The Justice Department informed members of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that it has directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate "certain issues" surrounding the Uranium One deal, the Clinton Foundation, and other matters.
The department's letter, dated Nov. 13, is a direct response to July 27 and Sept. 26 letters sent by the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Robert William Goodlatte (R., Va.), and other members of the committee. The members who signed on requested the "appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate various matters, including the sale of Uranium One, alleged unlawful dealing related to the Clinton Foundation and other matters," the New York Times reports.
The department's response from Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, expresses the importance of the department's "duty to carefully evaluate" ongoing matters "in a non-political manner," noting "the Department does not ordinarily confirm or deny investigations, and this letter should not be construed to do so."
Boyd did acknowledge that the senior prosecutors would determine if any matters under investigation would merit the appointment of a special counsel.
"These senior prosecutors will report directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit a special counsel," Boyd wrote.
The letter follows comments made by President Donald Trump on Nov. 3 when he expressed disappointment in the Justice Department. Just before the president took off on his trip through Asia, he told the press that he is "really not involved in the Justice Department," but that it "should be looking at the Democrats."
"I’m really not involved with the Justice Department, I’d like to let it run itself," Trump said. "But, honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me."
Republicans are pushing for further investigation into the Uranium One deal and allegations of corruption involving the Clinton Foundation. The deal, approved under the Obama administration, gave Russia control of some 20 percent of U.S. uranium extraction capability.
Many democrats have criticized the focus on Uranium One and push for a special counsel, arguing it creates "discord" and could be a distraction from the investigation into Russian meddling and collusion. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D., Calif.) criticized the Justice Department’s letter on Monday, saying if the attorney general appoints a special counsel, it will be because he bends to pressure from Trump.
If the AG bends to pressure from President Trump and his allies, and appoints a special counsel to investigate Trump’s vanquished rival, it could spell the end of the DOJ as an independent institution. https://t.co/RkcL9Rsf8t
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 14, 2017
The department's letter also referenced allegations that the FBI did not properly handle the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. Boyd made the committee aware of the department's initial review into the issue, which was discussed in a previous letter sent to the committee on Jan. 12.
Boyd said the investigations include issues raised in the committee's letters and the inspector general will "determine whether he should expand the scope of his investigation based on the information contained in those letters."
Once the IG makes his determinations, the department will decide if additional steps are "necessary to address any issues identified."