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Sessions Defends Trump Pardons         04/26 06:05

   Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday defended President Donald 
Trump's right to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush 
administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday defended 
President Donald Trump's right to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former 
Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

   Both of those pardons were issued by Trump and bypassed the involvement of 
the Justice Department and its pardon attorney, which historically reviews 
petitions for clemency and makes recommendations.

   Sessions made the comments at a Senate subcommittee hearing where Sen. Chris 
Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, reminded him that as a Republican senator from 
Alabama, Sessions had once defended the role of the Justice Department's pardon 
attorney.

   Sessions said he stood by that assessment. But he also said that there was 
no question that the president had the constitutional authority to issue 
pardons without the Justice Department's involvement and that there was no 
requirement that a president seek the opinion of the pardon attorney.

   "It's clearly within the power of the president to execute pardons without 
the pardon attorney," Sessions said.

   He acknowledged under questioning that he could not recall any pardon during 
President Barack Obama's administration that did not go through the Justice 
Department, but he complained about pardons from President Bill Clinton that he 
considered objectionable.

   "I would just say that pardons that President Clinton were made were 
stunning, shocking and unacceptable on the merits," he said in a raised voice. 
That was likely a reference to the 2001 pardon of fugitive businessman Marc 
Rich, an act that later came under federal investigation.

   He defended Arpaio as a legitimate pardon candidate because of the former 
Arizona sheriff's advanced age of 85 and misdemeanor contempt-of-court 
conviction. He also said Libby had "contributed greatly to America." Libby, a 
former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted in 2007 of lying 
to investigators and obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak of the 
covert identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, though no one was ever charged 
for the leak.

   At another point in the hearing, Sessions declined to answer whether he had 
recused himself from an ongoing Justice Department investigation into Michael 
Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer. Sessions said he continued to honor his 
decision from last year to step aside from the investigation into potential 
coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, but he said it would be 
inappropriate beyond that to discuss particular matters he was recused from.

   "It is the policy of the Department of Justice that those who recuse 
themselves not state the details of it, or confirm the existence of an 
investigation or the scope or nature of that investigation," Sessions said.

   He also said he supported his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert 
Mueller as special counsel in the Russia investigation and who, like Sessions, 
has been under steady public attack from the president.


(KA)

 
 
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