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Sessions declines to appoint second special counsel

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Biden administration should resist 'slush-fund' settlements Garland should oppose Biden effort to reinstate controversial 'slush funds' practice 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyNumber of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan MORE (Iowa), Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteBottom line No documents? Hoping for legalization? Be wary of Joe Biden Press: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself MORE (Va.) and Trey GowdyTrey GowdyPompeo rebukes Biden's new foreign policy The Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 GrahamMSNBC's Joy Reid pans Manchin, Sinema as the 'no progress caucus' Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike 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 TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest 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 NunesRepublican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC What good are the intelligence committees? CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be 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 ClintonClose the avenues of foreign meddling Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster 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.