WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s closest conservative allies in Congress called for the appointment of a second special counsel on Tuesday to investigate the probe into Trump’s campaign, Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, as Trump ramped up his own criticism of the Department of Justice.
At least 18 Republican lawmakers signed onto a resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to investigate the department and the FBI, accusing them of misconduct as Trump campaigned two years ago against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined comment.
For months, conservatives have been criticizing the department, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the election. Their rhetoric intensified after Trump suggested on Friday that the FBI might have planted or recruited an informant in his presidential campaign for political purposes.
Trump discussed the issue again on Tuesday.
“If they had spies in my campaign that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone’s ever seen,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is visiting Washington ahead of Trump’s planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moscow denies election meddling and Trump denies any collusion between Russian officials and his campaign, calling investigations a political witch hunt.
On Monday, the Justice Department agreed to investigate “any irregularities” in FBI tactics related to Trump’s campaign. The agreement was made during a meeting between Trump, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“It is time for transparency and it is time to allow the American people to know the truth,” Representative Mark Meadows, the Republican who leads the conservative Freedom Caucus, told a news conference announcing the resolution.
Representative Lee Zeldin, who led the push for the resolution, said it would be introduced later on Tuesday.
Zeldin, Meadows and about a dozen other Republicans in the House of Representatives insisted at a news conference announcing the resolution that Trump had not requested a new counsel.
They also called for access, for Democrats as well as Republicans, to all documents related to the case.
There was no immediate response from House leadership aides on whether the measure might come up for a vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said repeatedly, however, that he believed Mueller should be allowed to continue his work.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additinoal reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Grant McCool