In the wake of Wednesday’s revelation that Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the United States while working with the Trump campaign, despite denying those contacts during his confirmation hearings, key Republican and Democratic lawmakers are calling for him to recuse himself from overseeing any Justice Department investigation into contacts between the campaign and the Russian government. Some are even saying he needs to resign.
It’s a bombshell of a story. And it’s one with a clear and disturbing precedent.
In 1972 Richard G. Kleindienst, the acting attorney general, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a confirmation hearing on his nomination by President Richard Nixon to be attorney general. He was to replace Attorney General John N. Mitchell, who had resigned in disgrace and would later be sent to prison in the Watergate scandal.
Kleindienst did not tell the truth during his confirmation hearing. He was eventually forced to resign. Painter explores the parallel between Kleindienst and Sessions.