Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., starkly laid out the differences between himself and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch Tuesday when asked about investigating Hillary Clinton.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Sessions how he would handle any case involving Clinton, whose email scandal and dealings with the Clinton Foundation had been criticized by Sessions during the presidential campaign.
” … it was a highly contentious campaign. I, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign with regard to Secretary Clinton,” Sessions said.
“Some of the comments I made, I do believe that that could place my objectivity in question,” Sessions added. “I’ve given that thought.”
Sessions says of Clinton: "This country does not punish its political enemies but no one is above the law."
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) January 10, 2017
He then explained how he would handle any Clinton investigation.
“I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton that were raised during the campaign — or could be otherwise connected to it,” he said.
After one follow-up question asking Sessions to affirm his answer, which he did, Grassley had a further point to make.
“Let me follow up again, because it’s important. When you say you’ll recuse, you mean you’ll actually recuse, and the decision will therefore fall to, I assume, a deputy attorney general?” Grassley asked.
“I ask because after Attorney General Lynch met with President Clinton in Phoenix, she said she would ‘defer’ to the FBI, but she never officially recused.”
Sessions promised the Justice Department would be led differently on his watch.
“No, she did not officially recuse and there’s a procedure for that I would follow. And I believe that would be the best approach for the country, because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute, in any way that would suggest anything other than absolute objectivity,” Sessions said.
Sessions had one further comment.
“This country does not punish its political enemies, but this country ensures no one is above the law,” he said.
Also in the opening minutes of the hearing, Sessions was asked if he would defy President-elect Donald Trump, the man who has appointed Sessions, if Trump gave Sessions an unlawful order.
“I understand the responsibility of the attorney general and I will do so. You simply have to help the president do things he might desire in a lawful way, and you have to be willing to say ‘no.’ I understand that duty and I will fulfill that responsibility,” Sessions said, adding that he will enforce laws even if they support policies with which he disagrees.
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