Jeff Sessions fires U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan (AP/Susan Walsh)

Jeff Sessions may order independent investigation of Barack Obama's Department of Justice

"I’m going to do everything I possibly can to restore the independence and professionalism of the DOJ"

Sophia Tesfaye
March 10, 2017 1:20AM (UTC)

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his surprise recusal from all Justice Department investigations related to the 2016 election exactly one week ago, he adamantly resisted calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the investigation of any ties between President Donald Trump’s administration and the Russian government.

Now facing mounting to pressure to resign for failing to disclose at least two such dealings of his own during his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions is openly musing about appointing a special prosecutor to investigate former President Barack Obama's Department of Justice.


Sessions left the door open for a special counsel to take the lead on an investigation of alleged Obama-era scandals during an interview with conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday.

The right-wing commentator pressed the embattled attorney general on his plans to investigate the department's probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's tenure. Conservatives are still clamoring for criminal charges to be brought against Clinton, the former secretary of state, and point to the infamous tarmac meeting of her husband, Bill Clinton, with Lynch as evidence of improper collusion such that no indictment resulted for Hillary Clinton.

Hewitt also asked Sessions about two other favorite conservative targets — what Republicans consider to be the IRS' politically motivated scrutiny of a Tea Party organization's pursuit of nonprofit status and the scheme known as “Fast and Furious" by which federal law enforcement let gun dealers sell firearms to illegal straw buyers. For years, conservatives have gone after Obama's first attorney general, Eric Holder, in large part, because of those two so-called scandals. The Justice Department declined to bring charges in both those cases.


“How about an outside counsel, not connected to politics, to review the DOJ’s actions in those matters with authority to bring charges if underlying crimes are uncovered in the course of the investigation and just generally to look at how the Department of Justice operated in the highly politicized Holder-Lynch years?” Hewitt asked in the interview.

“Well I’m going to do everything I possibly can to restore the independence and professionalism of the Department of Justice,” Sessions said. “So we’ll have to consider whether or not some outside counsel is needed."

If a special prosecutor finds wrongdoing, he or she will have the authority to bring charges, Sessions said.

Sessions' attempt to deflect attention onto already closed investigations ("scandals" that conservative media outlets obsess over years later) comes just as a new report has suggested that he may have met with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. three times while he was involved with the Trump campaign, not twice as previously reported.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found that a majority of the U.S. voters surveyed said Sessions should resign for failing to disclose while under oath his meetings with s Russian official during a Senate confirmation hearing in January.
Listen to Sessions' full interview here.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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