Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday it would be inappropriate for the president to direct him to target a political rival, after the Justice Department released a letter hinting at the prospect of investigating years-old matters connected to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced” by President Donald Trump, Sessions said during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
Trump allies have been clamoring for a new investigation of a 2010 deal that transferred some U.S. uranium production capacity to a company with Kremlin links. The deal was approved by a multi-agency consortium that included the State Department, then led by Clinton.
Some Republicans have asked the Justice Department to launch a special counsel investigation of the deal. The DOJ letter released Monday said Sessions had asked senior prosecutors to look into the allegations, including “whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
Sessions said months ago — and reiterated Tuesday — that he would recuse himself from any matters stemming from the 2016 election or related to Clinton. Trump has repeatedly tweeted his displeasure at Sessions and the Justice Department for not launching investigations into Clinton’s conduct as secretary of state.
Sessions said Tuesday the DOJ shouldn’t help the president get back at rivals. “I would say the Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents, and that would be wrong,” he said under questioning from Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.).
Sessions promised that DOJ would conduct investigations “without political influence and they will be done correctly and properly.”
Recent reports indicated that the FBI had been investigating a Russian-directed bribery scheme to gain a foothold in the American energy industry — and Trump supporters have pointed to donations that one party to the uranium deal made to the Clinton Foundation.
Clinton has dismissed the claims as largely debunked, and her allies say the recent resurrection of the years-old allegations are a sign that inquiries into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia are spooking the White House.