Sessions Throws Cold Water On GOP Fever To Appoint New Special Counsel

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw some cold water on the idea of appointing a special counsel to investigate various matters related to Hillary Clinton and Democrats, as some Republicans have called for.

At a House Judiciary hearing Tuesday, Sessions stressed the “factual basis” that must be met to warrant a special counsel, as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) grilled him on what Jordan said “looks like” the FBI working with Democrats to push the Trump-Russia dossier.

“‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel,” Sessions said.

Jordan has led the charge of GOP lawmakers calling for a special counsel investigation to be launched in addition to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd responded to a request by House Judiciary Republicans for a new special counsel in a letter that said senior  Justice Department prosecutors would evaluate the matter.

Jordan grilled Sessions on various claims that the Obama-era FBI colluded with Democrats to elevate the dossier put together by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that made various Russian-related allegations about President Trump. Sessions would not say whether the dossier was used by the FBI to obtain warrants to surveil Trump associates, nor would he comment on any hypothetical investigation into Justice Department leaks to the media about the dossier.

Asked by Jordan what it would take to get a special counsel investigation into the dossier or various Clinton-related accusations, Sessions pointed to department policies on the procedure, as well as to the fact that there has only been two special counsel investigations.

Each of those are pretty special factual situations, and we will use the proper standards, and that’s the only thing I can tell you, Mr. Jordan” Sessions said. “You can have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it meets the standard that requires a special counsel.”

The Justice Department said Sessions was not commenting on the merits of appointing a new special counsel.

“The Attorney General was clarifying the legal basis for appointing special counsel–not passing judgment on whether it applied in any specific investigation,” Ian D. Prior, a Justice Department spokesperson, told TPM via email.

Later on in the hearing, Sessions offered his own clarification when asked about the comment.

“I did not mean to suggest I was taking a side one way or another on that subject,” he said. “I was simply responding that we would have to have full and effective and detailed factual evaluation before we make a decision on whether or not a special counsel is required.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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