Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that he is seriously considering appointing a second special counsel to investigate potential abuses by the FBI and the Department of Justice in obtaining FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election and beyond.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy wrote a letter to Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week, calling on them 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.
The scope of the special counsel’s investigation would be the Trump campaign as well as the way the Department and the Bureau handled the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have argued that political bias may have tainted the conduct, and therefore potential outcomes, of both investigations.
“We do not make this observation and attendant request lightly,” the Congressmen wrote in their letter. But they believe a special counsel would eliminate any potential conflict of interest that may exist in having the DOJ investigate itself, as well as give any potential investigation teeth that having the inspector general of the DOJ, as would otherwise be common practice, look into any potential wrongdoing, wouldn’t have.
Sessions, in an interview this week, said he is weighing the request made by the Congressmen. “Well I have great respect for Mr. Gowdy and Chairman Goodlatte, and we’re gonna consider, seriously, their recommendations,” Sessions said.
“I have appointed a person outside of Washington, many years in the Department of Justice, to look at all the allegations that the House Judiciary Committee members sent to us and we’re conducting that investigation,” he added.
One of the main reasons the Congressmen are calling for a special counsel is because such an officer would have powers and authorities that the DOJ’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz currently doesn’t have.
“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,” Gowdy said this week.
“But… [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.
A concern Sessions said he understood. “That’s a concern that I think is worthy of consideration and we will consider that, and are considering it, actually,” Sessions said.
Sessions announced last week that he had opened a DOJ inquiry into potential abuses of power at the DOJ in obtaining the FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, but that he directed IG Horowitz to head that inquiry, 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.
Sessions defended the move subsequently, saying, “We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”