In this photo from Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testifies before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, where he said he’s seen no basis for firing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director he appointed as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The battle between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein intensifies. Rosenstein is apparently tired of getting Atomic Wedgies at the hands of Devin Nunes and now he’s firing back.
Yesterday, Fox posted a story based on, naturally, leaked emails that show in a tense meeting in January 2018, Rosenstein threatened to subpoena the communications of House staffers.
The emails memorialized a January 2018 closed-door meeting involving senior FBI and Justice Department officials as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee. The account claimed Rosenstein threatened to turn the tables on the committee’s inquiries regarding the Russia probe.
“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.”
The committee staffer noted that Rosenstein’s comment could be interpreted as meaning the department would “vigorously defend a contempt action” — which might be expected. But the staffer continued, “I also read it as a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us.”
IANAL, so I don’t have any authoritative opinion on whether Justice can subpoena the records of a House Committee but it seems somewhat unlikely to be a strategy the attorney general or president would approve of. Rosenstein claims that he was talking about defending against a contempt citation, but that, likewise, seems to be a very low percentage legal strategy.
Keep in mind that the dispute here, which is agreed to by all parties, was because the House Intelligence Committee had started sending requests in writing rather than making them informally. I can see why Rosenstein didn’t like that. Congressional correspondence is controlled correspondence. It is logged into an agency, it is entered in a correspondence management database, it develops a life of its own. You can’t ignore it. You can’t claim you didn’t get it. You can’t claim you didn’t know when the answer was due. And Rosenstein has no one to blame but himself for this total breakdown of the relationship between Justice and three House committees (Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight).
Anyway, when the story hit, it apparently made Rosenstein think it made him look like a petty little bureaucrat so he did what a petty little bureaucrat would do under the circumstances.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will ask the House to probe it’s committee staff, according to a report from CNN.
A Justice Department official told CNN that Rosenstein plans to “request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these congressional staffers’ conduct” this week.
The development comes as Fox News reported on Tuesday that Rosenstein threatened to subpoena emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on the House Intelligence Committee.
The network obtained emails describing the January meeting, in which aides said they felt threatened by Rosenstein.
Read that slowly. The number two guy in the sieve known as the Justice Department is about to ask the House general counsel to investigate staff from the House Intelligence Committee for leaks. This would be the committee that includes Adam Schiff who is basically a call-in guest to CNN giving running commentary as confidential hearings are underway. And not just any leak. A leak of an email about a meeting that everyone agrees took place and which, as far as I can tell, the staffer had every right to put on his Facebook page if he’d wanted as it was his experience.
For now, Jeff Sessions is saying that he doesn’t think Rosenstein is clinically insane or any more twitchy than usual. But I suspect that is going to change in the next couple of months. It would be a mercy because, before long, Rosenstein will be replacing Perot in this classic
I’m on Facebook. Drop by and join the fun there.