Anyone with a news app on their phone probably received a notification this morning about Republican leaders and other representatives calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from any investigations looking into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Since then, Sessions announced that he would indeed recuse himself.
If you’re like me, you may have needed some clarification on what “recuse” actually means and quickly looked it up.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary company is now saying you’re not alone — “recuse” was the most searched word on its site this morning. Google Trends also showed that searches for the word spiked nearly 100 percent this morning.
What does it actually mean? Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition:
To disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly : to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest
So when Republican leaders and officials, such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, said they thought Sessions should “recuse” himself, they meant that he should not be involved in any Russian-related investigations.
This isn’t Merriam-Webster’s first commentary on spikes in searches related to the Trump administration’s controversies. Vox’s Lauren Katz has called the dictionary the “sassiest Twitter account of the Trump era” because of its posts. For example, after White House counselor Kellyanne Conway described false statements as “alternative facts,” Merriam-Webster tweeted the definition of the word “fact.”
Sessions announced this afternoon that he would recuse himself from any investigations relating to the 2016 campaign for president in a Department of Justice press release after both Republicans and Democrats called for him to recuse.
This came in response to a bombshell Washington Post report that Sessions met with Russian officials twice during the 2016 campaign and failed to disclose those conversations when he was asked, under oath, about Trump’s possible ties to Russia during his confirmation hearing.
Justice Department officials told Washington Post reporters Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller that Sessions spoke with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak “at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”
Other lawmakers have gone further, saying Sessions should resign from his position as attorney general. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said Sessions must resign. “Sessions is not fit to serve as the top law enforcement officer of our country and must resign. There must be an independent, bipartisan, outside commission to investigate the Trump political, personal, and financial connections to the Russians,” said Pelosi.
Sessions made his own statement in response to the Washington Post’s report last night, saying, “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”
Now that Sessions has recused himself, the question going forward is whether people will soon need to start searching for the proper definition of the word “resign.”