President Donald Trump speaks alongside Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Feb. 9. SAUL LOEB / AFP – Getty Images

Sessions stressed Thursday that he couldn’t confirm or deny that there is any investigation at all.

Second, the attorney general or his or her proxy must determine that it would be a conflict of interest for the department or a U.S. attorney’s office to conduct the investigation. Both determinations will now be up to Boente or Resenstein.

During his years in the Senate representing Alabama Sessions made it clear that he believes special counsels should be appointed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

As recently as Nov. 5 — three days before the election and more than eight months after he began campaigning for Trump — Sessions co-wrote an

editorial column on the Fox News website calling on Loretta Lynch, the attorney general at the time, to appoint a special counsel to investigate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“We are concerned about the egregious damage that has been inflicted on two revered government agencies: the Department of Justice and Department of State,” Sessions wrote, along with Rudy Giuliani and three other former Justice Department officials.

“You should never politicize criminal investigations or prosecutions,” Sessions said in an interview on CNBC the next day. Lynch, he said, “knows who appointed her, and she knows whose pleasure she serves at. So we need an independent person, a person that’s not politically connected.”

Boente hasn’t spoken publicly about the matter, and it’s unlikely that he will. Until and unless he or Rosenstein do, the bottom line is that — as Sessions himself said Thursday night in an interview on Fox News — the process “will just have to play out.”