President Trump on Wednesday launched a new attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling it “disgraceful” that he has asked an inspector general and not Justice Department lawyers to investigate potential surveillance abuses.
The president said the Justice Department’s inspector general is ill-equipped to probe allegations that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was improperly used to monitor members of his transition team.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” Trump tweeted.
“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!”
Trump’s public shaming is the latest in a long line of attacks against Sessions, whom he has repeatedly criticized for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election meddling, which is now being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The dust-up comes one day after the attorney general announced his department’s internal watchdog would look into Trump’s claims
that Obama administration officials misused their surveillance powers to track his associates following the 2016 presidential race.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Tuesday she believed Trump “certainly supports the decision to look into what we feel to be some wrongdoing.”
“I think that’s the role of the Department of Justice, and we’re glad that they’re fulfilling that job,” she said.
Sessions defended himself later Wednesday, saying the inspector-general investigation is “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against the department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”
“As long as I am attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and constitution,” he said in a statement, which did not mention Trump by name.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, was confirmed to his position during the Obama administration in 2012.
But he also received political appointments under President George W. Bush and is seen by people who know him as an independent voice.
Horowitz is overseeing an investigation
into the FBI and Justice Department’s handling of the probe into former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.
That probe reportedly helped lead to the early resignation of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a frequent Trump target. Horowitz also uncovered a series of text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, which led special counsel Robert Mueller to remove Strzok from the team probing Russia’s election interference.
Updated at 1:43 p.m.