The revelation that a senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official met with and had close ties to the opposition research firm and British spy behind a controversial anti-Trump dossier has provoked new demands from President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE’s allies for a special counsel investigation into the DOJ and the FBI.
Fox News first reported that associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr met with Fusion founder Glenn Simpson and British spy Christopher Steele during the campaign. Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign.
Those developments come as conservatives are increasingly questioning the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations.
“Every week, we find additional information that would suggest the investigation into the dossier and how it was used was conducted with a plethora of conflict of interest issues,” House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAre the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? Jan. 6 probe roils Cheney race in Wyoming House has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill. “Our confidence in the independence of the [special counsel] investigation has weakened, not strengthened, as details emerge.”
Meadows is one of several GOP lawmakers who has called on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE to tap a new special counsel or launch his own investigation into Democrats, the FBI and the DOJ — or to step aside for an attorney general who will.
The Justice Department told The Hill on Tuesday that Ohr had been reassigned from deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein’s office and that he has been cleared to testify before Congress.
“This is stunning,” former Attorney General Bill Barr, who worked under President George H.W. Bush, told The Hill. “It gives me grave concern about the integrity of the senior officials at the Department and FBI were doing during the summer of 2016.”
GOP lawmakers will get a crack at Rosenstein — who has increasingly become the focus of right-wing ire for his appointment of Mueller — when he appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Trump’s allies — including key figures on his legal team and some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill — are demanding a new special counsel investigation into what they view as partisan conflicts of interest at the FBI and DOJ that they believe pit the federal government against Trump and his campaign in 2016.
“The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests,” Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow told The Hill. “These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate.”
House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Florida Rep. Cherfilus-McCormick sworn in as newest House member GOP lawmaker adheres to term limit pledge, won't run for reelection MORE (R-Calif.) has been feuding with the FBI and DOJ, issuing demands for briefings and subpoenas for documents that he says have been ignored by the agencies.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was supposed to meet with House investigators on Tuesday but did not show up. McCabe’s staff blamed a scheduling error. Nunes said they’ll follow through with charges of contempt and additional subpoenas if their demands are not met in the next week.
“Somebody needs to be investigating DOJ and FBI because there’s a whole lot going on there,” he told The Hill.
Rep. Mike ConawayKenneth (Mike) Michael ConawayEx-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm If Congress can't work together to address child hunger we're doomed Ex-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm MORE (R-Texas), who took the lead on the House Intelligence Committee investigation after Nunes recused himself, declined to call for an independent investigation, however.
“I believe we’re doing a proper-resourced investigation in the House and until someone tells me differently we’re going to keep pursuing that,” he said. “We’re investigating everything we need to investigate on the Intelligence Committee.”
The controversy around Ohr comes after reports that Mueller kicked an FBI special agent off the special counsel team for sending anti-Trump text messages to a woman with whom he was having an affair, who was also on the team.
That FBI agent — Peter Strzok — is at the center of several controversies and has become a top political target on the right. Strzok conducted several interviews with top Clinton aides as part of the investigation into the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s handling of classified material.
Republicans are frustrated by what they view as a one-sided special counsel investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion, that they believe ignores developing stories about career officials at the FBI and DOJ allegedly working on behalf of Clinton.
Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAre the legal walls closing in on Donald Trump? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team House has the power to subpoena its members — but does it have the will? MORE (R-Ohio) and some of his allies in the House Freedom Caucus are demanding a new special counsel that looks into the FBI, DOJ and Fusion GPS, and whether they colluded to damage the Trump campaign.
“If you have the DOJ and the FBI working with one party’s campaign in a coordinated fashion to go after the other party’s campaign in the midst of a presidential election, if that took place, that is as bad as it get,” Jordan said in an interview with The Hill.
The pressure is growing on Sessions, who is getting hammered on conservative media on a near-nightly basis for his failure to investigate Clinton or tap a competing special counsel that looks into the Democrats.
“Either name a special counsel or step down,” Jordan said of Sessions.
Even one of Sessions’s staunches allies — former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon — is starting to get in on the action. Bannon is a Sessions-loyalist and once encouraged him to run for president, before Trump got into the race.
Bannon is not turning on Sessions, but pleaded with him to investigate Clinton at a rally in Alabama on Monday night for GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. Moore is running to replace Sessions in the Senate.
“Sen. Sessions, are you listening?” Bannon said. “This would be Sen. Sessions's seat, now, wouldn't it? Come on, Sen. Sessions. You've got to work with us on this one."
In the Senate, lawmakers are urging caution. Many of the senators reached by The Hill said they had not seen the Fox News story about Ohr and wouldn’t comment on whether a new special counsel is necessary.
Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThere is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Swalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down MORE (R-Mo.), who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he’d “have to think about” whether a new special counsel is needed because his panel is “pretty deeply into that investigation” already.
Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Rubio blocks quick votes on stalemated defense bill Constant threats to government funding fail the American public MORE (R-Okla.), who is also on the Intelligence Committee, argued that Mueller’s special counsel has the authority to broaden its scope and investigate everything 2016 related — including Democrats, the FBI or the DOJ.
“The special counsel can go wherever they want to go,” Lankford said. “That’s the nature of the special counsel, they can follow whatever thread they want to be able to pull, whatever direction they want. … If the special counsel wants to be able to drift into other issues, they can.”
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleySmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (R-Iowa) has called for a special counsel to investigate the purchase of a U.S. uranium company to a Russian-backed firm when Clinton was secretary of State.
On Tuesday, he told The Hill that he was concerned that the alleged Trump-Russia connection is the only aspect of the 2016 campaign being investigated.
“I’ve asked for a special counsel but I’d have to limit it to the things that involve political interference in the Justice Department and the FBI, things that Mueller’s not doing,” Grassley said. “[Mueller’s] just Trump-Russia … but we’re also — we come across questions that involve GPS, it involves Russia but it also involves the Democrats.”