Two Republican House committee chairmen on Tuesday asked the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate any bias at the Justice Department and FBI in the latest attempt by conservatives to paint the Russia investigation as a witch hunt out to hurt President Donald Trump.
House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a letter that they are concerned about “decisions made and not made” at the DOJ and FBI in 2016 and 2017. They wrote that in the majority of cases, U.S. law enforcement officials have acted appropriately but claimed that there are “instances in which an actual or potential conflict of interest exists or appears to exist.”
Though they do not single out the Russia investigation or the so-called Trump dossier authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, it’s apparent that Gowdy and Goodlatte are concerned about exactly that.
“There is evidence of bias, trending toward animus, among those charged with investigating serious cases. There is evidence political opposition research was used in court filings. There is evidence this political opposition research was neither vetted before it was used nor fully revealed to the relevant tribunal,” Gowdy and Goodlatte wrote, adding that they also have concerns about the surveillance application process.
Conservatives in the House have drummed up concern over the process the Justice Department used to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. The effort culminated recently in the release of a memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee claiming that the Justice Department improperly used the Steele dossier to justify its surveillance of Page.
Democrats have dismissed these claims, charging in a rebuttal memo that the DOJ only used a small part of the dossier in its application to surveil Page and that the DOJ submitted information from independent sources corroborating parts of the Steele Dossier in renewal applications. Republicans have also claimed that the DOJ did not reveal to the court that the dossier was crafted as opposition research, but the Democratic memo counters that the DOJ told the court that the dossier had a political motive.
Conservatives in Congress have been calling for a special prosecutor for a while, but the letter from Gowdy and Goodlatte elevates the request
The letter also comes only about a week after President Donald Trump criticized Sessions on Twitter for directing the DOJ inspector general to investigate bias in the surveillance application process.
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
In their letter, Gowdy and Goodlatte argue that the inspector general is not the best individual to investigate the matter because he “does not have the authority to investigate other governmental entities or former employees of the Department, the Bureau, or other agencies.”