- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall recused himself Wednesday from an investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley, who appointed him to the job last week.

The statement confirms the attorney general’s office is conducting an investigation, but it did not elaborate on exactly what is being looked at. The governor has struggled to shake off a scandal since he was accused last year of having an affair with his senior political adviser.

Marshall said this week he could not be involved of any direct investigation of the governor because Bentley appointed him.

“I believe this course of action fulfills my commitment to the people that this matter be handled thoroughly and fairly,” Marshall said in a statement.

The governor’s lawyer said it would be inappropriate for the governor to comment because of the pending investigation.

“The governor plans to cooperate fully in the attorney general’s investigation,” attorney Bill Athanas wrote in an email.

Bentley has acknowledged inappropriate behavior that caused him to apologize to his family, but denied a sexual affair or legal wrongdoing.

Spencer Collier, Bentley’s former law enforcement secretary, who made the accusation public, also said last year that Bentley interfered in law enforcement business and wrongly fired him.

Marshall, after being sworn in Monday, said he would consider recusal on a case-by-case basis of investigations related to the governor’s administration, because his impartiality could be called into question.

Marshall appointed retired Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks to oversee “the current investigative matter relating to Governor Robert Bentley,” which would include “all potential criminal matters arising from that investigation,” according to a letter Marshall sent Brooks.

Marshall said the chief of the special prosecutions division, the unit within the attorney general’s office that handles public corruption cases, would report to Brooks.

“Ellen is an experienced prosecutor handling a variety of matters throughout her career and I am confident she will ensure that all the facts are pursued in this investigation,” Marshall said.

Marshall bypassed Chief Deputy Alice Martin, a holdover from the previous attorney general, to lead the investigation. Martin had also interviewed with Bentley for the position of attorney general, according to the governor’s office.

Bentley named Marshall as attorney general Friday, a day after he appointed former Attorney General Luther Strange to take the U.S. Senate seat of Jeff Sessions who is now U.S. attorney general.

Strange in November asked a legislative committee to pause an impeachment investigation of Bentley while his office did “related work” but did not publicly elaborate on what it involved or when the work would be completed.

“We have never said in our office that we are investigating the governor,” Strange said last week in a press conference accepting the Senate appointment.

The recusal announcement comes as House leaders say they expect to resume an impeachment probe and have a vote in the House of Representatives before the session ends in May.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones said while he does not want the impeachment probe to hinder any other investigation, he believes they will get clearance to proceed. The committee will make a recommendation to the House on whether impeachment is warranted.

“It’s my opinion before this session is concluded that we will have completed the hearing, and this matter will be before the body,” Jones said.

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