Roughly one year after U.S. Attorney John Huber was appointed to investigate whether accusations that the FBI and Justice Department abused their powers during the 2016 election season merit prosecution, his work remains shrouded in mystery.
Likely witnesses tell The Washington Times that they haven’t heard from him, though they are eager to tell what they know.
Nor has Mr. Huber kept congressional overseers in the loop on his activities.
“I would just like to know what he’s doing,” Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, told The Times. “I’ll take anything. All I know is that we haven’t heard a single thing about what he’s doing.”
Mr. Jordan, a member of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, said those panels have not received any reports or updates from Mr. Huber since his appointment. He and Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week asking for an update.
Mr. Meadows told The Times it is imperative that Mr. Huber appear before Congress to detail what he has been doing.
“I have not seen a lot of evidence that Mr. Huber has done anything other than be appointed by Jeff Sessions,” he said. “It’s been portrayed that he’s making great progress, but I’m not sure there is a whole lot to show for it other than rhetoric right now. I’m not aware of any substantial work that he’s doing.”
Mr. Sessions secretly picked Mr. Huber last fall to dig into whether the FBI misused its power when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. He also is supposed to be reviewing whether the FBI mishandled investigations into 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Sessions didn’t reveal the appointment until the spring, when he was under pressure to name a special counsel to investigate those issues. He said there was no need for such a step because the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, was already looking into the matters. He also revealed that Mr. Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, was performing his own evaluation.
The benefit of Mr. Huber, the Justice Department said, is that as a U.S. attorney he could use grand jury subpoena powers to obtain documents and witness statements that the inspector general might not.
“I have been willing to speak with anyone who wants to talk,” Mr. Page told The Times.
He said he hasn’t spoken with the inspector general, either.
Mr. Jordan said the lack of contact with Mr. Page was surprising.
“If [the FISA warrant] is part of his charge, which it is, why hasn’t he talked to the central figure, Carter Page?” he said. “Again, we need a briefing from him. What the heck is going on? Was this all just a show the whole time?”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Huber declined to comment but referred to the attorney general’s letter revealing his appointment. The letter describes Mr. Huber’s role as reviewing the inspector general’s work to see whether any matter not under investigation should be investigated or whether any matter under investigation requires further resources.
The arrangement has drawn skepticism from lawmakers.
“I don’t know that Huber looking over Horowitz’s shoulder is the most prudent thing to do,” Mr. Meadows said. “The scope that Huber was supposed to be looking at was much more broad than what the inspector general was supposed to be looking at. I don’t see them as mutually exclusive.”
Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor and a conservative, questioned why a U.S. attorney would be needed to examine only an inspector general’s findings.
“It sounds like he’s just looking over Horowitz’s shoulder to see if anything warrants a criminal referral, but they don’t need a U.S. attorney to do that,” she said. “That could have been done with a lawyer for the criminal division of the Justice Department. It sounds like a bunch of nothing, which all of us were afraid it would be.”
Although Mr. Huber was chosen in lieu of appointing a second special counsel, he was touted as a special counsel in everything but the name because he has the same authority. Mr. Huber can subpoena witnesses, including past government employees, and prosecute cases himself, all powers the inspector general does not possess.
That authority could result in meaningful action, said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a lawyer who served as independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s deputy during investigations into President Clinton.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m reviewing the inspector general’s work,’ and another thing to say, ‘I’m reviewing the inspector general’s work with the subpoena power of a U.S. attorney,’” he said. “That’s the significance.”
So far, only one inspector general case stemming from the campaign season has been referred for prosecution, and it’s not clear whether Mr. Huber played a role in that recommendation.
The U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia is reviewing whether criminal charges should be filed against former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was found to have lied repeatedly, at times under oath, to investigators.
Mr. Sessions said Mr. Huber is reporting directly to him, which may explain why so little is known about his actions. The attorney general traveled to Utah this month to give a speech on violent crime. Mr. Huber traveled back to Washington with him to continue his federal investigation, according to sources familiar with the matter.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
Still, conservatives worry that Mr. Huber is mere window dressing to quell calls for a second special counsel.
“Sessions was trying to pacify people that were demanding a second special counsel,” Ms. Powell said. “There is nothing to expect from Huber except maybe some recommendations in the [Carter Page] FISA report, but that’s no big deal. Anyone can do that.”
Mr. Wisenberg said critics of the Huber appointment should be more patient and taper their expectations.
“I’m not worked up about [the lack of action] because I know a lot of time you don’t think anything is going on and then someone is indicted,” he said. “Did anyone really expect mass indictments of people in the FBI?”
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