WASHINGTON — Two Republican House members are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, criticizing his Justice Department for not cooperating with Congress and for leaks related to its Russia investigation.
Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio criticized Sessions in an opinion piece published Thursday on the Washington Examiner’s website. The headline said: “It’s time for Jeff Sessions to go.”
They wrote that 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.”
A Sessions spokeswoman declined comment.
Sessions, who was part of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, stepped aside last year from the department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, later appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the probe.
In the opinion piece, Meadows and Jordan were critical of leaks to The New York Times, which published a story Dec. 30 based on anonymous sources that the FBI started its investigation as a result of a tip from an Australian diplomat who had spoken to Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. The Times reported that Papadopoulos told the diplomat that Russia had thousands of emails that would embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Emails stolen from Democratic officials were later released by WikiLeaks.
Meadows and Jordan questioned the story’s sources and premise and suggested that Justice Department officials were behind the leak. They also criticized the department for not answering questions from Congress in recent months.
“It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations,” the lawmakers said. “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.”
Both men have frequently gone after the department and FBI in recent weeks as some Republicans have focused on what they contend is perceived bias at the department. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to divert attention from the Russia investigations.
It’s unclear whether any other Republican lawmakers feel the same way about Sessions. Some GOP concerns about the Justice Department were allayed Wednesday when Rosenstein agreed to provide documents and witnesses for the House intelligence committee’s Russia probe.
Most Republicans in Congress have continued to be supportive of Sessions, a former Alabama senator who shares many of their views on topics such as immigration and law enforcement.
The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., referred to comments Ryan made last year: “The speaker has said the president gets to decide who serves in the executive branch and his comments stand,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.
Democrats who have long opposed Sessions are now urging that he stay, indicating concerns that a new attorney general could tamper with Mueller’s probe.
“I voted against Jeff Sessions and said he never should be there in the first place given his record on civil rights, on immigration, on so many other issues,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Thursday. “My view now is very simple: Nothing, nothing, nothing, should ever interfere with the Mueller investigation. He must be allowed to pursue that to wherever it leads.”