Rep. Darrell Issa on Monday clarified his stance on a review of Russian ties to President Trump, apparently backing off his recent call for a special prosecutor.
“The American people need a clear-eyed view of the nefarious actions of the Russian government,” Issa said in the wake of his appearance Friday on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” where he told the HBO host that “you’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office.”
CBS News said Issa “backtracked” on his call for a special prosecutor to look into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“I certainly could see where if there is an allegation of a crime at some point, the call for a special prosecutor makes sense,” Issa was quoted as saying Monday. “I think it’s very important to realize there’s been no allegation by any part of this administration or by anyone who’s been to the hearings about any crimes.”
He also told CBS News: “So one of the challenges we have is a special prosecutor exists when you have an individual under suspicion. Currently we don’t have that.”
For a review to have the full confidence of the U.S. public, Issa said in a 216-word statement, he’s now backing an “independent review.”
Calvin Moore, a spokesman for Issa, disputed that his latest statement represents a softening.
“The congressman isn’t walking back anything,” Moore told Times of San Diego via email. “For any investigation within the administration, the best way to handle that would be by independent review through a career investigator — not one led by political appointees or others who could create a conflict of interest. That’s still his view.”
In his statement, Issa said: “I want the Trump administration to be successful, and that starts with embracing high standards for openness and transparency.
“Right now, we have speculation and assumptions, but not clarity and fact, including questions about Russia’s actions, what the FBI knew of the cyber breaches, what the Obama Administration did in response, and potential actions of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.”
Issa — who faces another stiff challenge for re-election in 2018 — called the Putin government “a bad actor who should be carefully scrutinized.”
He said the United States has a vested interest in fully understanding exactly what happened, “outside the fog of accusation and political jostling. An investigation is not the same as an assertion of specific wrongdoing, it’s following the facts where they lead so that American people can know what may or may not have taken place.”
The former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee accused President Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch of allowing obstruction and unanswered questions to linger, “clouding their work and calling into question the impartiality of the FBI’s findings.
“These mistakes must not be repeated.”
Earlier Monday, Issa’s office issued a press release pointing to a San Diego Union-Tribune report that $400,000 “suddenly went missing from Doug Applegate’s campaign finance reports, with little explanation from the Applegate campaign.”
Applegate came close to defeating Issa in November, winning North San Diego County but falling short by 1,621 votes overall thanks to greater support in the south Orange County area of the 49th Congressional District.