U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber was investigating Republican lawmakers' allegations against the FBI and that a special counsel was not needed to probe the case.
The move came a day after the Justice Department's inspector general said he was opening a probe into the FBI's use of the Steele dossier to win approval to surveil a figure linked to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The dossier consists of memos compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele; they contain allegations of misconduct and links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
Sessions said the inspector general's probe, plus an internal department review by a U.S. attorney, were good enough, and that there was no need to resort to the extraordinary step of naming a new special counsel.
In a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Republican Representatives Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Sessions noted the Office of the Inspector General was "investigating alleged violations of criminal and civil laws by department employees."
Sessions cited Justice Department regulations that stipulate a special counsel appointment should be reserved for only the most "extraordinary circumstances."
If the situation doesn't "justify such a departure 'from the normal processes of the department,' " the guidelines allow the attorney general to make alternative arrangements that would sufficiently "mitigate any conflicts of interest," Sessions added.
His decision to not appoint a special counsel is bound to anger Republicans on Capitol Hill, many of whom have been calling for a probe of the FBI and Justice Department that would run alongside special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling.
Huber was also looking at whether the FBI should have done a better job of probing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role in the controversy surrounding Uranium One, a Russian nuclear energy agency. Clinton was the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.