Sessions defends deputy after impeachment move

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his top deputy Thursday after a handful of congressional Republicans moved this week to impeach him.

Speaking in Boston, Sessions said he has the “highest confidence” in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and described him as “highly capable” when asked about the impeachment effort.

A group of 11 House conservatives on Wednesday introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation because Sessions has recused himself.

Sessions, a former Republican Senator from Alabama, suggested lawmakers should instead focus on “legal challenges,” such as reforming the nation’s immigration system.

“There are loopholes on our laws that are being exploited,” he said. “Our enforcement officers’ jobs are far more difficult than they need to be. Common sense legislation can make a big difference. That’s where I’d like to see them focus their efforts.”

Sessions also expressed regret for having laughed at a “Lock Her Up” chant and repeated the words during a speech Tuesday at a high school leadership summit in D.C.

“I perhaps should have taken a moment to advise them on the fact that you’re presumed innocent until cases are made,” he said when asked to comment on the chant, which is a staple of President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies.

The chant refers to the FBI investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State under former President Barack Obama.

Sessions was in Boston federal court Thursday to join U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and other federal authorities in announcing 25 arrests in a federal sweep meant to crack down on document and benefit fraud.

Thursday’s arrests swept up mostly Dominican nationals living in the country illegally. Prosecutors say many stole the identities of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to receive health care and other federal benefits in Massachusetts.

Sessions said the actions defrauded the federal government of about $250,000 and that many of the suspects had criminal records, including a convicted murderer who escaped from prison in Puerto Rico 24 years ago.

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