Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is considering appointing a second special counsel to investigate a raft of allegations connected to Hillary Clinton, a move that would fulfill long-standing demands from President Trump and the Republican base.
A Justice Department lawyer informed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that senior prosecutors were looking into whether a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the Clinton Foundation, Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of State, former FBI Director James B. Comey's decision not to prosecute Clinton, and a 2010 decision by the Obama administration regarding sales of uranium to a Russian company.
Prosecutors will "evaluate certain issues" surrounding the foundation and make recommendations on possible investigative steps — including the appointment of a special counsel, Stephen E. Boyd, assistant attorney general, wrote in a two-page letter to Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
In the letter, Boyd also said the Justice Department inspector general was examining the FBI's investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server, and the department had forwarded allegations raised by Goodlatte to see whether that investigation should be expanded.
Once that review is done, the department will decide whether to take "additional steps" on the email allegations, Boyd wrote.
Sessions' decision to publicly open the door to a second special counsel, adding to the already expansive investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign led by former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, is certain to fuel questions and controversy when Sessions testifies Tuesday in front of Goodlatte's committee.
Sessions already was under fire for inaccurate statements he made in previous testimony regarding contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
The letter, first reported by the Washington Post, does not promise to name a special counsel and seeks to avoid any sense of political partisanship. "You must know that the department will never evaluate any matter except on the facts and the law," Boyd wrote.
But administration critics sharply condemned the prospect that Sessions might name a special counsel to investigate Trump's presidential opponent and continued political foil more than a year after the election, saying doing so would be a clear abuse of power.
Naming a second special prosecutor would mean dueling investigations aimed at both the White House and the candidate who lost the election, a first in U.S. history.
"Seeking to punish the political rivals you defeat in elections is a good way to lose a republic," Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote on Twitter.
Trump for months has angrily pressured Sessions to open an investigation into Clinton and the foundation. During the summer, Sessions' job seemed in doubt, as Trump excoriated his attorney general repeatedly, calling him "weak." The president recently unleashed another Twitter storm about the issue.
"People are angry. At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!" he tweeted on Nov. 3.