The recent questionable actions by the lead Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors in the Roger Stone case highlight the need for the utmost transparency and accountability. These federal prosecutors briefed their superiors on one course of action, and then went in a completely different direction by recommending Roger Stone serve 7-9 years in prison, a far more severe sentence than what they had told their bosses. This begs the question of why.
Currently, any wrongdoing in this case would be handled internally by the Justice Department’s own Office of Professional Responsibility. This office has the exclusive jurisdiction over DOJ attorneys, but it lacks the independence, transparency and accountability we need. For example, the Office of Professional Responsibility has investigated hundreds of infractions by DOJ prosecutors over the last twenty years. Unfortunately, the Department refuses to release the names of these attorneys or the cases they affected.
Prosecutors are not infallible. They do sometimes step out of line and abuse their position. When that occurs, there must be an independent watchdog to investigate the misconduct. It should not be swept under the rug and kept hidden from the public eye.
Only an Inspector General has both the independence and statutory protections to properly investigate and expose wrongdoing. Across the federal government, Inspectors General have broad authority to investigate waste, fraud and abuse, and they have consistently performed outstanding work on behalf of Americans. Wrongdoing by every federal employee can be investigated by an Inspector General, except federal attorneys at the Justice Department. There is no legitimate reason for federal prosecutors to be shielded from the IG.
Since 2015, I have supported and cosponsored the Inspector General Access Act, introduced by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA). H.R. 202 is a commonsense, bipartisan bill that transfers the responsibility for investigating misconduct by federal prosecutors away from the Office of Professional Responsibility and instead assigns it to the Inspector General. H.R. 202 passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously on January 15, 2019. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly to consider this legislation and allow the Inspector General to investigate and bring to light wrongdoing by federal prosecutors.
Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) is a senior member of the House Oversight Committee and serves as the Communications Chair of the House Freedom Caucus.