Washington – Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Thursday told Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s candidate to be the next U.S. attorney general, that he should not vote on his confirmation – or that of other cabinet candidates.
“If confirmed as Attorney General, you will serve as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement official, responsible for administering the law impartially and fairly, faithful to the Constitution above partisan or personal interest,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to Sessions. “Your decisions will be held to the highest standard and should be unclouded by personal bias or conflict of interest – and that approach starts with the Senate confirmation process.”
In the letter, Blumenthal, who served for 20 years as Connecticut’s attorney general and sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee with Sessions, said there is precedent for Sessions to recuse himself. He said only six sitting senators have been nominated and confirmed as department heads – including attorney general – since 1960.
“None of them cast a recorded vote on their own nomination,” Blumenthal said.
Sessions’ office did not have an immediate response to the letter.
Before Sessions’ nomination receives a full Senate vote, it must be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which now has a margin of 10 Republicans and nine Democrats. The ratio is expected to remain the same in the next Congress, and Sessions’ recusal in that committee would narrow the gap.
Blumenthal also asked Sessions R-Ala., to abstain from voting on the confirmation of other Trump cabinet picks to “avoid any appearance of bias and impropriety.”
“Judges routinely recuse themselves from any matters where they may be seen as having a personal interest,” Blumenthal said. “So too you should allow your colleagues to evaluate all Cabinet-level nominees without your participation. Notably, the Code of Conduct for United States Judges encourages judges to recuse themselves from matters where even the appearance of a conflict of interest arises.”
They may not have the numbers to derail the nomination, but Democrats are expected to use all procedural tools at their disposal to slow the confirmation of Sessions, an immigration hard-liner who failed to win in a federal judgeship in 1986 because of racially charged comments.