Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met resistance and pushed back as he sparred with Republican lawmakers during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday. He fought off allegations that the Justice Department is hiding information from Congress, WBUR News reports.
House Republicans accuse Rosenstein of denying congressional requests for documents related to the Russia probe and the Hillary Clinton email investigation, according to WBUR News. Donald Trump appointed Rosenstein. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from all matters related to the Russia investigations because of his involvement with the Trump campaign, which leaves Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein as the official in charge of overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, WBUR reports.
The House passed a resolution Thursday 226 to 183 demanding that the Justice Department fully comply with subpoenas from the Judiciary and Intelligence committees by July 6, CNN reports. Conservatives say they may hold Rosenstein in contempt or even impeach him if he doesn’t comply.
Thursday’s hearing was originally supposed to be about the Justice Department inspector general report into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, which found no bias against Trump, but much of the focus was on the special counsel and the congressional subpoenas.
At the hearing, Rosenstein argued that the House was “mistaken” that the Justice Department wasn’t trying to comply with the subpoenas from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, but that did not stop the party line vote, CNN reports.
Rosenstein vowed that the Congress would not hold him in contempt.
“We are not in contempt of this Congress,” Rosenstein said. “We are not going to be in contempt of this Congress,” he added.
Democrats say Republicans are making document requests for sensitive materials about ongoing investigations that cannot be shared so that Trump can try firing Rosenstein with cherry-picked and misrepresented details.
“As part of their coordinated and determined effort to undermine the special counsel’s investigation, Republicans are requesting documents they know they cannot have,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel.
The committee’s Democrats gave Rosenstein and Wray a chance to defend themselves.
“Mr. Rosenstein, are you a Democrat?” asked Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who was referencing Trump’s tweets claiming “13 angry Democrats” on the Mueller team.
“I’m not a Democrat, and I’m not angry,” Rosenstein said.
Gutierrez accused Republicans of trying to remove Rosenstein from office. “They want to impeach you. They want to indict you. They want to get rid of you,” he said, wishing Rosenstein “good luck.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina had sharp words about the Mueller investigation, urging him to “finish it the hell up.”
“Russia isn’t being hurt by this investigation right now. We are. This country is being hurt by it,” Gowdy said. “We need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people.”
Rosenstein wants Mueller to continue his investigation in a manner that’s thorough and conclusive no matter how long it takes. He doesn’t think it should be rushed.
“I’ve heard suggestions that we should just close the investigation. I think the best thing we could do is finish it appropriately, and reach a conclusion,” Rosenstein said. “And I certainly agree with you, sir, that people should not jump to conclusions without seeing the evidence. I’ve been the victim of fake news attacks myself so I’m sympathetic,” he said.