Two Republican Congressman have called on the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate decisions “made and not made” by the DOJ, as well as the FBI, with respect to investigations conducted last year and the year before. Specifically, decisions regarding applications for, and the signing off on, FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump campaign.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein requesting the appointment of special counsel to investigate the actions of both the DOJ and the FBI during 2016 and through last year.
“We do not make this observation and attendant request lightly,” the Congressmen wrote. “Nevertheless, there are instances in which an actual or potential conflict of interest exists or appears to exist, or there are matters in which the public good would be furthered, and an independent Special Counsel is warranted as the relevant Federal regulations provide.”
“We believe that, in the case of certain decisions made and not made by the Department of Justice and FBI in 2016 and 2017, both an actual conflict of interest exists and separately, but equally significantly, the public interest requires the appointment of a Special Counsel,” they added.
The two argue that the appointment of special counsel is necessary because having the DOJ investigate itself represents a conflict of interest and asking the DOJ’s inspector general to conduct an investigation into the Department would not be a potent enough option.
“Look I’m a big fan of Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General, a big fan. In fact, I took up for him last week when he was criticized. But there are limits on what the Inspector General can do. The Department of Justice should not be policing itself,” Gowdy said during an interview this afternoon.
“[Horowitz]… does not have jurisdiction over any employees that have left the Department of Justice or the FBI, nor does he have jurisdiction over employees of other agencies like the State Department, or private citizens. He doesn’t have subpoena power, he doesn’t have access to a grand jury, he can’t confer immunity on someone in exchange for information. He’s a remarkably talented guy and I think he’s a great inspector general but if you can’t access almost two dozen witnesses, I don’t know how you would be asked to do the job,” Gowdy argued.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he directed Inspector General Horowitz, to investigate potential abuses of power at the DOJ in obtaining the FISA warrants, a move that angered President Trump.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” the President wrote on Twitter.
It isn’t clear whether that decision by Sessions is what prompted Goodlatte and Gowdy to make the request they made today.
Sessions, in responding to the President last week however, reiterated the appropriateness of having Horowitz conduct the review and pledged that the DOJ would discharge its duties to the best of its abilities.
“This Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” Sessions said. “We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”