Republicans question progress on probe of DOJ, FBI actions during 2016

The top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Reform committees are demanding an update from the U.S. attorney who is examining conservative allegations of surveillance abuse at the FBI and the Justice Department.

GOP Reps. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTop Judiciary Republican sees potential for bipartisan agreement on cyber issues Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy Republicans question progress on probe of DOJ, FBI actions during 2016 MORE (Ga.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader Republicans request update on investigation into ex-FBI official accused of leaks GOP lawmakers rip Dems for calling Cohen to testify MORE (Ohio), the ranking Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, sent a letter on Monday to U.S. Attorney John Huber asking him for an update on his probe and expressing concern he has not talked to a series of key witnesses. 

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"Your investigation has been ongoing for over nine months. During the course of our extensive investigation we have interviewed more than a dozen current and former DOJ and FBI personnel, and were surprised to hear none of these potentially informative witnesses testified to speaking with you," Collins and Jordan wrote in a letter to Huber, who is tasked with determining whether their accusations warrant an investigation.

Previously, the two congressional committees conducted a joint investigation that sought to look into what Republicans allege was bias against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE by the top brass at the two agencies during the heated presidential race. Republicans announced late last month that the GOP-led probe has wrapped up, and that they found the FBI and Justice Department treated Trump unfairly.

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Thousands more migrant children may have been separated | Senate rejects bill to permanently ban federal funds for abortion | Women's March to lobby for 'Medicare for All' Acting AG Whitaker's wife defends him in lengthy email to journalist Watchdog: Thousands more migrant children separated from parents than previously known MORE appointed Huber to work alongside the DOJ's inspector general, an unusual arrangement that was seen as a way to placate a vocal group of Republicans alleging bias against the president. 

Republicans last year ramped up the pressure for a probe into allegations of surveillance abuse that was raised by a controversial memo authored by staff of former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority Nunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group Democrats: Concentrate on defeating, not impeaching MORE (R-Calif.). 

The memo alleges that senior officials at the DOJ inappropriately used a piece of opposition research — the so-called Steele dossier — to obtain surveillance warrants on transition team members as part of the federal probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Republicans on the two committees — when they were still in the majority last year — had called for a second special counsel to investigate such matters. 

But Sessions's appointment of Huber, which boosted efforts by the GOP to spotlight possible misconduct, did not go so far as to appoint a second special counsel — a move some critics cautioned could impede the work of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, who is already investigating a series of events tied to Russian interference during the heated race.

While he lacks the title Republicans demanded, the federal prosecutor from Utah still has the authority to prosecute — unlike the inspector general, who is investigating such allegations.

Much of Huber's work over the past year has been shrouded in mystery, and the GOP lawmakers also expressed disappointment that Huber declined their request for him to testify, which came before Democrats took hold of committee gavels last week. 

With no Democratic support on their letter to Huber, Republicans lack the might that comes with having the majority, including subpoena power. And gaining their support is highly unlikely as Democrats have criticized the GOP-led probe into FBI and DOJ decisionmaking, calling it an effort to shield the president by distracting from or undermining Mueller's probe.

The Republicans asked for Huber to provide answers to a series of four questions by 5 p.m. Jan. 21, including a list of the number of witnesses he has interviewed and the number of surveillance applications, the documents he's reviewed, and a description of his work with DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.