Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed Thursday that John Huber - Utah's top federal prosecutor, will be paired with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate a multitude of accusations of FBI misconduct surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The announcement comes one day after Inspector General Michael Horowitz confirmed that he will be investigating allegations of FBI FISA abuse.
Sessions' decision stops short of formally appointing a special counsel to investigate - noting in a lengthy letter written to Chairmen Grassley, Goodlatte and Gowdy, Sessions that regulations recognize "the Attorney General may conclude that the circumstances do not justify such a departure "from the normal process of the department," and that he may instead determine that other "appropriate steps" can be taken..."
BREAKING: Attorney General Jeff Sessions notifies members of Congress he will not appoint second special counsel pic.twitter.com/jaVLkeTJkL— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) March 29, 2018
That said, Sessions says he will rely on Huber's review to determine the need for a special counsel.
"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," Sessions wrote.
"I receive regular updates from Mr. Huber and 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."
Huber has also been looking at whether the FBI should have more thoroughly probed Hillary Clinton’s ties to Uranium One, a Russian nuclear energy agency. Still, it is worth noting that it was Barack Obama who appointed Huber to his position in 2015.
Sessions' full letter can be seen below:
Meanwhile, IG Michael Horowitz confirmed that he will be investigating allegations of FBI FISA abuse on Wednesday.
“The OIG will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person,” the statement reads.
While the OIG's current investigation and upcoming report - which led to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's firing, is focused on the agency's handling of the Clinton email investigation. This new probe will focus on FISA abuse and surveillance of the Trump campaign.
On March 1, House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the FBI may have violated criminal statutes, as well as its own strict internal procedures by using unverified information to obtain a surveillance warrant on onetime Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
Sessions has come under increasing pressure to appoint a special counsel to investigate what President Trump referred to in late February as "potentially massive FISA abuse."
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
And while many have noted that Inspector General Horowitz is significantly limited in his abilities to investigate, with Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) noting "the IG's office does not have authority to compel witness interviews, including from past employees, so its investigation will be limited in scope in comparison to a Special Counsel investigation," Sessions' pairing of Horowitz with Huber keeps the investigation under the DOJ's roof and out of the hands of an independent investigator.
Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing has yet to be seen.