Trump’s AG con­sid­ers spe­cial coun­sel in ura­nium deal

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - By Eric Tucker

WASHINGTON » At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­ity that a spe­cial coun­sel could be ap­pointed to look into Clin­ton Foun­da­tion deal­ings and an Obama-era ura­nium deal, the Jus­tice Depart­ment said, in re­spond­ing to con­cerns from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers.

The depart­ment said in a let­ter to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Mon­day that Ses­sions had di­rected se­nior fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to “eval­u­ate cer­tain is­sues” raised in re­cent weeks by mem­bers of Congress, which in­clude al­le­ga­tions that the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion ben­e­fited from a years-old ura­nium trans­ac­tion in­volv­ing a Rus­sian­backed com­pany.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump him­self 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 a let­ter the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can chair­man, Rep. Robert Good­latte.

Any ap­point­ment of a new spe­cial coun­sel, par­tic­u­larly in re­sponse to calls from mem­bers of Congress or from Trump him­self, is likely to lead to crit­i­cism com­plaints about an un­due po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence on a depart­ment that is meant to func­tion out­side of any par­ti­san sway or de­mand.

Though the Jus­tice Depart­ment falls within the ex­ec­u­tive branch, and its pri­or­i­ties are his­tor­i­cally in line with those of the pres­i­dent, the White House is not sup­posed to in­flu­ence the de­ci­sions of pros­e­cu­tors on any par­tic­u­lar cases.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment sought to ad­dress those con­cerns in its let­ter, with As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Stephen Boyd say­ing that the depart­ment “will never eval­u­ate any mat­ter ex­cept on the facts and the law.”

“Pro­fes­sion­al­ism, in­tegrity and pub­lic con­fi­dence in the depart­ment’s work is crit­i­cal for us, and no pri­or­ity is higher,” he added.

Nonethe­less, the ac­tion fol­lows a series of crit­i­cal pub­lic state­ments by Trump that ob­servers said blurred the bright line be­tween the White House and the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

In re­cent weeks, he 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.

Boyd’s let­ter 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 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.

House Repub­li­cans in re­cent weeks have launched their own probes into the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Clin­ton’s emails.

Some law­mak­ers have specif­i­cally said they want to know more about whether Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Jus­tice Depart­ment had been in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pur­chase of Amer­i­can ura­nium mines by a Rus­sian-backed com­pany in 2010.

The agree­ment was reached while Clin­ton led the State Depart­ment and some in­vestors in the com­pany had re­la­tion­ships with former Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and do­nated large sums to the Clin­ton Foun­da­tion.

The let­ter comes one day be­fore Ses­sions is to ap­pear be­fore the Ju­di­ciary panel for a Jus­tice Depart­ment over­sight hear­ing. Democrats on the com­mit­tee have al­ready sig­naled that they in­tend to press Ses­sions on his knowl­edge of con­tacts be­tween Rus­sians and aides to the Trump cam­paign.

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