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House GOP working with Justice Dept. to bring Rosenstein back to Capitol Hill

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, in Washington on Sept. 4, 2018. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, in Washington on Sept. 4, 2018. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Committee expects to interview Deputy Attorney General Rod. Rosenstein behind closed doors sometime in the next few weeks, according to its chairman, who said he is finalizing the meeting’s details with the Justice Department.

“There are many questions we have for Mr. Rosenstein, including questions about allegations made against him in a recent news article,” the chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said in a statement issued Friday. “We need to get to the bottom of these very serious claims.”

Rosenstein agreed to a meeting after speaking with Goodlatte on Thursday, said an administration official with knowledge of their discussion.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the Judiciary Committee “is calling the shots,” and “we support the Judiciary Chairman.”

Memos kept by Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, say Rosenstein suggested secretly recording President Donald Trump, potentially as part of a plan to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment. Rosenstein has vehemently denied this but offered to resign after the report’s publication last week.

He is expected to meet with Trump next week to discuss the matter.

The reports that Rosenstein suggested taping Trump touched off a firestorm from conservative Republicans, who had been pummeling the deputy attorney general to turn over documents they have requested as part of a probe scrutinizing the Justice Department and FBI’s conduct during their investigations of Trump and Clinton. Over the summer, those Republicans attempted to secure a vote on a resolution to impeach Rosenstein, but in recent weeks, their crusade against the deputy attorney general lost the backing of top GOP officials, who felt that Rosenstein’s DOJ was complying with the requests.

But in recent days, top GOP officials have been backing conservative Republicans’ demands for more information. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McCabe’s memos, along with several documents related to the FBI’s application to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and documents about the Justice Department’s Russia probe that had already been shared with the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of congressional and intelligence committee leaders who receive the most sensitive intelligence briefings.

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An agreement from GOP leaders to call Rosenstein to testify puts to rest any lingering speculation that the House would schedule a vote to impeach Rosenstein during the last few days that lawmakers are in town, before departing Washington for an extended pre-midterm campaign period. It is not clear exactly when Rosenstein’s appearance on Capitol Hill would be scheduled, but it will surely be after most lawmakers are scheduled to be away from Washington.

If the House GOP and Justice Department fail to secure a date for Rosenstein’s testimony, lawmakers may force him to come to Capitol Hill, according to Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who tweeted early Friday that “if Mr. Rosenstein fails to show up, we will subpoena him.”

Earlier this week, Meadows said that he wanted Rosenstein to testify next week. On Thursday, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he thought Republicans were “moving in a good direction as far as getting Mr. Rosenstein to come before Congress,” and that he expected Rosenstein would meet with lawmakers “soon.”

The House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees have been conducting a joint probe into the FBI’s and Justice Department’s conduct during their investigations into Trump’s alleged Russia ties and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Jordan said the joint committee plans next week to meet with former FBI general counsel James Baker. Lawmakers also are expected to meet during the third week of October with Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for Fusion GPS, the firm behind a dossier detailing Trump’s alleged personal and business ties to Russia, according to two members. Ohr is married to Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who met on several occasions with former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who compiled the information in the dossier.

The committees have in recent days sent letters inviting Steele to speak with the panels as part of the probe; they have sent similar letters to former FBI director James B. Comey, former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos as well, according to Judiciary Committee Democrats. Steele rejected the invitation on Thursday; his refusal could prompt the committees to issue a subpoena for his testimony.

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