An exchange between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) became uncomfortably intense during a House Judiciary Committee hearing today over the Department of Justice’s lack of transparency.
For weeks, congressional Republicans have been pressuring the DOJ to comply with record requests pertaining to their use of secret surveillance in 2016. Jordan had a chance to press Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray on the matter during the committee hearing on “Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election.”
Jordan immediately cut to the chase: “Why are you keeping information from Congress?” he asked Rosenstein.
The deputy AG denied that he was “keeping any information from Congress that’s appropriate” to share, prompting Jordan to declare that “in a few minutes” the House would say something different.
“I think in a few minutes, the House of Representatives is going to go on record saying you haven’t complied with requests from a separate and equal branch of government, that you haven’t complied with subpoenas, and you’ve got seven days to get your act together,” the fiery congressman from Ohio said.
Rosenstein again denied Jordan’s claims, saying his version of events was “not accurate.”
“It is accurate!” Jordan exclaimed. “We have caught you hiding information!”
At this point, Democrat members of the House Judiciary Committee jumped in, objecting to Jordan’s aggressive line of questioning: “Will you allow him to answer?” asked Rep. Swalwell (D-CA).
Allowed to continue, Jordan asked Rosenstein why he redacted texts revealing that Peter Strzok and U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras were friends.
Rosenstein replied testily, “I am the deputy attorney general of the United States! I am not the person doing the redacting.” He added that he has a team that does that work, and that whenever Congress has brought issues to his attention, he has taken “appropriate steps to remedy them.”
Also, it was his understanding that the production was actually “going very well.”
“Again, I think the House of Representatives is going to say otherwise,” Jordan shot back.
Rosenstein accused the congressman of attacking him personally, which Jordan denied. The congressman asked the deputy AG why former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok was advised by FBI counsel not to answer questions during his closed door interview with the committee yesterday.
Rosenstein replied that he didn’t give Strzok any instructions.
Jordan went on to bring up an extremely sensitive issue: “Did you threaten staffers on the House Intelligence Committee?” he demanded. “Media reports indicate you did.”
Rosenstein immediately denied the claim. “Media reports are mistaken,” he said.
“Sometimes,” Jordan replied. “This is what they [the staffers] said: ‘Having the nation’s number one law enforcement officer threaten to subpoena your calls and emails is downright chilling.'”
Rosenstein denied the accusation and pointed out that “there is no way to subpoena phone calls,” drawing laughter from those in the room.
“Who are we supposed to believe, staff members who we’ve worked with — who’ve never misled us — or you guys, who we’ve caught hiding information from us — who tell a witness not to answer our questions?” Jordan asked rhetorically. “Who are we supposed to believe?”
“Thank you for making clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan,” Rosenstein replied wearily.
Jordan demanded to know what is so important that the DOJ would refuse to comply with requests for documents and would threaten members (according to media reports) over. “What is so important, Mr. Rosenstein?” he asked.
Shortly after the exchange, the House passed a resolution with a 226-183 vote demanding that the DOJ produce all of the documents pertaining to Robert Mueller‘s probe and the FBI’s handling of the 2016 investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and Trump/Russia.