Sessions declines to appoint second special counsel

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE revealed in a letter to lawmakers Thursday that he had declined to name a second special counsel to investigate allegations of surveillance abuse within the Department of Justice (DOJ), despite pressure from the Republican Party for him to do so.

In his letter to GOP committee chairmen Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Republicans dismiss Trump proposal to delay election Timeline for GOP's Obama probe report slips as chairman eyes subpoenas MORE (Iowa), Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlattePress: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids MORE (Va.) and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySenate GOP set to ramp up Obama-era probes More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case Sunday shows preview: As states loosen social distancing restrictions, lawmakers address dwindling state budgets MORE (S.C.), Sessions said the appointment of a special counsel only occurs under "the most 'extraordinary circumstances.' "

"To justify such an appointment, the Attorney General would need to conclude that 'the public interest would be served by removing a large degree of responsibility for the matter from the Department of Justice,' " Sessions wrote.

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He said he had named a federal prosecutor in Utah, John Huber, to lead the investigation into Republicans' allegations that the FBI and DOJ abused a surveillance program against a former Trump campaign aide.

"The additional matters raised in your March 6, 2018, letter fall within the scope of his existing mandate, and I am confident that Mr. Huber's review will include a full, complete, and objective evaluation of these matters in a manner that is consistent with the law and the facts," Sessions wrote.

Sessions said that upon completion of the investigation he would receive a recommendation from Huber about whether the allegations merit the need for another special counsel.

The letter comes amid mounting pressure from GOP lawmakers for Sessions to appoint a second counsel as Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE continues his own investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sessions earlier this month said he had tapped a former official "with many years in the Department of Justice" to look into the need for another special counsel, as calls grew from the likes of Grassley, Gowdy and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamObama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Trump putting TikTok ban on hold for 45 days: report This week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms MORE (R-S.C.) to to look into the alleged surveillance abuses within the department.

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His decision is likely to not sit well with President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE, who has frequently criticized the attorney general over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. 

In his letter, Sessions also noted that he had directed the department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, to open a probe into the allegations, an investigation that was formally announced on Wednesday. Trump has also been dismissive of the decision to put the department's watchdog in charge of the case.

"Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse," Trump tweeted earlier in March after Sessions announced Horowitz would be looking into the surveillance abuse allegations. "Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on [former FBI Director James] Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!"

The multiple investigations center on allegations from Republicans that the FBI and DOJ abused the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which were the subject of a controversial memo authored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections Nunes declines to answer if he received information from Ukraine lawmaker meant to damage Biden White House, Congress talk next coronavirus relief bill as COVID-19 continues to surge MORE (R-Calif.). 

The GOP lawmakers allege that investigators used information from the "Steele dossier," a controversial file of opposition research compiled by ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele, in order to obtain a politically motivated warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page.

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Huber has also been looking at whether the FBI should have more thoroughly probed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump vows challenge to Nevada bill expanding mail-in voting Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Juan Williams: The Trump Show grows tired MORE’s ties to Uranium One, a Russian nuclear energy agency.

Former President Obama appointed Huber to his position in 2015.

Updated at 5:58 p.m.