Sen. Strange responds to criticism over his appointment

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Alabama's newest senator, Luther Strange, responded Tuesday to criticism and questions faced after Gov. Robert Bentley appointed him to a vacant U.S. Senate seat in February.

"It's always good to clear the air," Sen. Strange said as he addressed his role in the Bentley investigation and his appointment by Bentley. He said Bentley's resignation provided more freedom for him to discuss the situation.

The story really started on November 3rd with a letter from then-Attorney General Strange asking for lawmakers to suspend an impeachment investigation pending the completion of related work of the Attorney General's office.

"Our work was collaborative," Sen. Strange said about a conversation that he said included him, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and House Judiciary Chairman Mike Jones.

"We agreed to ask the (judiciary) committee to hold off while we completed our investigation," Strange said. "There was never an investigation halted in my office."

Strange said his team of prosecutors wanted to make sure his office's investigation was not disrupted by the potential impeachment probe.

Strange said his office had just announced the completion of a criminal investigation that found "no credible evidence" surrounding a scathing internal investigation of former ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier by ALEA. The grand jury investigation clearing Collier was contrary to the Bentley Administration's position, Strange pointed out.

Eventually the November 3 letter would haunt Strange when Gov. Bentley chose him to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions, who was leaving his office to become Attorney General for President Trump.

Reporters peppered Strange with questions about the letter and Bentley's decision at the February 9 announcement.

"Absolutely no," Sen. Strange said Monday when asked whether there had been any discussion with Bentley for his office to block or delay the impeachment investigation.

During Q&A at the appointment announcement, Strange told reporters "we never said in our office there was an investigation of the governor."

Nearly two months later, he stood by that statement.

"We never talk about the people we investigate," Strange said.

But days after his appointment, Strange's replacement in the Attorney General's office, Steve Marshall, did confirm the investigation.

"He had to say that because he had to recuse. He had just taken a job and had to investigate the person who had appointed him," Strange said.

And as for recusing himself when he announced he would be run for U.S. Senate, Strange said he turned to his veteran team of prosecutors for guidance.

"The advice of my team was you are 1 of 21 people to be considered . You likely won't be selected, so why would you recuse yourself. You take yourself off the case if you recuse," Strange said.

The senator blamed recent criticism about the appointment on a "small group of disgruntled legislators" who he said want "revenge" for his office's prosecution of House Speaker Mike Hubbard in 2016.

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