Mr. Strange, a former lobbyist widely regarded as ambitious and long seen as the future of Republican politics in Alabama, attended some of the grand jury testimony. Then Mr. Bentley, in his second and final term, chose Mr. Strange as Mr. Sessions’s replacement in the Senate and scheduled a special election for 2018.
When his appointment was announced, Mr. Strange, 63, said the rampant speculation about an inquiry involving the governor was “unfair to him and unfair to the process.” He also said, in a remark that has since been parsed, analyzed and criticized, “We have never said in our office that we are investigating the governor.”
Less than a week later, the man Mr. Bentley chose to succeed Mr. Strange as attorney general, Steven T. Marshall, appointed Alabama’s equivalent of a special prosecutor and asked her to “assume oversight of the state’s interest in the current investigative matter relating to Gov. Robert Bentley, to include all potential criminal matters arising from that investigation.”
One of the lawyers leading the inquiry, Matt Hart, helped to secure the conviction last year of Michael G. Hubbard, then the speaker of the State House of Representatives.
Although many senior Republicans in Alabama and in Washington strongly urged Mr. Bentley to appoint Mr. Strange, the only one of six finalists to have been elected statewide, the choice and Mr. Marshall’s acknowledgment of an investigation still upset many people here.