Sessions Ducks Clinton
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The one mistake Senator Sessions made in an otherwise fine first day of his confirmation hearing is his vow to recuse himself on a criminal case against Secretary of State Clinton. It’s not that we’re in favor of a prosecution. We have several times suggested that President Obama use the pardon — the least fettered power he holds — to put paid any effort to jail the former First Lady, who is now a vanquished presidential contender. But we don’t see the logic of Mr. Sessions recusing himself on the question of her wrong-doing.
On the contrary, the folly of recusal is the one thing we learned from the blunders of Attorney General Lynch. She made a mistake in permitting President Clinton to board her aircraft at Phoenix for a private tête–à–tête, even as Hillary Clinton’s fate lay with the Justice Department. It was, though, an understandable error, at least to us; Mr. Clinton is an American president. One doesn’t exactly leave such a figure standing on the tarmac. Her bigger blunder was in removing herself from the case and delegating the matter to the FBI director.
That was a whole stew of error. If she wanted to recuse, the FBI director wasn’t the right person to whom to delegate her power (a deputy or assistant attorney general would have been more logical). If her conversation with Mr. Clinton was as she claimed, she should have kept the Clinton case in her own office and dealt with the investigation as she saw fit. The main point, in our view, is that our government officials have an obligation to bear the burdens and controversies of office, except in the most unambiguously conflicted situations.
One of the situations for which we want a sage attorney general like Senator Sessions, after all, is precisely a difficult question like Mrs. Clinton. We don’t yet know what the system is going to turn up in respect of all her shenanigans. It would have made sense for Mr. Sessions to have said something like, “I’ll certainly recuse myself if I feel the need to, but a lot would depend on the exact question brought to me.” His failure to preserve his standing is not a fatal error, but he’s ducked one of the most controversial cases he could yet get, which is too bad, since, he seems to have seasoned judgment.