Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Judiciary Committee Republicans today sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein calling for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate unaddressed matters, some connected to the 2016 election and others, including many actions taken by Obama Administration officials like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The letter follows yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee approval of H. Res. 446, as amended, to request documents pertaining to the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary Clinton.
In their letter, the Judiciary Committee members express concern that the directive given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is narrow in scope and many concerns arising out of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath are not being investigated. The members call for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate grave concerns such as former Attorney General Lynch’s directive to former FBI Director Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the investigation into former Secretary Clinton; the FBI and Justice Department’s investigative decisions related to the Clinton email investigation, including the immunity deals given to potential co-conspirators; selected leaks of classified information that unmasked U.S. persons incidentally collected upon by the intelligence community; and the FBI’s reliance on “Fusion GPS” in its investigation of the Trump campaign, among many others issues.
Full text of today’s letter is available here and below.
July 27, 2017
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein:
We are writing to you to request assistance in restoring public confidence in our nation’s justice system and its investigators, specifically the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). We need to enable these agencies to perform their necessary and important law enforcement and intelligence functions fully unhindered by politics. While we presume that the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence has been subsumed into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, we are not confident that other matters related to the 2016 election and aftermath are similarly under investigation by Special Counsel Mueller. The unbalanced, uncertain, and seemingly unlimited focus of the special counsel’s investigation has led many of our constituents to see a dual standard of justice that benefits only the powerful and politically well-connected. For this reason, we call on you to appoint a second special counsel to investigate a plethora of matters connected to the 2016 election and its aftermath, including actions taken by previously public figures like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Many Democrats and members of the Washington media previously called for a “special prosecutor” to investigate Russian influence on the election and connections with the Trump campaign. Not surprisingly, once you actually made the decision to appoint a special counsel, the calls for further investigations by congressional committees continued, focused on allegations that have heretofore produced no evidence of criminality, despite the fact that over a year has passed since the opening of the original FBI investigation. Political gamesmanship continues to saturate anything and everything associated with reactions to President Trump’s executive decisions, and reveals the hypocrisy of those who refuse to allow the Special Counsel’s investigation to proceed without undue political influence. It is an unfortunate state of affairs.
Your stated rationale for recommending Director Comey’s termination as FBI Director was his mishandling of former Secretary Clinton’s email investigation and associated public disclosures concerning the investigation’s findings. We believe this was the correct decision. It is clear that Director Comey contributed to the politicization of the FBI’s investigations by issuing his public statement, nominating himself as judge and jury, rather than permitting career DOJ prosecutors to make the final decision. But many other questions remain unanswered, due to Mr. Comey’s premature and inappropriate decision, as well as the Obama Justice Department’s refusal to respond to legitimate Congressional oversight. Last week, the Republican Members of this Committee sent a letter to the Justice Department, asking for responses to those unanswered inquiries. These questions cannot, for history’s sake and for the preservation of an impartial system of justice, be allowed to die on the vine.
It is therefore incumbent on this Committee, in our oversight capacity, to ensure that the agencies we oversee are above reproach and that the Justice Department, in particular, remains immune to accusations of politicization. Many Congressional entities have been engaged in oversight of Russian influence on the election, but a comprehensive investigation into the 2016 Presidential campaign and its aftermath must, similarly, be free of even the suggestion of political interference. The very core of our justice system demands as much. A second, newly-appointed special counsel will not be encumbered by these considerations, and will provide real value to the American people in offering an independent perspective on these extremely sensitive matters.
Our call for a special counsel is not made lightly. We have no interest in engendering more bad feelings and less confidence in the process or governmental institutions by the American people. Rather, our call is made on their behalf. It is meant to determine whether the criminal prosecution of any individual is warranted based on the solemn obligation to follow the facts wherever they lead and applying the law to those facts.
As we referenced above, Democrats and the mainstream media called for a special counsel to be appointed to investigate any Russian influence on President Trump’s campaign. Their pleas were answered, but there are many questions that may be outside the scope of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. This was clear following Mr. Comey’s recent testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017, which ignited renewed scrutiny of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and the actions she took to mislead the public concerning the investigation into the Clinton email investigation. Last year, this Committee inquired repeatedly about the circumstances surrounding that and other matters, but our inquiries were largely ignored.
During his testimony, Mr. Comey referenced a meeting on the Phoenix airport tarmac between Ms. Lynch and former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Comey raised concerns about Ms. Lynch’s conduct, and questioned her independence, stating:
At one point, the attorney general had directed me not to call it an investigation, but instead to call it a matter, which confused me and concerned me. That was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude, ‘I have to step away from the department if we’re to close this case credibly.’
In addition, in preparing to testify in front of Congress for a September 2015 hearing, Mr. Comey asked Ms. Lynch at the time whether she was prepared to refer to the Clinton investigation as just that, an “investigation.” Mr. Comey testified that Ms. Lynch said, “Yes, but don’t call it that, call it a matter.” Mr. Comey retorted, “Why would I do that?” Ms. Lynch answered, “Just call it a matter.” Mr. Comey stated that he acquiesced, but it gave him “a queasy feeling,” since it gave him the “impression that the attorney general was trying to align how we describe our work” with how the Clinton campaign was talking about it.
Notwithstanding the fact that the FBI is the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and not the Federal Bureau of Matters, one is hard-pressed to understand why Ms. Lynch directed then-Director Comey to call the Clinton investigation a “matter” unless she intended to use such deceptive language to help wrongly persuade the American people that former Secretary Clinton was not, in fact, the subject of a full-scale FBI investigation, or to otherwise undermine the integrity of the investigation.
Following Director Comey’s Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, Senator Dianne Feinstein was asked about the testimony while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Senator Feinstein stated, “I would have a queasy feeling too, though, to be candid with you, I think we need to know more about that, and there’s only one way to know about it, and that’s to have the Judiciary Committee take a look at that.”
We share Senator Feinstein’s and Mr. Comey’s concerns – specifically, that during the midst of a contentious Presidential election, which was already rife with scandal arising from Secretary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information, that our nation’s chief law enforcement officer would instruct the FBI Director, her subordinate, to mislead the American public about the nature of the investigation. Following Ms. Lynch’s directive to downplay the Clinton investigation as a “matter,” Director Comey infamously terminated the Clinton investigation, stating, “[a]lthough there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Mr. Comey’s testimony has provided new evidence that Ms. Lynch may have used her position of authority to undermine the Clinton investigation. At any other point in history this accusation would entail a shock to the conscience of law abiding Americans who expect a DOJ free of political influence. We only have, however, an investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election, including any ties to the Trump campaign. To limit our nation’s insight into just this this single component of the 2016 election will only cause the special counsel’s work to be derided as one-sided and incomplete. The special counsel’s work must begin and end unimpeded by political motivations on either side of the aisle. For these reasons, the following points must also be fully investigated – ideally, via a second special counsel. This is imperative to regain the cherished trust and confidence in our undoubtedly distressed law enforcement and political institutions.
We call on a newly appointed special counsel to investigate, consistent with appropriate regulations, the following questions, many of which were previously posed by this Committee and remain unanswered:
- Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directing Mr. Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the Clinton investigation;
- The shadow cast over our system of justice concerning Secretary Clinton and her involvement in mishandling classified information;
- FBI and DOJ’s investigative decisions related to former Secretary Clinton’s email investigation, including the propriety and consequence of immunity deals given to potential Clinton co-conspirators Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, John Bentel and possibly others;
- The apparent failure of DOJ to empanel a grand jury to investigate allegations of mishandling of classified information by Hillary Clinton and her associates;
- The Department of State and its employees’ involvement in determining which communications of Secretary Clinton’s and her associates to turn over for public scrutiny;
- WikiLeaks disclosures concerning the Clinton Foundation and its potentially unlawful international dealings;
- Connections between the Clinton campaign, or the Clinton Foundation, and foreign entities, including those from Russia and Ukraine;
- Mr. Comey’s knowledge of the purchase of Uranium One by the company Rosatom, whether the approval of the sale was connected to any donations made to the Clinton Foundation, and what role Secretary Clinton played in the approval of that sale that had national security ramifications;
- Disclosures arising from unlawful access to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer systems, including inappropriate collusion between the DNC and the Clinton campaign to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign;
- Post-election accusations by the President that he was wiretapped by the previous Administration, and whether Mr. Comey and Ms. Lynch had any knowledge of efforts made by any federal agency to unlawfully monitor communications of then-candidate Trump or his associates;
- Selected leaks of classified information related to the unmasking of U.S. person identities incidentally collected upon by the intelligence community, including an assessment of whether anyone in the Obama Administration, including Mr. Comey, Ms. Lynch, Ms. Susan Rice, Ms. Samantha Power, or others, had any knowledge about the “unmasking” of individuals on then candidate-Trump’s campaign team, transition team, or both;
- Admitted leaks by Mr. Comey to Columbia University law professor, Daniel Richman, regarding conversations between Mr. Comey and President Trump, how the leaked information was purposefully released to lead to the appointment of a special counsel, and whether any classified information was included in the now infamous “Comey memos”;
- Mr. Comey’s and the FBI’s apparent reliance on “Fusion GPS” in its investigation of the Trump campaign, including the company’s creation of a “dossier” of information about Mr. Trump, that dossier’s commission and dissemination in the months before and after the 2016 election, whether the FBI paid anyone connected to the dossier, and the intelligence sources of Fusion GPS or any person or company working for Fusion GPS and its affiliates; and
- Any and all potential leaks originated by Mr. Comey and provide to author Michael Schmidt dating back to 1993.
You have the ability now to right the ship for the American people so these investigations may proceed independently and impartially. The American public has a right to know the facts – all of them – surrounding the election and its aftermath. We urge you to appoint a second special counsel to ensure these troubling, unanswered questions are not relegated to the dustbin of history.