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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is forming a team of prosecutors to investigate drug trafficking and money laundering linked to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant movement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday. The move follows reports that Obama administration officials thwarted drug prosecutions related to Hezbollah for fear of jeopardizing a nuclear deal with Iran.
President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have been relentless in pressuring Sessions to take a fresh look at Obama-era dealings, in an effort that Democrats contend is aimed at steering attention away from investigations into Trump campaign ties to Russian election meddling.
The new team's first task will be to examine evidence from the Obama-era Drug Enforcement Administration program known as Project Cassandra. Sessions announced a review in December, after Politico reported that the program had been targeting the Hezbollah's trafficking of cocaine into the U.S. and abroad but was stymied by Obama officials.
The Obama administration at the time was eager to improve relations with Iran and stall its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist group and an Iranian proxy.
Prosecutors who specialize in terrorism, narcotics trafficking and organized crime, led by the acting head of the Justice Department's criminal division, will bring prosecutions designed to restrict the flow of money to terrorist groups, Sessions said. He said he wanted to be sure Project Cassandra and other investigations have adequate resources.
"The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis," Sessions said.