Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz dropped several hints in congressional testimony Wednesday about discussions he and the inspectors general at other departments have had about investigating President Trump’s and his allies’ Ukraine gambit.
The comments came during a line of questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who also asked about sketchy Justice Department behavior not related to Ukraine.
Throughout the exchange Horowitz repeatedly emphasized the law prohibiting him from investigating top Justice Department officials (inspector generals overseeing other federal departments face no such prohibition) and encouraged legislation lifting that prohibition.
Harris first raised reports that Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his associates were working with Ukrainians to get dirt on Trump’s political rivals, and in exchange would have lawyers talk to the Justice Department about the legal issues facing those Ukrainians.
She asked if Horowitz had decided not to investigate those issues.
Horowitz said no. He referenced another inspector general’s letter to Congress about a request that office had received that inspector general investigate the hold on Ukraine’s aid. The letter to Congress said that for now, the inspector general was letting the impeachment proceedings in the House and Senate move forward.
Horowitz then brought up the prohibition that his office — and only his office — faced barring investigation into the top officials of the department he oversees.
Harris asked Horowitz if, assuming the reports were true, the Giuliani scheme would be alarming.
He agreed that “anything like that” would be “concerning.”
Harris then turned to reports that Giuliani was planning to debrief of the Justice Department about the Ukrainian dirt he was digging, before bringing up a previous Senate Judiciary hearing where Attorney General Bill Barr declined to say whether Trump had asked him to open any probes.
Horowitz said that looking at that would likely fall out of his jurisdiction due to the prohibition on his particular office.
Later, Harris brought up Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and how the conversation involved several agencies included within the Department of Justice.
Again, Horowitz brought up the statuary impediments that prevented him from looking at conduct of Justice Department attorneys.
She asked whether he and those other departments’ inspectors general have discussed looking into that call.
“We have had discussions generally” about Ukraine-related matters, Horowitz said, but admitted he couldn’t recall if they dealt specifically with the phone call.