Attorney General

Sessions considers new special counsel, says politics won't affect decision

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions/

Updated: Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he can't appoint a special counsel to probe Republican concerns unless the facts justify the need.

Sessions commented a day after the Justice Department revealed in a letter that Sessions will determine whether to appoint a special counsel after hearing recommendations from senior federal prosecutors, report Politico and the New York Times.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote the letter (PDF) in response to an inquiry by committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the Washington Post reports. The New York Times and CNN also have coverage.

Goodlatte had called for a second special counsel to address topics that include: Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information in emails on her private server; the FBI’s handling of the email investigation; leaks of nonpublic information, including those by former FBI director James Comey; connections between the Clinton Foundation and Russia; and whether Clinton Foundation donations influenced the Obama administration’s approval of the sale of a Canadian uranium company to Russia’s nuclear agency.

In his testimony on Tuesday, Sessions was asked about information that “looks like” reason for a special counsel probe. Sessions said there needed to be facts. ” ‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel,” Sessions said.

Sessions also said he wasn’t acting in response to improper influence.“I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced,” he said.

Sessions said his decision on a special counsel will be made “without regard to politics, ideology, or bias.”

President Donald Trump has called for an investigation into several matters of concern to Goodlatte. In a Nov. 3 tweet, Trump questioned why the Justice Department was failing to probe “all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems.”

The Committee on Foreign Investment had approved the uranium deal when Clinton was secretary of state and a voting member of the committee, according to the Times. The sale of Uranium One gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States, the New York Times reported in April. The committee reviewed the deal because uranium is considered a strategic asset.

Uranium One’s president made $2.35 million in donations to the Clinton Foundation through his family foundation as Russians gained control of the company in three transactions, the Times reported. Also, former President Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech, paid by an investment bank promoting Uranium One stock, according to the Times.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign told the Times that there isn’t “a shred of evidence” to support the idea that Clinton exerted her influence in the government review of the sale.

The first paragraph of Boyd’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee noted Goodlatte’s call for an investigation into the sale of Uranium One and “alleged unlawful dealings related to the Clinton Foundation,” as well as other matters. The letter said Sessions has “directed senior prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters.”

“These senior prosecutors will report directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit a special counsel,” Boyd wrote in the letter.

People close to the White House told the Times that Sessions might be able to avoid being fired by the president if he appoints a special counsel to investigate the uranium deal.

Goodlatte announced Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2018, CNN and Politico reported.

Updated at 11:10 a.m. to include Sessions’ testimony.

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