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Renato Mariotti @renato_mariotti
, 15 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
THREAD: What does the Sessions letter about considering the appointment of a special counsel mean? Should the public be concerned that he will do so?
1/ In the tweet linked above, @PaulaReidCBS posted a letter from Attorney General Sessions regarding the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and other matters.
2/ There is already a good analysis of the letter by @benjaminwittes in this thread, which is worth reading. He reads the letter as a signal that Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein will not appoint a special counsel:
3/ If you don't have time to read the entire thread, which analyzes the letter (it's actually written by Assistant AG Boyd, who works for Sessions), here is his conclusion:
4/ I think his thread is well-written and reasoned, and there is something to his argument. But here is the important paragraph in his thread that makes most of his argument, in my view:
5/ There is certainly something to what he's saying. Sessions (either himself or through his subordinate) can't tell Republicans in Congress that their concerns are silly, particularly given that Trump has encouraged investigation of the matters in Congress's letters to Sessions.
6/ But many of the issues raised in the letter are silly, at least as starting points for a criminal investigation. For one thing, many of them are past the statute of limitations for federal crimes, which is generally five years.
7/ Other things that are raised in the Congressional letter are not crimes at all, such as the FBI's reliance on a dossier for leads in an investigation. It's unclear why the DOJ would look into whether the FBI relied on a particular piece of evidence in an investigation.
8/ It is also unusual for the FBI to reopen investigations that are closed, particularly without a very good reason to do so. The letters from Congress don't provide any specific reasons to reopen FBI investigations into Uranium One, Clinton's emails, and so on.
9/ It is also unusual for DOJ (or the FBI) to investigate its own internal decision making processes absent evidence of wrongdoing. The letters from Congress do not even make specific allegations of wrongdoing by DOJ officials regarding immunity or charging decisions.
10/ The letters from Congress also provide no rationale regarding why a special counsel should be appointed. 28 CFR 600.1 limits appointment of a special counsel to cases that "would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances."
11/ In short, on their face, the letters from Congress contain several obvious deficiencies. Yet the letter from DOJ does not point out any of them or even address that it will consider whether some of the matters are not crimes, past the statute of limitations, etc.
12/ The fact that Sessions is not calling out any of this suggests that he is taking seriously an investigation of these issues. Perhaps @benjaminwittes is right and Sessions is finding a polite way to stay "no" to Congress. But that doesn't seem likely to me.
13/ It seems more likely, in my view, that he's trying to find a way to give Congress at least some of what it wants. There's no reason to appoint a special counsel--Sessions has no conflict as to Comey or Clinton--so I suspect DOJ will investigate some piece of this itself.
14/ I hope I'm wrong, because this appears to be an effort to manufacture a criminal investigation against the President's political opponent. But Congress (and the press) should ask tough questions in case I'm right. /end
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