Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should step aside "now," citing the Justice Department's handling of the investigation into President Donald Trump's campaign ties to Russian operatives and intelligence leaks to media as key concerns with his performance.
In a joint opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner, Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman and former chairman of the influential conservative House Freedom Caucus, decried the "manufactured hysteria" over the probe into Russian election interference, faulting Sessions — who has recused himself from the probe — for allowing revelations about the investigation to reach the press.
Meadows and Jordan said that "in spite of the constant headlines, rampant speculation, and overshadowing of accomplishments, a simple truth remains: There is no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians."
The two GOP lawmakers also questioned why the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently did not interview George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, until January 2017. A New York Times report published over the weekend said Papadopoulos was aware of Russian intelligence on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, which played a key role in the bureau opening a probe in July 2016 into Russian efforts to influence the U.S. elections.
"If Sessions can't address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now," the two GOP lawmakers wrote.
Republicans in Congress have grown more vocal about their irritation with the FBI and Justice Department's handling of the probe, scrutinizing at least one FBI official's contacts with reporters, but many of them defended Sessions when he came under Trump's criticism last year. The president's frustration has only seemed to increase, however, and he tweeted about the "Deep State Justice Dept" earlier this week.
Meadows and Sessions said that the "alarming number of FBI agents and DOJ officials sharing information with reporters is in clear violation of the investigative standards that Americans expect and should demand."