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House hearings: A platform for pressuring Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, as much as questioning him

 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes a turn onstage at a televised hearing gives a House member an opportunity to ask questions; sometimes it’s just an opportunity to deliver a monologue.

For Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), question time on Tuesday turned into a chance to deliver a screed against Hillary Clinton and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, an effort that has already ensnared Trump campaign officials.

President Trump has been angered by Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from involvement in the investigation. Franks had a suggestion: Force Mueller to recuse himself.

Franks argued that the probe into the Trump campaign’s activities was a “snipe hunt,” a colloquial reference to a wild goose chase. He said that there was more evidence of Clinton’s involvement with Russians than there was of Trump’s.

“I’m afraid Mr. Trump would have been burned at the stake by now” had the president acted the way Clinton did, Franks said.

Franks insisted that Clinton was guilty of collusion with Russia because years ago, while she was secretary of State, the Obama administration approved a Russian company's purchase of access to some U.S. uranium.

Republicans have increasingly made that argument. The State Department was represented on the multi-agency committee that approved the so-called Uranium One purchase, but despite much investigation, there's been no evidence that Clinton was involved with the deal, nor that it had any negative implications for U.S. security. 

Still, the issue has served as a distraction from the troubles surrounding the president.

Mueller was FBI director when the uranium deal was reached.

“What do you think the Justice Department can do to correct … what appears to come to be an injustice?” Franks asked Sessions, in what seemed to be more a rhetorical question than a request for an answer.

Sessions replied that he had already asked investigators to look into the uranium deal “so I can look you in the eye and tell you we’ve done the right thing.”

“I don’t believe that is giving into politics. I believe we should evaluate on the merits,” Sessions said.

“That sounds pretty good to me,” Franks replied happily, having gotten his opportunity to make his point.

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