WASHINGTON — After meeting with senators Thursday about the FBI’s Russia campaign influence investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sat down with House members behind closed doors today.
Several lawmakers told reporters that the briefing wasn’t useful and didn’t supply them with information they were seeking.
“It renewed my confidence that we should have no confidence in this Administration,” tweeted Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters outside the meeting about the mood of lawmakers: “I don’t think anyone’s happy that the Russians have had the gall to attempt to influence our election and that they continue to be a smaller version of the evil empire I grew up with.”
“I do believe that there was great consensus that going after the Russians for interfering with our election is a nonpartisan or bipartisan issue, one that both sides need to get resolved before the next election, not just as to what they did, but how to prevent it,” he added.
Asked about President Trump’s characterization of the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI director under presidents Bush and Obama, to lead the investigation as a “witch hunt,” Issa replied, “Well, I don’t personally believe in witches. But, look, the director’s job is in fact, to go where the facts lead, and he has a reputation.”
Issa predicted Mueller is “going to find things beyond the scope that the narrowest interpretation of either Republicans or Democrats would want.”
The congressman added that he “absolutely” has confidence in Mueller’s probe. “The definition of ‘fair’ will not be a Republican definition — they won’t like it — a Democratic definition — at times they won’t like it. And the president, at times, will be frustrated,” Issa said. “But, you know, again, this is about public confidence. And I think, most importantly, this will not be a partisan activity, even though partisans will complain one way or the other.”
Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told reporters Mueller should “bring some normalcy to this process” and doesn’t let others push him around.
Cummings said his “informal survey” indicates 90 percent of Congress is happy with the Mueller appointment.
“There may be some disagreement, but no problem with us sitting down, working with Mueller and his assistants and coming up with a plan so that we don’t interfere with his investigation and we’re allowed to do what we have to do,” he said of the congressional probes.
Cummings wrapped up with a message for reporters: “If there is any moment that the press, in our country’s history, has a major role, it is this moment. This is your moment. You have got to put it out there so people can understand what is going on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is about the fight for the soul of our democracy.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said Rosenstein fielded between 10 and 15 questions about his memo written before the termination of former FBI Director James Comey, which the deputy attorney general defended and called “not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.”
Sherman said Rosenstein “avoided at least 10 times any question” about whether he was directed or pressured on the contents of the memo, which detailed last summer’s handling by Comey of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
“We began this month thinking the issue is whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. We end this month, as we always do in these circumstances, saying it’s not the possible crime — and we have no idea whether there was collusion or not — it’s the cover-up,” Sherman told reporters.
“And so, the question for the second half of this month is: Was Comey fired in a brilliantly unsuccessful effort to derail an investigation into collusion? And we’ll have to see,” he added. “…Only incompetent collusion is detectable collusion.”
Sherman added that “Democratic outrage over the last few months is beyond the scale of measuring devices.”
Issa said that Congress “is going to want to look over the shoulder of this investigation — it’s going to want to be kept fully briefed.”
“You can never get guidance from the executive branch on how Congress is to do something, because there’s inherently always going to be tension,” the California Republican said. “…The executive branch will always try to limit that for fear that it would contaminate potential criminal investigations or leaks. All the while, sometimes leaks occur in the executive branch. So, I don’t expect this to be any different.”