Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that the Justice Department's inspector general is looking into a House Republican memo's claim that prosecutors and FBI agents misled a federal judge when applying for warrants to surveil a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Moscow.
In response to a question at a press conference about government anti-opioid efforts, Sessions appeared to confirm that the Justice Department is investigating the surveillance-related allegations leveled in the memo issued by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and declassified on Feb. 2 at the order of President Donald Trump.
"We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the high standards in the FISA court and, yes, it will be investigated. And I think that’s just the appropriate thing," Sessions said, referring to the secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "The inspector general will take that as one of the matters they’ll deal with," he added.
The GOP memo charged that federal officials did not fully disclose important facts in an October 2016 FISA warrant application to monitor the communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, including that Democrats had funded a private intelligence dossier which was part of the basis for the request.
A Democratic rebuttal memo released Saturday said that the application did in fact disclose that the dossier had been commissioned by Trump's political rivals, and noted that federal judges renewed the warrant on Page three times after its initial approval. Democrats call the GOP memo an effort to raise misleading doubts about the Russia investigation's integrity.
A spokeswoman for Sessions said his comments were accurate, but referred further questions to aides in the office of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. A spokesman there did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Horowitz announced in January 2017 that he was opening a review into numerous sensitive issues, including whether political considerations affected the FBI's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. The IG also indicated he planned to examine whether some FBI or Justice Department officials engaged in improper communications with Clinton's campaign or should have recused themselves.
Horowitz's announcement of the probe did not indicate any plans to examine issues related to surveillance applications, such as Trump's claims that his campaign aides were subjected to politically-motivated surveillance before and after the 2016 election.
Over the past year, both Democrats and Republicans have asked Horowitz to expand his inquiry to sweep in various other matters. Before Sessions' comments Tuesday, there was no explicit indication he had done so. Indeed, Horowitz's spokespeople have rebuffed media questions about the scope of the review. His answers to lawmakers have also been non-committal.
Horowitz did say in House testimony last November that he expected the election-related review to be completed by March or April of this year.
It was not immediately clear whether the surveillance-focused review Sessions confirmed Tuesday would be part of the effort announced last January or separate from that.
In an interview earlier this month, Sessions was asked about GOP demands for a special counsel to investigate alleged abuses of power by the FBI and Justice Department. Neither the question nor his answer specifically referenced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but he did say the topic was under review by the IG.
"Well, the inspector general has been working very hard on that. He’s been relentless and tough," Sessions said on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures." "I’ve see—I've heard some of his work that’s been produced already. Much of what we know about this has been produced by his work and the Department of Justice."