Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not appoint a second special counsel to investigate the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation, opting instead to use a U.S. attorney from Utah to oversee an internal review of the matter, he told Congress Thursday.
The move comes a day after the Justice Department’s office of the inspector general opened an investigation into the DOJ and FBI’s use of the infamous Steele dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser Carter Page.
The Republican chairmen of House and Senate committees — Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley — recently pressed Sessions to go beyond an inspector general’s investigation, arguing the DOJ watchdog does not have the ability to investigate outside the walls of DOJ and FBI.
Special counsels are appointed only under “extraordinary circumstances” involving obvious conflicts of interest, Sessions said in his letter to the three Republican chairmen. That was the rationale used May 2017 when Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel of the Russia investigation. Rosenstein made the decision because Sessions recused himself from all Russia-related matters because of his position on the Trump campaign.
“Specifically, I asked United States Attorney John W. Huber to lead this effort,” Sessions wrote in his letter.
“Mr. Huber is conducting his work from outside the Washington, D.C., area and in cooperation with the Inspector General,” Sessions wrote. He is “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.
Huber currently serves as U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah. Former President Obama appointed him in 2015, and Trump re-nominated him in 2017.
Sessions will receive regular updates from Huber and will comply with any recommendations regarding the need for investigative resources or whether the appointment of a special counsel would be warranted in the future, the attorney general said.
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