SES­SIONS RE­BUFFS call for im­me­di­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Obama-era mat­ters.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Greg Far­rell of Bloomberg News; by Matt Zapo­to­sky and Sari Hor­witz of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Eric Tucker of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, dur­ing a con­gres­sional hear­ing, re­buffed calls to im­me­di­ately ap­point a special coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate mat­ters from the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Nearly two hours into his grilling by the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Ses­sions was con­fronted with a list of al­le­ga­tions by Rep. Jim Jor­dan, R-Ohio. Jor­dan’s bul­let points in­cluded Hil­lary Clin­ton’s emails and for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey’s pub­lic ex­on­er­a­tions of her.

Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee have asked Ses­sions twice this year to ap­point a special coun­sel to in­ves­ti­gate the al­le­ga­tions. Be­fore the hear­ings, the Jus­tice Depart­ment di­rected se­nior prose­cu­tors to re­view those mat­ters.

Now un­der oath, Ses­sions was pressed by Jor­dan to ap­point a special coun­sel. Jor­dan said it looks like there’s more than enough to pro­ceed. “‘Looks like’ is not enough of a ba­sis to ap­point a special coun­sel,” Ses­sions said.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment, in a let­ter to the ju­di­ciary com­mit­tee, said Mon­day that Ses­sions had di­rected se­nior fed­eral prose­cu­tors to “eval­u­ate cer­tain is­sues” raised in re­cent weeks by mem­bers of Congress, which also in­clude al­le­ga­tions that the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion ben­e­fited from a years-old ura­nium trans­ac­tion in­volv­ing a Rus­sian-backed com­pany.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly used so­cial me­dia to urge the Jus­tice Depart­ment to in­ves­ti­gate the deal, in­clud­ing in a se­ries of Twit­ter posts this month in which he lamented not hav­ing more di­rect in­flu­ence over the af­fairs of the law en­force­ment agency.

The prose­cu­tors will re­port to Ses­sions and Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein and rec­om­mend whether any new in­ves­ti­ga­tions should be opened, whether any mat­ters cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­quire ad­di­tional re­sources and whether it might be nec­es­sary to ap­point a special coun­sel to over­see a probe, ac­cord­ing to the let­ter to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can chair­man, Rep. Robert Good­latte of Vir­ginia.

Ses­sions, un­der ques­tion­ing from Jor­dan on Tues­day, said he needs a “fac­tual ba­sis” to ap­point a special coun­sel. But he later clar­i­fied that he “did not mean to sug­gest that I was tak­ing a side one way or the other on that sub­ject.”

Rep. John Cony­ers, D-Mich., a mem­ber of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, sought to high­light that Trump had pub­licly pressed the Jus­tice Depart­ment to in­ves­ti­gate Clin­ton-re­lated mat­ters, not­ing, “What strikes me about these com­ments is the pres­i­dent’s view that the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem serves him and not the pub­lic.”

Ses­sions, though, dis­puted that he had been in­ap­pro­pri­ately pushed to do any­thing.

“I have not been im­prop­erly in­flu­enced and would not be im­prop­erly in­flu­enced,” he said.

In re­cent weeks, Trump has re­peat­edly weighed in on Twit­ter on Jus­tice Depart­ment busi­ness to call for in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Democrats and has chal­lenged Ses­sions to be more ag­gres­sive in go­ing af­ter his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, ex­press­ing par­tic­u­lar sup­port for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion. He has also sug­gested at times that Ses­sions’ job could be in jeop­ardy.

“Everybody is ask­ing why the Jus­tice Depart­ment (and FBI) isn’t look­ing into all of the dis­hon­esty go­ing on with Crooked Hil­lary & the Dems…” Trump tweeted ear­lier this month.

As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Stephen Boyd, in the let­ter to Good­latte, did not say what spe­cific steps might be taken by the Jus­tice Depart­ment to ad­dress the law­mak­ers’ con­cerns, or whether any of the mat­ters Repub­li­cans have seized on might al­ready be un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties.

Ses­sions said at his Jan­uary con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing that he would re­cuse him­self from any in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing Clin­ton, the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in the 2016 elec­tion, given his role as a vo­cal cam­paign sur­ro­gate to Trump.

He sim­i­larly re­cused him­self from a sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia, and in May, the Jus­tice Depart­ment ap­pointed for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller as special coun­sel to lead that probe.

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