Sen. Richard Blumenthal Reacts To Resignation Of Attorney General Jeff Sessions

19 hours ago
Originally published on November 7, 2018 7:04 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

OK. Let's turn now to Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal for his take on Sessions' resignation. Blumenthal sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Great to be with you. Thanks so much for having me.

CHANG: So I saw in a tweet this afternoon you called this, quote, "a break-the-glass moment." What did you mean by that?

BLUMENTHAL: It's a break-the-glass moment because what we're seeing is a direct and immediate threat to the special counsel investigation of Russian collusion involving the Trump campaign but equally important obstruction of justice by Trump administration officials. And this acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker, has literally provided a roadmap for how to strangle and starve this investigation. So this breaking of norms by avoiding the normal succession practice with the deputy taking over and instead appointing the chief of staff has real consequences. It's a kind of Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion.

CHANG: Yes, we've heard the Saturday Night Massacre metaphor used from your colleague, Senator Angus King of Maine. But let me ask you, just to extend this break-the-glass metaphor - that implies that you are going to be reaching for some sort of emergency aid at this point to fix this problem that you are posing. But you and other Democrats on the committee have called for Mark (ph) Whitaker, who is now the acting attorney general, to promise not to interfere in the Russia investigation. Can you actually extract a promise like that?

BLUMENTHAL: We're going to press for his recusal. He should take himself out of the investigation. If he fails to do so, I hope my Republican colleagues will join not only in demanding his recusal but also in legislation that I'm going to be proposing that would prevent starving of resources - in other words, guarantee Bob Mueller sufficient funds to complete his investigation and require a report in the event that he is fired for whatever reason.

And the reason it is a Saturday Night Massacre in slow motion is that you'll recall back in the Nixon days when the attorney general in effect was ordered to stop the investigation. It happened in a very compressed period of time. Here, what we're seeing is a breaking of norms by replacing the attorney general with someone who will do the president's bidding and eventually firing by starving the investigation.

CHANG: Well, let me just remind you - I mean, last spring, your committee approved legislation aimed at protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from getting fired, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to the floor. He will still be majority leader next year. Is there anything at this point you think Senate Democrats can really do to protect Robert Mueller and his investigation, to prevent him from getting fired ultimately?

BLUMENTHAL: As you'll recall, that measure protecting the special counsel from being fired is bipartisan. It was reported with an overwhelming bipartisan majority out of our committee, the Judiciary Committee.

CHANG: Sure, but McConnell will still be majority leader. He may still refuse to bring it to the floor.

BLUMENTHAL: And the question is, again, will my Republican colleagues stand up, speak out, have the backbone and the guts to recognize that we are in a constitutional crisis? And one of the reasons given by the leader, Mitch McConnell, for declining to bring it to a vote was he thought it was unnecessary. Well, now it is necessary.

CHANG: That is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Thank you very much.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.