President Donald Trump’s latest skirmish with Jeff Sessions played out on Twitter Wednesday morning, as he criticized the attorney general for not doing enough to investigate potential surveillance abuse.
Trump tweeted that an internal investigation into Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) FISA abuse allegations—laid out in a controversial memo—would be toothless if run by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, as opposed to DoJ lawyers themselves.
“DISGRACEFUL!” Trump added, after asking why Sessions had given the task to the IG.
But former inspectors general tell The Daily Beast that it makes perfect sense for the investigation to move forward this way.
“The request to do an investigation like this is well within the jurisdiction of the IG’s office and frankly, I think, is something the IG ought to do,” Michael Bromwich, formerly the Justice Department’s Inspector General, told The Daily Beast. “I think the IG is uniquely qualified to do it. I don’t know of any other entity within the DOJ that could do it as credibly.”
Joel Brenner, formerly the IG for the National Security Agency, said an investigation run by the DoJ’s inspector general’s office could set the record straight—and in a way that might be unhelpful for Nunes.
“The Nunes report is so transparently twisted that I’d want to review the evidence... and I’d want to do it on my own initiative, not because I was ordered to do it,” he told The Daily Beast.
“The politicization of the intelligence committees is a political sin,” Brenner added.
Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, created the impetus for this investigation by releasing a controversial memo earlier this month. That memo alleged that FBI agents deceived the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when requesting the authority to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
Sessions told reporters yesterday that the department’s inspector general would look into allegations and called it “the appropriate thing to do.”
While the president, on Wednesday, torched the idea, not everyone in his orbit was critical. Fox News’ Sean Hannity, in fact, praised the effort. “People should and could end up behind bars,” he said on his show.