Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that he will not be recusing himself from the investigation into President Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. Cohen is being investigated for alleged hush money payments made to women during Trump's presidential campaign.
Why Sessions did, and then did not, recuse himself?
Sessions previously recused himself from any investigations by the Department of Justice into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as “any matters arising from the campaigns.”
Sessions said he had to recuse himself not because of any wrongdoing, but because he had been a surrogate for Trump during the campaign. He cited a Department of Justice rule that mandates that DOJ employees cannot “participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he has a personal or political relationship with any person or organization substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation or prosecution, or who would be directly affected by the outcome.”
Trump called Sessions' decision to recuse himself “a very terrible mistake for the country,” and “very unfair to the president.”
He also said that had he known in advance that Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, he would have nominated someone else to be attorney general.
What about the raid on Cohen?
Sessions left the decision for the raid itself, which came after a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. However, while the referral was made by Mueller based on information he came across while investigating the Russian collusion, it was not related to the Russia investigation.
When Sessions recused himself, Rosenstein took over the infamous Russia investigation. Rosenstein will now be in charge of making sure that the Cohen investigation does not conflict with Mueller's ongoing Russia investigation.
Trump denounced the raid on Cohen's office as a “terrible mistake” and “an attack on what we all stand for.”
Five GOP members of Congress, Jim Jordan (Ohio), Mark Meadows (N.C.), Lee Zeldin (N.Y.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), and Matt Gaetz (Fla.), signed a letter demanding to know why Sessions was not personally involved in the decision to conduct the raid.
The letter stated, “In light of the fact that the action was not directly related to the Russian investigation, and the subject was the personal attorney of the president of the United States, it would appear that the attorney general should have been involved.”
Why is Trump's lawyer being investigated in the first place?
On April 9, the FBI raided the offices of Cohen. The bureau was looking for records related to the alleged payment of $130,000 in hush money by Cohen to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had sex with Trump. While Cohen readily admitted to making the payment, he has insisted that Trump was not aware that he had done so.