GOP senators call for special counsel to probe FBI over Russia

GOP senators call for special counsel to probe FBI over Russia
© Greg Nash

A group of Republican senators is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to name a special counsel to probe the FBI's handling of its investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

GOP Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyKlobuchar: ObamaCare a 'missed opportunity' to address drug costs Just one in five expect savings from Trump tax law: poll Divisions emerge over House drug price bills MORE (Iowa), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCNN anchor hits Trump: He didn't go to Vietnam 'until he was in his 70s' with 'Secret Service protection' Trump reignites criticism of McCain months after senator's death Graham defends McCain amid Trump attacks: 'Nothing about his service will ever be changed' MORE (S.C.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisRepublicans up for reelection fear daylight with Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies first veto after latest clash with Senate GOP 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (N.C.) and John CornynJohn CornynJulian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run Joaquin Castro closing in on 2020 Senate bid: report Five questions for Beto O'Rourke MORE (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsO'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump House Judiciary Dem, Republican clash over details of Whitaker testimony DeVos moves to allow religious groups to provide federally funded services to private schools MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGraham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks The damning proof of innocence that FBI likely withheld in Russian probe Conway's husband: 'Banana republic' if Trump got his wish to go after investigators MORE calling for a special counsel to "gather all the facts."

"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. The Justice Department cannot credibly investigate itself without these enhanced measures of independence," the senators wrote.

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DOJ's Office of Inspector General announced in January that it was starting a review of the FBI's handling of the probe into then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE's private email server, something that hung over her 2016 White House bid.

Sessions also asked the inspector general last month to examine whether FBI officials abused their authority by obtaining a secret surveillance order on Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE's campaign.

The attorney general has resisted demands by congressional Republicans to appoint a second special counsel beyond Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, who is leading the federal probe into Russia's election meddling and ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

Graham said during a separate Fox News interview on Thursday that a special counsel is needed because "I think crimes may have been committed." 

The Republican senators stressed in their writing to Sessions on Thursday that they "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."

However, they argued, "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."

Graham and Grassley sent a separate letter to the DOJ's internal watchdog late last month asking that it probe the FBI's handling of the Russia probe.

"We respectfully request that you conduct a comprehensive review of potential improper political influence, misconduct, or mismanagement in the conduct of the counterintelligence and criminal investigations related to Russia and individuals associated with (1) the Trump campaign, (2) the Presidential transition, or (3) the administration prior to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller," they wrote in the February letter.

But the senators said in Thursday's letter that if the DOJ officials decline to appoint another special prosecutor focused on the FBI they want "a detailed reply explaining why not."