Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided not to appoint a second special counsel to investigate alleged abuses by the FBI and the Department of Justice regarding the obtaining of FISA warrants to surveille the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, as well as other issues like the conduct of the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
Sessions made the announcement in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, Chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee and Reps. Robert Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy, Chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees respectively, late today.
“The regulations recognize that, when presented with a matter that might warrant consideration of the appointment of a Special Counsel, the Attorney General may conclude that the circumstances do not justify such a departure,” Sessions wrote.
“In high-profile circumstances involving other politically sensitive matters, it has been more common to make special arrangements within the Department to ensure that actual or apparent conflicts can be avoided, while experienced and accountable prosecutors conduct an efficient and appropriate investigation that comports with the interests of justice and with the public interest,” he added.
Sessions had been under pressure from Republicans on Capitol Hill to appoint a second special prosecutor to counter the investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller.
“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,” Goodlatte and Gowdy wrote in a letter to Sessions asking him to appoint a special counsel earlier this month.
President Trump criticized Sessions for keeping the investigations in-house as well.
“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 in February.
Sessions revealed that he has appointed U.S. Attorney John Huber to lead the investigation instead. Huber is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah and was twice confirmed unanimously by the Senate as such.
“Mr. Huber is conducting his work from outside the Washington, DC. Area and in cooperation with the Inspector General…I am confident that Mr. Huber’s review will include a full, complete, and objective evaluation of these matters in a manner that is consistent with the law and the facts,” Sessions wrote.
“Upon the conclusion of his review, will receive his recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
Goodlatte and Gowdy, while not getting exactly what they wanted, welcomed the news. “While we continue to believe the appointment of a second Special Counsel is necessary, this is a step in the right direction,” they said.
Photo: Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Gage Skidmore via Flickr