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Past and Present

U.S. Has History Of Attorney General Recusals


Recent American history features numerous instances where U.S. Attorneys General recused themselves from cases where a conflict of interest existed.

For instance, Jeff Sessions’ predecessor, Eric Holder, recused himself in 2009 from the case of Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, who was accused of lying to Congress during testimony regarding performance-enhancing drugs. Before becoming Attorney General, Holder had worked at a law firm that represented Clemens.

Based upon this and other examples in history, when Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, because of his participation in that effort, it was in keeping with standard procedure. However, to Trump, who cares more about personal loyalty to him than ethical adherence to professional standards, Sessions’ recusal was totally unacceptable.

After numerous instances of publicly belittling and humiliating Sessions, Trump finally demanded his resignation the day after the midterm elections. Trump designated Sessions’ chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, to serve as acting Attorney General. Perhaps not coincidentally, before working for Sessions, Whitaker published a 2017 article on CNN’s website where he stated that the Mueller probe was “going too far.”

It seems clear that, notwithstanding his previous public declarations, Whitaker, ignoring judicial decorum, will not recuse himself from future deliberations regarding the Mueller probe.