsibility must act promptly to investigate and take appropriate action to address the Attorney General’s violation of his Department’s regulations.”

According to the complaint, DOJ recusal regulation, 28 CFR § 45.2(a), provides:

(a) …. no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with:

(1) Any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution; or

(2) Any person or organization which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation or prosecution.

The complaint states that, “The Attorney General’s history of personal and political affiliation with President Trump and his presidential campaign, and with White House staff, clearly meet the regulation’s definition of a political or personal relationship.”

The complaint notes:

On February 17, 2017, Democracy 21 joined with 24 organizations and individuals to send a letter to Attorney General Sessions setting forth the case that government regulations require Sessions to recuse himself in this matter.  To date, the Attorney General has not responded to this letter, and there has been no indication from the Justice Department that the Attorney General has, or will, recuse himself.”

The complaint incorporates the case for why the Attorney General must recuse himself in these matters that was set forth in the February 17 letter.

The complaint states that it is clear that OPR has jurisdiction to investigate Attorney General Sessions and any apparent violation of DOJ regulations by him. The complaint cites a 1988 investigation by OPR of Attorney General Meese, in response to a complaint filed by Common Cause, which found that Meese had violated ethics rules applicable to Justice Department officials.

The complaint concludes:

We call on OPR to undertake an investigation into the Attorney General’s failure to comply with Departmental regulations that require his recusal from the Department’s investigation of potential Russian influence in the 2016 election and in related matters.

If the results of the investigation show, as we believe, that Attorney General Sessions has failed to recuse himself from this matter as required by Justice Department regulations, OPR should make public findings to that effect, impose appropriate sanctions on Attorney General Sessions and take whatever additional steps are required to ensure that all Department attorneys, including the Attorney General, comply with Justice Department rules.


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