Who is John Huber?
U.S. Attorney John Huber of Utah is the latest to be brought in to “investigate the investigators” at the FBI and Justice Department, in lieu of what many had concluded was the only way to get to the bottom of misconduct there: a special counsel.
Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions has been under fire for some time from congressional Republicans and also from President Trump (and also from me and, I’ll bet, you) for not appointing a second special counsel. Obviously, the conflicts of interest at the Justice Department are so thickly layered and involve so many current and former employees that it can’t possibly be trusted to investigate itself. Sessions has announced in a letter to congressional leaders that he’s decided, at least for now, not to appoint a special counsel, but he assures us that Huber is already digging.
The appointment of Huber appears to be a compromise: On one hand, he’s “of Utah,” not “of Washington,” and that’s got to be good. He has more power than the IG, in that he’s a prosecutor with subpoena power and can file criminal charges. In addition to the alleged misconduct at the FBI and Justice relating to the FISA court and government surveillance, he’ll also be investigating how well they looked into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to the Uranium One deal, so, again, good.
On the other hand, Huber won’t be as independent as a special counsel in that his job falls under the supervision of Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, and that situation represents what seems to be a virtually insurmountable conflict. Rosenstein himself is one of the players in the drama unfolding at Justice; he reportedly even signed off on one of the FISA applications based on Christopher Steele’s fictional “dossier.” And, for what it’s worth (maybe a lot), Rosenstein is also the one who gave us special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate Russian “meddling” and allegations of “collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign and who appears to be giving tacit approval for Mueller to cast his net wherever he likes.
So, how does this work? Is Huber going to investigate his own boss?
Huber was appointed U.S. Attorney in 2015 by Obama, but he had the strong support of Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, so it’s hard to ascribe any partisan bias either way. Perhaps that’s one reason he was chosen for the job. He’s been quietly going about his business since November.
Democrats believe (and some “fact-checkers” imply) that they consider these allegations to have been dreamed up by wild-eyed conservative conspiracy theorists in tinfoil hats trying to “distract” from the Trump/Russia probe. But we already KNOW officials have lied under oath, omitted pertinent facts from applications to spy on Americans and expressed their fervent desire to keep Trump out of office, going so far as to refer to an “insurance policy.” And that’s just for starters. They’ve dragged their feet to the point of non-compliance with FOIA requests and subpoenas. They’ve redacted large portions of documents that turned out to have nothing to do with national security but appear to have had plenty to do with covering their behinds. And they sent around a draft memo of Hillary’s “exoneration” for various staff members to fine-tune before she and other witnesses had even been interviewed.
Sessions says he’s already receiving regular updates from Huber. I wonder how much collaboration there will be with Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has already interviewed many witnesses and accumulated thousands and thousands of documents. Anything to speed the process would be great, because the crimes that have been alleged come with statutes of limitations, some of which have already expired or will be expiring soon. If there’s one thing lawyers know, it's the art of the strategic delay.
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