Trump Calls Out Sessions: Disgraceful

 Alan Neuhauser

PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Wednesday publicly lashed out at Jeff Sessions, calling it "disgraceful" that his attorney general would have the Justice Department's inspector general investigate potential abuses of foreign surveillance rather than his agency's lawyers.

“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Sessions appeared to respond to Trump's latest fusillade in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary," Sessions said. "As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution."

The stinging rebuke is not the first time Trump has aired his dissatisfaction with Sessions, whom he believes should not have recused himself from his role leading an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Trump in July told The New York Times that if he had known Sessions planned to take such an action, he would not have hired him. Even prior to that, Sessions reportedly had sent a resignation letter to Trump after similar criticism, but the president ultimately did not accept it.

Trump as recently as last week tweeted that the Obama administration should be the subject of an investigation – a move many saw as pressuring his attorney general to act.

“Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?” Trump tweeted on Feb. 21. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!”

The latest tweet came a day after Sessions indicated at a press conference that the inspector general should be investigating abuses related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

"We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the highest standards in the FISA court," the attorney general said Tuesday, referring to the secret court authorized by the act to review and approve federal investigators' requests to conduct foreign surveillance. "It will be investigated, I think that's just the appropriate thing. Inspector General will take that as one of the matters he'll deal with."

What he was referring to remained unclear Wednesday, even as the president ramped up political pressure on the attorney general to launch such an investigation of FISA practices.

Since January 2017, the Justice Department Office of Inspector General has been conducting a wide-ranging review of federal investigations during the 2016 presidential election, a probe that initially centered on how the FBI handled its probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server but has since expanded.

The inspector general's office declined to comment Tuesday and Wednesday. The office considers all complaints that it receives. However, there is no indication that either the Justice Department or the Office of Inspector General has launched a new investigation of alleged foreign surveillance abuses under the Obama administration.

The report launched in January is due to be released in March or April, the inspector general has said, suggesting that there is not sufficient time to fold in the recent requests to investigate FISA.

The latest rancor over FISA abuses dates to Feb. 2, when House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., released a hotly contested memo alleging that federal investigators, in seeking to renew foreign surveillance of a Trump campaign associate, unduly relied on opposition research that had been commissioned by the Clinton campaign.

The FBI issued an unusual statement strongly opposing the release of the memo, expressing "grave concerns" about its veracity and pointing to "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." Democrats, in their own report released Saturday, have refuted the claim.

Sessions, in an appearance on Fox News last week, said that alleged abuse under the Obama administration "will be investigated and looked at." His remarks at the press conference Tuesday appeared to further strengthen that pledge.

The Office of Inspector General is led by Michael Horowitz, who was confirmed to his current position in 2012 during the Obama administration to serve a six-year term. He had previously served in the Justice Department from 1991-2002.

Several senior congressional Republicans issued statements in support of Horowitz following Trump's tweet.

"He has been fair, fact-centric, and appropriately confidential with his work," Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said. "I have complete confidence in him and hope he is given the time, the resources and the independence to complete his work.”

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee oversees the Justice Department, also reportedly said that the lawmaker "absolutely has confidence in Inspector General Horowitz to continue his work."

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