Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is “seriously” weighing the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate possible abuses of power by the the FBI and Justice Department in the investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.
Two Republicans, House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte and Representative Trey Gowdy, demanded on Tuesday that Sessions make the move. Their letter to Sessions requests that the new special counsel investigate “evidence of bias,” the “decisions to charge or not charge,” and the use of political opposition research in court filings by “former and current” officials at the DOJ and FBI during the last two years. The Justice Department inspector general is not capable of conducting such an investigation because the scope of the crimes is too wide, they later told reporters.
“I have great respect for Mr. Gowdy and Chairman Goodlatte, and we are going to consider seriously their recommendations,” Sessions told Fox News on Wednesday night. He revealed that he has appointed someone outside of Washington with “many years in the Department of Justice” to look into the concerns raised by the House Judiciary Committee members.
“I am well aware that we have a responsibility to ensure the integrity of the FISA process,” Sessions assured. “We are not afraid to look at that.”
“Some think that our inspector general is not very strong,” Sessions said. “But he has almost 500 employees, most of which are lawyers and prosecutors, and they are looking at the FISA process.”
The FBI and DOJ came under fire earlier this year for allegedly failing to inform the FISA court that their application to spy on Trump campaign official Carter Page was supported by Democratic opposition research.
President Trump has recently criticized Sessions’s decision to have the inspector general look at the alleged FISA abuses.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
“If there are errors within the department we need to fix them,” the attorney general told Fox News. But, he said, the FBI has gotten a “fresh start,” and the FBI director, deputy director, chief of staff, and other DOJ officials are new hires “of integrity and ability.”
“I want the American people to know that things are being done and we’ll have the kind of department that everybody can respect,” Sessions concluded. “That is a determination of mine.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misquoted the attorney general as saying the inspector general is “not very strong.” He said, “Some think that our inspector general is not very strong.”