President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accusing the nation’s top law enforcement officer of not being aggressive enough in investigating allegations of misconduct in the handling of surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page during the 2016 campaign.
Sessions said on Tuesday he would ask the Justice Department’s inspector general to look into claims that the FBI and other Obama administration officials misled a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge when they applied for the warrant to wiretap Page.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” Trump tweeted. “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 responded in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have initiated the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this Department will be fully and fairly acted upon as necessary,” Sessions said in the statement, first reported by CNN. “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 alleged “massive FISA abuse” Trump referred to was a charge leveled in the controversial memo authored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and authorized for release by the president earlier this month. The memo suggested that the original FISA application relied heavily on the salacious but unverified dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, and that a Yahoo News article about Steele was used to “corroborate” the veracity of the dossier.
A redacted version of a response by the Democratic minority on the committee was released last week.
At a press conference Tuesday about the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, Sessions was asked whether the Justice Department would investigate the Nunes memo’s claims.
“We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the high standards in the FISA court and, yes, it will be investigated,” Sessions said. “The inspector general will take that as one of the matters they’ll deal with.”
The inspector general, Michael Horowitz, was sworn into the post in April 2012, during President Barack Obama’s second term. Horowitz previously served as a commissioner on the U.S. Sentencing Commission under former President George W. Bush.
In January 2017, Horowitz announced that his office would review “broad allegations of misconduct” involving then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the bureau’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
Wednesday’s tweet was far from the first time Sessions has drawn the president’s ire.
Last summer, Trump reportedly considered firing Sessions for recusing himself from all campaign-related investigations, including the probe into allegations of collusion with Russia. Sessions recused himself in March after it was revealed he had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador. His decision put the Russia probe in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller III as special counsel.
And the president has frequently aired his disdain for the nation’s top law enforcement officer in public.
In July, Trump railed against Sessions for taking a “very weak position” on Clinton’s supposed crimes and the leaking of classified intelligence. He also referred to Sessions as “beleaguered.”
Last week, the president misspelled Sessions’s last name while fuming about special counsel Mueller’s probe of the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Kremlin.
“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. “Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Session!”
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