Saturday, March 04, 2017

Bush ethics lawyer: Trump's Russia scandal so far is "much worse" than the early stages of Watergate

Tara Golshan · Thursday, March 02, 2017, 6:28 pm

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday announced that he would recuse himself “from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns” for president in 2016.

Things came to a head after a Washington Post report revealed that Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign season — and subsequently denied meeting with Russians during Senate hearings for his attorney general nomination months later.

Outside of his recusal, Sessions has maintained that he did not lie to Congress. The White House has brushed off the matter altogether. But the report has congressional Democrats calling for Sessions’s resignation.

To speak to the legal precedence of Sessions’s testimony and Washington’s response to the report, I called up Richard Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s White House from 2005 to 2007, and is currently a law professor at the University of Minnesota. He is also on the board of Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, which has taken a strong stance against President Donald Trump’s various conflicts of interest.

Painter argues that not only was there no wiggle room around Sessions’s recusal from any investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia, but there is a case for Sessions to resign from the attorney general post altogether — and the White House isn’t helping the situation with its response to the whole thing.

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