Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he is not appointing - for now - a second special counsel to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, telling Republican lawmakers that he has already asked a veteran prosecutor to look into the matter.
Sessions said in the letter that hat John Huber, a USA attorney in Utah, was working in coordination with the Inspector General's office on the matters the Republicans raised in their request for a second special counsel earlier this month.
"I write in response to recent letters requesting the appointment of a Special Counsel to review certain prosecutorial and investigative determinations made by the Department of Justice in 2016 and 2017".
Conservatives have long alleged the Justice Department acted inappropriately in obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page - in particular because the department relied on information that was funded in a roundabout way by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who chose to appoint Mueller, not Sessions.
Sessions' letter Thursday appeared to rebut the congressional Republicans' claims that the Inspector General did not have the tools necessary to investigate their concerns.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, said a year ago that he was pleased by the appointment. The inspector general, some think that our inspector general is not very strong; but he has nearly 500, employees, most of which are lawyers and prosecutors; and they are looking at the FISA process.More news: PM Narendra Modi teaches Yogas in his '3D animated' avatar
Huber is a veteran prosecutor who has been confirmed twice by the Senate as US attorney for Utah - once in 2015 after he was nominated by President Obama, and again in 2017 after he was nominated by President Trump.
The Republican committee chairs wrote to Sessions earlier this month, asking for the appointment of a special counsel because the inspector general did not have enough power to compel witness testimonies or issue indictments. Republicans are also likely to be upset with what amounts to the Justice Department investigating itself.
Investigative reporter Sara Carter reported the senior Obama officials used unsubstantiated evidence to launch allegations in the media that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russian Federation during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Sessions' letter comes after the department's inspector general announced it would review those allegations.
"For instance, 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", Goodlatte said in a statement.