Senate GOPers Want New Special Counsel To Probe DOJ’s Russia Probe

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa,  makes a statement during the second day of a confirmation hearing for Attorney General-designate, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Cliff Owen/FR170079 AP

Echoing the calls of President Trump’s attorneys, perhaps a couple months late, key Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are calling for a second special counsel to be appointed to assist with the Justice Department inspector general’s inquiry into how the department handled 2016-related matters, including the Russia investigation.

“We have the utmost confidence in the Inspector General’s integrity, fairness, and impartiality, and trust that he will complete these reviews in a thorough, unbiased, and timely fashion,” Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a Thursday letter to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. “However, by statute, the Inspector General does not have the tools that a prosecutor would to gather all the facts, such as the ability to obtain testimony from essential witnesses who are not current DOJ employees. Thus, we believe that a special counsel is needed to work with the Inspector General to independently gather the facts and make prosecutorial decisions, if any are merited.”

Their letter discusses allegations Republicans previously have made about Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who compiled a dossier about the Trump campaign’s Russia connections. They have zeroed in on the role Steele’s research played in the surveillance warrant the Justice Department secured for former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page.

Attached to their letter is a letter perviously sent by Grassley and Graham to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. That Feb. 28 letter listed 31 different lines of inquiry — some of them made up of multiple questions  — they sought the IG to report to Congress on, ranging from the Page warrant to the investigation into former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn (who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation) to leaks to the press.

The Republican senators also attached their previous referral recommending a criminal investigation into Steele, with the suggestion that Steele misled the FBI about his communications with the press in 2016.

Last December, President Trump’s private attorney in the Russia probe Jay Sekulow called for a second special counsel. Senate Judiciary Republicans were lukewarm about the idea at best at the time, but the accusations on the Hill of DOJ misconduct have ramped up significantly, with House Intel Republicans releasing their own quickly-debunked memo about the Page warrant.

Mueller’s probe, meanwhile, has gained significant public moment. He secured a plea deal with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates last month, and filed indictments against 13 Russians for allegedly stealing U.S. identities to meddle in the election through social media.

On Thursday it was reported that Mueller issued subpoenas for the Trump Organization.

Read Thursday’s letter from Grassley and the other Judiciary Republicans below:

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