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 CollinsBipartisan Judiciary members request probe into gender discrimination allegations at FBI academy Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Mueller to testify publicly on July 17 MORE (Ga.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony TSA to send hundreds of workers to southern border to enforce immigration policies Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump to appear at fundraiser for Jim Jordan: report 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 Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again 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 SessionsAttorney General Barr plays bagpipes at conference Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama Trump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake 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 NunesGOP consultant sued by Nunes asks for help paying legal costs Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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.