Sesssions on Hillary: ‘It Looks Like There’s Not Enough Basis to Appoint a Special Counsel’

‘It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel’

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Attorney General Sessions is now dismissing calls for appointing a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton’s role in compiling a document of unproven rumors about then-candidate Donald Trump, which was used as the basis for the current special counsel investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion.

Under intense questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Sessions initially said it was unclear whether a special counsel was merited, but ultimately told the congressman that “It looks like there’s not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.”

Jordan highlighted several examples of how the Clinton campaign appeared to be coordinating with the federal government during the 2016 presidential campaign, including using unsubstantiated opposition research to trigger a larger federal investigation into Trump, information from which was leaked to the press.

Jordan formally requested a special counsel to investigate the alleged collusion three-and-a-half months ago, and says he’s yet to hear anything back from Sessions’ Department of Justice.

“What's it going to take to get special counsel?” Jordan implored. “We know that former F.B.I. director, James Comey, misled the American people in the summer of 2016 when he called the Clinton Administration a ‘matter.’ Obviously it was an investigation. We know F.B.I. Director Comey was drafting an exoneration letter before the investigation was complete. We know Loretta Lynch, one day before the Benghazi report came out, five days before Clinton was scheduled to be interviewed with the F.B.I., met with former President Clinton in Phoenix.”

“We know at that meeting the Justice Department, she was using the name Elizabeth Carlyle,” Jordan continued. “As I said before, it seems to me if you are talking golf and grandkids, you can probably use your real name.”

“We know that Mr. Comey publicized the investigation and we know he made the final decision on whether to prosecute or not,” the congressman went on. “And then when he gets fired, he leaks a government document through a friend to The New York Times. What was his goal? To create momentum for a special counsel. It can't just be any special counsel, it's got to be Bob Mueller, his best friend, predecessor — the same Bob Mueller involved in this whole investigation with the informant regarding Russian businesses wanting to do business here in the United States regarding the Uranium One deal.”

“I guess my main question is what's it going to take if all that, not to mention the dossier information, what's it going to take to get a special counsel?” Jordan implored. 

Sessions simply responded that the appointment of a special counsel if reserved for very rare instances of “factual situations” that merit further investigation. 

“Is that analysis going on right now?” Jordan asked. 

“It’s in the manual of the Department of Justice about what’s required," Sessions replied. "We have only had two. The first one was the Waco Janet Reno, Senator Danforth took over that investigation as special counsel, and Mr. Mueller. Each of those are pretty special, factual situations. And we will use the proper standards. That’s what — only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan. You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard that requires a special counsel.“

Jordan then went into greater detail about the Clinton campaign's role in creating the so-called Trump Dossier, and the cascading role it played in the 2016 election.

As Jordan's allotted time wrapped, Sessions said that "it looks like there's not enough to appoint a special counsel."

Here's a full transcript of the exchange:

JORDAN: “Mr. Attorney General, I appreciate your service in the Senate. I appreciate your service at the Justice Department. I consider you a friend. And frankly, I appreciate yesterday’s letter saying you were considering appointing a special counsel that you sent to us. But my concern is, we sent you a letter 3 1/2 months ago asking for a second special counsel. And if you’re now just considering it, I — what’s it going to take to get a special counsel? We know that former F.B.I. Director James Comey misled the American people in the summer of 2016 when he called the Clinton investigation a matter. It was obviously investigation. We know F.B.I. Director Comey was drafting an exoneration letter before the investigation was complete. We know Loretta Lynch, one day before the Benghazi report came out, five days before Secretary Clinton was scheduled to be interviewed by the F.B.I. met with former president Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix. We know after that meeting, when she was corresponding with public relations people, the Justice Department, she was using the name Elizabeth Carlyle. As I said before, seems to me if you are just talking golf and grandkids, you can probably use your real name. We know that Mr. Comey publicized the investigation and we know he made the final decision on whether to prosecute or not. And then when he gets fired, he leaks a government document through a friend to the ‘New York Times.’ What was his goal? To create momentum for a special counsel. And of course, it can’t just be any special counsel, it’s got to be Bob Mueller, his best friend, his predecessor, his mentor. Same Bob Mueller involved in this whole investigation with the informant regarding Russian businesses wanting to do the uranium business here in the United States regarding the Uranium One deal. So, I guess my main question is, what’s it going to take if all that, not to mention the dossier information, what’s it going to take to actually get a special counsel?”

SESSION: “It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel.”

JORDAN: “Is that analysis going on right now?”

SESSION: “It’s in the manual of the Department of Justice about what’s required. We have only had two. The first one was the Waco Janet Reno, Senator Danforth took over that investigation as special counsel, and Mr. Mueller. Each of those are pretty special, factual situations. And we will use the proper standards. That’s what — only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan. You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard that requires a special counsel.“

JORDAN: “We know one fact. We know the Clinton campaign, the Democrat National Committee paid for, through the law firm, paid for the dossier. We know that happened. And it sure looks like the F.B.I. was paying the author of that document. And it sure looks like a major political party was working with the federal government to then turn an opposition research document they pulled out of some ‘National Enquirer’ story into an intelligence document, take that to the FISA Court so they could then get a warrant to spy on Americans associated with President Trump’s campaign. That’s what it looks like. I’m asking you, doesn’t that warrant in addition to all the things we know about James Comey in 2016, doesn’t that warrant naming a second special counsel, as 20 members of this committee wrote you 3 1/2 months ago asking you to do?”

SESSIONS: “Well, Mr. Comey is no longer the director of the F.B.I. “

JORDAN: “Thank goodness.”

SESSIONS: “We have an excellent man of integrity and ability in Chris Wray, and I think he’s going to do an outstanding job and I’m very happy about him.”

JORDAN: “He’s not here today, Mr. Attorney General. But I’m asking for a special counsel.”

SESSION: “I would say it looks like there’s not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.”

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