WASHINGTON (CN) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not appoint a special counsel to investigate claims of political bias and overreach at the FBI and the Department of Justice, but will allow a U.S. attorney to look into it, according to a letter he sent to Republican lawmakers Thursday.
The decision comes just one day after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced his office would review how the FBI obtained a warrant to monitor Carter Page, a former foreign policy aide to President Donald Trump.
Though he will not name a special counsel, Sessions said in the four-page letter to three Republican lawmakers – Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina – that he has already asked federal prosecutor John Huber to be the lead investigator into abuse of power claims within the law enforcement agencies.
Huber, U.S. attorney for Utah, was appointed by former President Barack Obama and offered his resignation in March 2017 at the request of the Trump administration. However, Sessions appointed him interim U.S. attorney under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act and President Donald Trump renominated him last June. The U.S. Senate then unanimously confirmed him to another four years.
GOP lawmakers have claimed the FBI failed to thoroughly investigate alleged ties between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the sale of U.S. uranium rights to a Russian firm as well as allegations that the FBI and DOJ did not process applications for surveillance orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in an ethical manner.
“To justify [the appointment of special counsel], 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,” Sessions wrote in Thursday’s letter, adding that their concerns would fall under Huber’s purview.
“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 added.
A full report will be issued once Huber concludes his investigation, the attorney general said.
“We understand the Department is not above criticism and it can never be that the department conceals errors when they occur. I expect every person in this department to adhere to the highest level of integrity, ethics and professionalism,” Sessions wrote. “If anyone falls short of these high standards, I will fulfill my responsibility to take necessary action to protect the integrity of our work.”