(National Sentinel)Â NOversight:Â Republicans in Congress are sick and tired of Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department stonewalling their investigations into Obama-era corruption against their boss, President Donald J. Trump.
And their patience is flat running out.
In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa,Â demanded that he be provided anÂ unredactedÂ version of the memo outlining special counsel Robert Mueller’s scope.
Now that his investigation has passed the one-year mark and thereÂ still is no evidence of collusion, Grassley and other congressional Republicans smell a huge rat, and they want this witch hunt to end because it’s hurting the country.
The authority, independence, and accountability of independent counsels is a longstanding concern for jurists, lawmakers, and administrators of all political stripes. These investigations draw significant resources and operate to varying degrees independently from standard Department of Justice supervision. It is thus more likely that a special counsel investigation will evolve beyond its original parameters to capture additional, tangentially related matters. For example, a chief complaint against Kenneth Starr centered on the expanding scope of his investigation from one targeting real estate fraud to perjury about an affair.
It is no surprise then that a federal judge in a May 8, 2018 hearing in the Eastern District of Virginia expressed some skepticism about a heavily redacted August 2017 memorandum that was drafted three months after you issued the Order appointing Robert Mueller as Special Counsel, and that you both now assert details the actual scope of his investigation. The judge asked for, and the Special Counsel provided, an unredacted copy of the August Memorandum. This Committee likewise should be permitted to review the true nature and scope of the Special Counselâ€™s investigation. Like the Judiciary, Congress is a separate branch of government with its own constitutional duties that often require access to Executive Branch information. In this case the interests relate to both legislative and oversight responsibilities.
On April 26, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a bill to the full Senate that would codify current Department of Justice regulations regarding the appointment, authority, and supervision of a special counsel. The legislation also would require additional reports to Congress about significant steps taken and conclusions reached in a special counsel investigation. The draft legislation thus aims to ensure the independence and transparency of a special counselâ€™s workâ€”any special counselâ€™s work. Neither that bill nor this letter is intended to interfere in any way with Muellerâ€™s investigation. As I have said numerous times, that investigation should be free to follow the facts wherever they lead without any improper outside interference. However, that does not mean that it is immune from oversight or that information about the scope of its authority under existing Department regulations should be withheld from Congress.
Further, as we consider legislative proposals based largely on the Departmentâ€™s current rules, it is vital that Congress has a clear understanding of how the Department is interpreting them. As Judge Ellis stated in the hearing earlier this month, Americans do not support anyone in this country wielding unfettered power. That is doubly true when it is wielded in secret, beyond the purview of any oversight authority. In the Starr investigation, the scope and changes made to it were transparent. In this case, the public, Congress, and the courts all thought the scope was one thing, and have now been informed it is something else. For that reason and others, it is unclear precisely how, or whether, the Department is following its own regulations, what the actual bounds of Mr. Muellerâ€™s authority are, and how those bounds have been established.
Grassley gave Rosenstein until May 31 to comply with handing over the unredacted memo, as well as answer a series of questions he posed.
Rosenstein’s continued failure to comply with legitimate congressional oversight could be one of the biggest reasons why his job is said to be on the line.
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