- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama House committee’s impeachment investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley was suspended Thursday at the request of the state attorney general who is conducting a separate investigation, the committee chairman announced.

In a press statement, Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones said, “We are temporarily suspending activity at the attorney general’s request but we are not abdicating our responsibility. Everything the committee has done remains in effect.”

Meanwhile, the governor’s attorney said Thursday that he knew of no investigation by the attorney general into the governor or his staff.

Attorney General Luther Strange sent a letter Thursday to the committee chairman saying that would be “prudent and beneficial” if the Judiciary Committee suspended its investigation, including active interviews, until the attorney general’s staff completes its probe.

The committee’s press statement said Strange was conducting an “investigation of the governor.”

Strange’s letter did not state that, but said Jones had told him some areas may intersect with the impeachment probe. “I respectfully request that the committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed,” Strange wrote.

Bentley attorney Ross Garber said in a press statement Thursday, “It is appropriate that the committee’s investigation has been suspended. While the attorney general has indicated that he is conducting ‘related work,’ I am aware of no investigation by the Attorney General into the Governor or any personnel in the office of the governor.”

Bentley in a statement said, “My focus will continue to be on doing the work of the people of Alabama.”

The impeachment probe began after Bentley’s fired law enforcement secretary Spencer Collier accused the governor in March of having an affair with his then-political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and of interfering in law enforcement business. Bentley, who is now divorced, admitted to inappropriate remarks and apologized to his family, but denied a sexual affair and the other allegations.

Twenty-three House members in April signed impeachment articles against Bentley.

Lawmakers and the governor’s office have at times been at odds during the impeachment investigation.

The governor’s attorney said the vaguely worded impeachment articles, never specified what lawmakers suspect Bentley did wrong. Jones said Thursday that compliance with the committee’s requests for information has been “minimal at best.”

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said Thursday he supported the pause.

“While I have complete confidence in the Judiciary Committee and its special counsel, I believe that moving forward with the impeachment hearings while there is an active criminal investigation would put a number of parties in a difficult position,” McCutcheon said in a written statement.

Bentley fired Collier in March, hours after his administration said an internal review found possible misuse of state funds at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. The agency referred the findings to the attorney general. Strange said his office convened a grand jury.

Strange announced last month that a grand jury found no evidence of wrongdoing by Collier and has closed the investigation requested by the governor’s administration. The Associated Press reported in July that Bentley appeared before that grand jury.

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