Early this month, President Trump tweeted:
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. 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!
Trump’s tweet was foolish at several levels, as I argued here. For one thing, folks who know what they’re talking about — e.g., Trey Gowdy — say that the Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, is doing a good job investigating. Indeed, it was Horowitz who turned up the notorious Strzok-Page text messages in the course of his investigation of the Department of Justice/FBI handling of the Clinton email investigation in advance of the presidential election.
Moreover, Sessions was, in fact, using Justice Department lawyers with prosecutorial power in connections with potential FISA and related abuses. Since November, John Huber, the U.S. Attorney for Utah, has been on the case. Trump apparently didn’t know this, but he should have. Sometimes it’s better to talk to the Attorney General than mindlessly to blast him on Twitter.
Huber was appointed by President Obama, but his name was submitted by Senators Hatch and Lee of Utah. Thus, his selection by Sessions seems like a shrewd move. As Obama’s nominee it will be difficult for critics plausibly to paint him as anti-Democrat. But as the favorite of Hatch and Lee, Republicans should be confident that he’s not in the Democrats’ pocket. Moreover, because Huber works out of Utah, it’s unlikely that he’s connected in any way with D.C. insiders such as James Comey and Andrew McCabe.
What about the decision to use a U.S. attorney rather than appoint a special counsel? This decision also seems sound, and not just because I don’t like special counsels. The combination of the IG and the USA should be able to accomplish as much as a special counsel would — and accomplish it faster and with less fanfare.
The absence of fanfare is an advantage because it makes it more difficult for Democrats and their media partners to push the idea that anyone is being persecuted. A Justice Department investigation headed by two Obama appointees is harder to shoot at than a special counsel. And, of course, nothing prevents Sessions from appointing a special counsel if changed circumstances militate in favor of doing so.
In sum, Sessions has handled this matter well, Trump’s foolish tweets notwithstanding.