Attorney General Jeff Sessions batted back accusations Tuesday that he succumbed to political pressure to appoint federal prosecutors to review the FBI’s handling of an investigation into Russia’s purchase of uranium rights and connections to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Mr. Sessions to explain whether he was pressured to restart investigations targeting President Trump’s former democratic rival.
“The Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents. That would be wrong,” Mr. Sessions told the committee when asked whether the president can use the criminal justice system for retaliatory purposes.
Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, displayed copies of a series of recent tweets from Mr. Trump in which the president called for an investigation into Russia’s 2010 purchase of uranium rights and donations to the Clinton Foundation while Mrs. Clinton led the State Department.
Republicans have questioned the deal, approved during the Obama administration, which gave Russian companies control of about 20 percent of U.S. uranium deposits. The deal was approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which is made up of nine top government officials — including Mrs. Clinton at the time.
“I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced,” Mr. Sessions said. “The president speaks his mind he is bold and direct about what he says. We do our duty everyday based on the facts.”
Mr. Conyers followed up asking whether Mr. Sessions would even be able to provide oversight of such a review.
“Are you recused from investigations that involved Secretary Clinton?” Mr. Conyers said.
Mr. Sessions declined to say whether he was recused.
“To announce recusal in any investigation would reveal the existence of that investigation, and the top ethics officials have advised me I should not do so,” he said.
The attorney general previously recused himself from matters related to the 2016 presidential campaign. During the campaign, Mr. Sessions served as an adviser for Mr. Trump
Following Mr. Sessions’ recusal, responsibility of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election was passed to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation into that matter and all related matters.
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