Attorney General Jeff Sessions has decided not to appoint a second special counsel to investigate potential abuses of power at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, despite a growing clamor for the move from Republican leaders.
Sessions told three powerful Republican committee chairmen who called for the special counsel that he is satisfied U.S. attorney John Huber, based in Utah, will conduct an adequate internal review of the complaints against the agencies.
“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 facts,” he wrote in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte, and the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy.
The three chairmen have led Republican calls for a special counsel to investigate claims the FBI abused its power to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page, and that the Department of Justice mishandled probes of the Clinton Foundation and of Hillary Clinton’s involvement with the Uranium One deal while she was running the State Department. They, and President Trump, say an internal probe is insufficient, though Goodlatte and Gowdy responded by saying the move to appoint Huber is a “step in the right direction,” in part because Huber is not a DC insider.
Sessions revealed Huber is the senior prosecutor leading the review, and he will work with the DOJ inspector general in his efforts to investigate the potential surveillance abuse. Trump tweeted his displeasure with that move in February, saying Sessions should use a Justice Department lawyer with prosecutorial power.
Sessions noted in the letter that Huber can still recommend the appointment of a second special counsel, pending the outcome of his investigation. Such an appointment should be used only in “the most ‘extraordinary circumstances,'” Sessions noted, citing U.S. law. “To justify such an appointment, the Attorney General would need to conclude that ‘the public interest would be served by removing a large degree of responsibility for the matter from the Department of Justice,” he wrote in the letter.