For weeks, critics of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Trump administration have pushed a widely debunked conspiracy theory that she sold 20 percent of America’s uranium to Russia in exchange for a large donation to the Clinton Foundation.
On Thursday, NBC News reported that, on orders from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice’s prosecutors “have begun asking FBI agents to explain the evidence they found in a now-dormant criminal investigation into a controversial uranium deal that critics have linked to Bill and Hillary Clinton.”
The problem is that Jeff Sessions wasn’t supposed to be involved in decisions about Clinton and her foundation at all: he swore under oath in January that he would recuse himself from all such decisions, in light of his comments during the campaign. During his confirmation hearing, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee:
With regard to Secretary Clinton and some of the comments I made, I do believe that that could place my objectivity in question. I’ve given that thought. 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 and that were raised during the campaign or to be otherwise connected to it.
Though Donald Trump claimed shortly after the election that he did not “want to hurt the Clintons,” he has continued to attack her regularly since taking office, suggesting she should be investigated and publicly lamenting that as president he is not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations.
The decision to divert law enforcement resources to a debunked conspiracy theory against the woman who ran against Trump in the 2016 elections may appear to be a political decision aimed to settle scores or distract from the many ongoing investigations into Russia’s role in electing Trump. And it is just that appearance that one Jeff Sessions warned against in explaining his decision to recuse himself from these questions.
Asked by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the committee’s chairman, whether he would formally recuse himself and turn such decisions over to a deputy attorney general, he said that he would. “I believe that would be the best approach for the country because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute. That’s not in any way that would suggest anything other than absolute objectivity. This country does not punish its political enemies, but this country ensures that no one is above the law.”