U.S. President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on Wednesday against his attorney general, calling Jeff Sessions’ decision to have the Justice Department inspector general – and not prosecutors – investigate alleged surveillance abuse “disgraceful.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack on Wednesday against his attorney general, calling Jeff Sessions’ decision to have the Justice Department inspector general – and not prosecutors – investigate alleged surveillance abuse “disgraceful.”
Trump lashed out against Sessions on Twitter for assigning the probe of alleged government surveillance abuse to Inspector General Michael Horowitz and not to prosecutors.
Key Republican lawmakers balked at the president’s latest breach of the principle that holds that the Justice Department and the judiciary should be independent of the White House.
“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.
“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? Disgraceful.”
Horowitz was sworn into his post in April 2012, during the Obama administration.
Trump has violated the principle of preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence numerous times, for example by promising to have his 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton investigated and criticizing court decisions on his immigration policy.
Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, criticized Trump for attacking Sessions.
“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” King told Fox News.
Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.
Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”
Trump has previously attacked Sessions, mostly notably for recusing himself from the Justice Department investigation, headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into whether there was collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.
Trump has repeatedly denied there was any collusion and Russia has said it did not meddle in the election, contradicting the assessment of senior U.S. security officials.
The president’s latest attack on Sessions came a day after Sessions said that he was referring to Horowitz the allegations of FISA surveillance abuses by the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes.
Nunes charged in a memo released on Feb. 2 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department improperly obtained a September 2016 FISA warrant to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who had numerous Russian contacts.
Trump declassified the Nunes document over the opposition of the Justice Department and the FBI.
On Saturday, the House Intelligence Committee released a rebuttal of the Nunes memo by the panel’s Democratic minority.
The Democrats called Nunes’ memo “a transparent effort to undermine” the FBI, the Justice Department, Mueller and congressional probes into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis
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