Was Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein Telling the Truth When He Denied Threatening GOP Staffers?
Republicans on Capitol Hill are questioning the veracity of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last month regarding threats he allegedly made against congressional staff in January.
Twelve days ago Rosenstein denied under oath that he had threatened to retaliate against House Intelligence Committee aides, contradicting not only the claims of the staffers, but a DOJ spokesman's statements to multiple news outlets.
This came after a June 12 Fox News report in which Catherine Herridge reported that Rosenstein had threatened to subpoena the records of staffers on the GOP-led committee, citing multiple e-mails from congressional staff to the House of Representatives’ Office of General Counsel following the January meeting with Rosenstein:
"The DAG [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] criticized the Committee for sending our requests in writing and was further critical of the Committee’s request to have DOJ/FBI do the same when responding," the committee’s then-senior counsel for counterterrorism Kash Patel wrote to the House Office of General Counsel. "Going so far as to say that if the Committee likes being litigators, then 'we [DOJ] too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall."
A second House committee staffer at the meeting backed up Patel’s account, writing: "Let me just add that watching the Deputy Attorney General launch a sustained personal attack against a congressional staffer in retaliation for vigorous oversight was astonishing and disheartening. … Also, having the nation’s #1 (for these matters) law enforcement officer threaten to ‘subpoena your calls and emails’ was downright chilling."
News leaked out about the confrontation almost immediately -- with some calling it a potential abuse of power -- although most of the media completely ignored the bombshell story.
According to Molly Hemingway at The Federalist, the Department of Justice essentially confirmed the allegations, telling reporters that Rosenstein did in fact “put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so.”
The Justice spokesperson said Rosenstein “never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation,” which hadn’t been claimed, but that the “Deputy Attorney General was making the point—after being threatened with contempt—that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false.”
A DOJ official told Fox News that when Rosenstein returned to the United States from a work trip, he would "request that the House General counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct.” (Another threat!)
Rosenstein categorically denied that he had ever threatened to obtain the internal e-mails and communications of congressional staffers in a heated exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan on June 28: