Ses­sions vows quick de­ci­sion on pos­si­ble Clin­ton pros­e­cu­tor


WASHINGTON: US At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said on Tues­day that the Jus­tice De­part­ment would work quickly to de­cide whether to ap­point a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate Hil­lary Clin­ton, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion ri­val.

Ses­sions’ comments in­di­cated that Repub­li­cans were seek­ing to mount a counter-of­fen­sive to the probe into Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling — and whether or not Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Moscow to sway the 2016 con­test.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment sent po­lit­i­cal shock­waves across Washington late on Mon­day when it re­vealed it was eval­u­at­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of nam­ing a spe­cial coun­sel to probe the foun­da­tion of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and its ties to firms in­volved in a deal that sold US ura­nium rights to a Rus­sian state com­pany.

The let­ter also said it was re­view­ing the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion’s (FBI) han­dling last year of a probe into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s use of a per­sonal server for of­fi­cial and in some cases clas­si­fied emails, in breach of gov­ern­ment rules, while she was sec­re­tary of state.

In the year since his elec­tion win, Trump has re­peat­edly sug­gested that the Jus­tice De­part­ment should in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions against the Clin­tons.

Ses­sions promised the com­mit­tee that his de­part­ment would move quickly to de­cide whether to take ac­tion on the cases, in­clud­ing ap­point­ing a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor.

“Do I have your as­sur­ance that th­ese mat­ters will pro­ceed fairly and ex­pe­di­tiously?” com­mit­tee chair­man Robert Good­latte asked him.

“Yes, you can, Mr. Chair­man, and you can be sure that they will be done with­out po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and they will be done cor­rectly and prop­erly.”

Democrats said any such ac­tion would rep­re­sent an un­ac­cept­able politi­ciza­tion of the coun­try’s jus­tice sys­tem.

“If the AG bends to pres­sure from Pres­i­dent Trump and his al­lies, and ap­points a spe­cial coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s van­quished ri­val, it could spell the end of the DOJ as an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion,” Demo­cratic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff said on Twit­ter.

In an ap­pear­ance be­fore the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that at times be­came con­tentious, Ses­sions walked back ear­lier tes­ti­mony made un­der oath that he had no knowl­edge of con­tacts be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia.

Re­cent court doc­u­ments and tes­ti­mony re­vealed fresh in­for­ma­tion on re­la­tions last year be­tween Rus­sian of­fi­cials and Trump’s for­eign pol­icy ad­vi­sory team, which was led by Ses­sions.

He de­nied ly­ing in past Capi­tol Hill hear­ings, but told law­mak­ers he had for­got­ten about a meet­ing in March 2016 with Trump, then a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, and his for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers at which such con­tacts were dis­cussed.

“I do now re­call the March 2016 meet­ing at Trump Ho­tel that Mr. (Ge­orge) Pa­padopou­los at­tended, but I have no clear rec­ol­lec­tion of the de­tails of what he said dur­ing that meet­ing,” Ses­sions tes­ti­fied.

“Af­ter read­ing his ac­count, and to the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion, I be­lieve that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not au­tho­rized to rep­re­sent the cam­paign with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, or any other for­eign gov­ern­ment, for that mat­ter.”

Pa­padopou­los has pleaded guilty to a charge of ly­ing to the FBI in the mat­ter, in a deal that made clear he is as­sist­ing in­de­pen­dent spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller, who is lead­ing the Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling probe.

Ses­sions adamantly in­sisted that he was not chang­ing his pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony.

“My an­swers have never changed. I have al­ways told the truth,” he said.

“I will not ac­cept and re­ject ac­cu­sa­tions that I have ever lied un­der oath. That is a lie.”

Sep­a­rately, Ses­sions slammed leaks of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion that he said had reached “epi­demic pro­por­tions,” and con­firmed the ex­is­tence of 27 probes into such leaks.

“It can­not be al­lowed to con­tinue and we will do our best ef­fort to en­sure it does not con­tinue,” the at­tor­ney gen­eral said.

Trump has com­plained of­ten and bit­terly about leaks of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion since he came to power, no­tably re­lated to the probe be­ing led by Mueller.

US At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions tes­ti­fies be­fore a House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee hear­ing on over­sight of the Jus­tice De­part­ment in Washington on Tues­day. (Reuters)

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