Two prominent House Republicans are calling for the appointment of a new special counsel to investigate alleged bias at the FBI and Department of Justice and accusations law enforcement officials abused government surveillance powers in 2016 to spy on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., called for a review of “decisions made and not made" by the FBI and DOJ in 2016 and 2017, and top law enforcement officials' use in their application to a surveillance court of a dossier of unverified allegations about President Donald Trump's ties to Russia compiled by a former British spy paid in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“There is evidence of bias, trending toward animus, among those charged with investigating serious cases. There is evidence political opposition research was used in court filings. There is evidence this political opposition research was neither vetted before it was used nor fully revealed to the relevant tribunal,” Goodlatte and Gowdy wrote in their letter.
The idea has the potential to bolster a second, parallel narrative being pushed chiefly by some House Republicans that shifts focus away from the Russia investigation to the motives of the investigators examining those questions.
Democrats criticized the letter Tuesday, accusing Republicans of undermining the Mueller investigation.
"These are blatant attempts to distract from and undermine the credibility of Special Counsel Mueller," Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Last week, Sessions said the Justice Department inspector general - the agency's watchdog - would investigate allegations of DOJ abuse of surveillance powers, a move Trump has criticized and called "disgraceful" in a Twitter post.
Goodlatte said Tuesday that the investigation "involves decisions made at the highest levels of the FBI and high levels of the Department of Justice that need to be examined from the outside."
Gowdy, who is also chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee conducting its own Russia investigation, said a special counsel in the executive branch is better-equipped than a divided Congress to probe the allegations.
"Congress doesn’t have the tools, or frankly, the public confidence to conduct these investigations. We leak like the gossip girls," he said. "Congress does not investigate criminality."
Congressional Republicans have made repeated requests to DOJ leaders for a second special counsel since special counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Russian election meddling and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In September, Goodlatte and Judiciary Committee Republicans asked Sessions and Rosenstein to appoint another special counsel to look into the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation and other matters at the Obama Justice Department. And a smaller group of House Republicans called on Sessions to appoint a second special counsel last month over the FISA surveillance court abuse allegations and the FBI's decision to launch a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
Gowdy, who did not sign on to previous efforts, said Tuesday that "this might be the one time Congress is right."
"Even a broken clock is right twice a day," he said of the request.
The South Carolina said a special counsel would be able to access witnesses "outside the reach" of the Justice Department inspector general, including former FBI and DOJ officials and Obama State Department officials who were aware of the allegations compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.