Rosenstein called out for allegedly threatening congressional staffers
Democrats expressed frustration throughout the hearing, arguing their Republican colleagues were attempting to undermine the credibility of the Mueller investigation and the Justice Department more generally.
Rosenstein took the most heat from Republicans on the committee, many of whom have called for him to be held in contempt of Congress or impeached for failing to fully comply with requests for sensitive documents related to the Trump-Russia investigation.
After one member sharply criticized the deputy attorney general for not recusing himself from Mueller’s Russia investigation, Rosenstein smiled ironically and replied, “I can assure you, if it were appropriate for me to recuse, I would be more than happy to do so and let somebody else handle this.”
The most intense back and forth took place when Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, confronted Rosenstein to accuse him of personally interfering in Congress’ oversight of the Justice Department.
Rosenstein struggled to respond to the question, saying he believed DOJ was working as quickly as it could to fulfill the requests before he was cut off.
“I appreciate your concerns,” Rosenstein said, attempting to interrupt Jordan, “but your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong.”
After claiming the line of questioning was “not personal,” Jordan persisted, “Mr. Rosenstein, we caught you hiding information from Congress.”
He accused the deputy attorney general of redacting information from documents delivered to Congress and directing FBI agent Peter Strzok, not to answer lawmakers’ questions during a roughly 11-hour deposition on Wednesday.
Jordan also brought up media reports claiming Rosenstein threatened to subpoena the “calls and emails” of congressional staffers on the intelligence committee. Rosenstein denied the reports and explained to Jordan that “there is no way to subpoena phone calls” eliciting laughter from the hearing room.
Asked why the deputy attorney general’s testimony should be trusted over the statements of congressional staffers, Rosenstein replied, “You should believe me because I’m telling the truth and I’m under oath.”
FIGHT FOR DOCUMENTS
GOP lawmakers were also eager to confront Rosenstein over the department’s slow response to congressional subpoenas for documents related to the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and the scope of the Mueller probe.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said that while the department had recently improved its responsiveness, the committee’s oversight “has been hampered by both the FBI and DOJ’s lack of consistent and vigorous production” of the documents requested by Congress.
According to FBI Director Wray, they have reviewed and produced more than 880,000 documents subpoenaed by the Judiciary Committee, but admittedly have not complied fully with Congress’ request for roughly 1.2 million documents. In the past week, an additional 100 FBI employees were added to the project, Wray said.
Rosenstein added a team of “hundreds” of FBI officials is “working around the clock” to produce the materials for Congress.