In a letter sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would not be appointing a second special counsel but would instead allow the DOJ’s inspector general to handle investigations into issues such as potential FISA court abuse.
As you are aware, I have asked the Department’s Inspector General, Michael E. Horowitz, to review certain matters that you and some members of your committees have raised in recent and previous letters. In addition to his ongoing investigation, the Inspector General has now confirmed that he has opened a review into the Department’s compliance with certain legal requirements and Department and FBI policies and procedures with respect to certain applications filed with the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Just yesterday, Inspector General Horowitz announced he would be looking into possible FISA court abuse surrounding Carter Page. Sessions’ letter goes on to reveal that in lieu of appointing a second special counsel, he had asked US Attorney John Huber to evaluate “certain issues” from outside Washington, DC and to report back to him on what, if anything, might require further action or investigation.
I asked United States Attorney John W. Huber to lead this effort. Mr. Huber is an experienced federal prosecutor who was twice confirmed unanimously by the Senate as United States Attorney for the District of Utah in 2015 and 2017. Mr. Huber previously served in leadership roles within the US Attorney’s Office as the National Security Section Chief and the Executive Assistant US Attorney. He has personally prosecuted a number of high-profile cases and coordinated task forces focused against violent crime and terrorism. This work garnered commendations from the highest levels of the Department over the course of two administrations.
Mr. Huber is conducting his work from outside the Washington, DC. area and in cooperation with the Inspector General. The additional matters raised in your March 6, 2018, letter fall within the scope of his existing mandate, and 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.
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.
In other words, no Special Counsel for now, but one could be appointed later if it is deemed necessary. AG Sessions’ response answers two letters, one sent by Reps. Goodlatte and Gowdy and the other sent by Sen. Grassley and three other GOP senators calling for the appointment of a second Special Prosecutor. There doesn’t seem to be a response to this announcement yet, but yesterday Rep. Goodlatte responded to the announcement by IG Horowitz saying, “this is not a substitute for a Special Counsel to investigate this and other matters, including decisions made and not made by the Justice Department in 2016 and 2017, and evidence of bias by DOJ and FBI employees in charging decisions.”
For their part, Democrats will have a hard time objecting to this arrangement given Huber is a former Obama appointee. From CNN:
Huber, who currently serves as the US attorney in Utah, may now find himself thrust into the middle of a fierce partisan struggle — with Republicans arguing anything short of a special counsel is insufficient because the Justice Department cannot investigate its own people, and Democrats maintaining that any allegations of bias are an unfounded ploy to distract from Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials.
Originally appointed by President Barack Obama in 2015, Huber, along with many other US attorneys, resigned after President Donald Trump took office early last year, but was reappointed by Trump shortly thereafter.
It’s never wise to predict the outcome of an investigation that just started, but we may get a taste of what is coming when DOJ releases the IG’s report which led to the firing of Andrew McCabe. That report should be released within the next few weeks.