Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) believes it’s “too early” for lawmakers to be calling for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged ties between Russia and President Donald J. Trump.
“There is no special prosecutor statute,” the South Carolina Republican told Fox News Tuesday. “There’s a regulation that allows for the appointment of special counsel if the Department of Justice has a conflict and if all 92 U.S. attorneys have a conflict.”
“Until that evidentiary burden has been satisfied, I don’t know why Republicans or Democrats are talking about special counsel,” said Gowdy, a House Intelligence Committee member.
The House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating alleged ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, and Russia’s reported attempts to curtail Hillary Clinton’s chances in the election last year by hacking the Democratic National Convention’s email server.
Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned last month after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Former and current White House officials told news outlets that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak in December, weeks before Trump’s inauguration.
Officials said Flynn didn’t divulge classified information during the conversation, which was captured on a routine wiretap of diplomats’ calls. However, Flynn told Kislyak that the Trump administration would likely adopt a more accommodating approach to sanctions.
Some lawmakers are calling for a special prosecutor to head the investigation into Trump’s campaign advisers and Russia. “It’s too early. Special counsel only applies to a criminal investigation,” Gowdy said, adding that the FBI investigates crimes, not Congress.
The FBI is also investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Officials won’t disclose many details about the investigation, including the topics discussed on the calls and how many of Trump’s advisers were talking to Russian intelligence officials.
In January, the FBI released a report concluding Russia had intervened in the election to help Trump win. However, it didn’t address whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in the effort.
Gowdy’s colleague and fellow Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who is also a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, has called for a special prosecutor and said that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.
“You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office to take — not just to recuse,” Issa said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has also called for an “independent” investigator to look into reports of contact between Trump campaign officials and members of the Russian government.
Gingrich said Trump should “take a lesson from the past” by appointing a “very smart, independent person” to investigate.
“Maybe somebody like Michael Mukasey, former attorney general [for George W. Bush] — put them in charge of the whole project, and say, you know, there are questions here, the country has questions, the media has questions, even members of Congress have questions,” Gingrich said.
But Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, has questioned the need for a special prosecutor, saying he’s not interested in a congressional “witch hunt.”
On Monday, Nunes said he had seen no evidence from the intelligence community that showed contact between Russia and Trump campaign advisers. The House committee recently expanded a previous investigation of Russia cyber hacking to look at the country’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, said he expected findings to be made public and that he’s concerned about the leaks of classified and sensitive information from the White House and intelligence communities.
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) March 1, 2017
Several leaks from anonymous government sources have revealed details about Flynn’s conversations with Russia, draft memos of policy plans, a report about the FBI investigations into Trump campaign officials, and more.
“A government can’t function with massive leaks at the highest level,” Nunes said.
Gowdy agrees with the rising concern over the leaks. “Russia is not our friend. … I am fine with investigating Russia. But to have a show hearing where you are discussing classified information is not in our country’s best interest,” he said.
On Monday, Trump was asked if he would support a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s influence on last year’s election. “I haven’t called Russia in 10 years,” Trump said, not directly answering the question.
But Trump did actually speak to Russia just a few weeks ago on Jan. 28, in a call that the Kremlin described as having “substance and sense.” Trump has denied knowing that his campaign advisers have contacted Russia during the campaign. He has also said he has no financial ties or other connections to Russia.