“It would serve the country well; it would serve this president well,” Meadows continued.
On Thursday evening, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced that Rosenstein would come to Capitol Hill to speak with their panels Wednesday for a transcribed interview.
Still, Meadows’s comments are a sign that Trump’s allies want to take a harder stance against Justice Department officials in the weeks before the midterm elections, when the House majority may change.
“Frankly, I think that a lot of people are just wringing their hands and waiting for the election to occur,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said of efforts to schedule Rosenstein’s appearance, accusing both the House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform panels of exercising “low-energy oversight” and “not issuing the subpoenas we need to issue.”
Goodlatte had said he would consider issuing a subpoena for Rosenstein’s testimony, if he failed to show up for an interview. But to date, House GOP leaders have not gone as far as Meadows, Gaetz and other Trump allies, who have called for declassification of records related to the probe, and for Rosenstein’s head — most recently with an unsuccessful attempt to push for his impeachment over the summer.
Meadows would not answer questions Thursday about whether he planned to attempt impeachment proceedings against Rosenstein again.
“We’re not in session right now so that’s a question that would have to be answered later,” he said.
As most members campaign for the midterm elections this month, the House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform panels have been continuing to hold interviews as part of an investigation into how Justice Department and FBI officials handled their probes of Trump’s alleged ties to Russia and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Democrats have decried most of the investigation as a thinly veiled effort to undermine special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, by smearing the federal law enforcement officials whose work formed the backdrop for Mueller’s investigation.
Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s investigation, has incurred particularly acute ire of the GOP over the course of the probe, usually over the pace at which the Justice Department is producing documents the panels requested. In recent months, however, GOP leaders noted their satisfaction with Rosenstein’s efforts — while Trump’s allies in Congress continued to voice their criticism of him.
Thursday is not the first time that Trump’s congressional allies have called for Rosenstein to step down. But in recent weeks, they had expressed more patience with him, as House committee leaders negotiated the terms of an interview.
That patience appeared to run out Thursday, as conservative lawmakers accused Rosenstein of stalling.
“At this point, we’ve made multiple requests, he’s not shown up. He’s managed to find time for a Wall Street Journal interview instead of coming before Congress,” Meadows said, only hours before the interview was announced. “Even though negotiations are ongoing, you can’t help but see the testimony that we’ve received over the last week or so and call into question Rod Rosenstein’s candor.”
Reports that Rosenstein considered taping and potentially attempting to remove the president from office have captured the attention of Republicans on the panel this month, following interviews with former FBI general counsel James Baker, who characterized Rosenstein’s suggestions as serious. Baker learned of Rosenstein’s alleged proposal through former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who also wrote it down in memos he kept.
Rosenstein has denied ever making the suggestion, but nonetheless offered to resign in the wake of the McCabe memos being detailed. Last month, Trump said he would not be firing Rosenstein, despite his continued frustrations with Mueller’s probe, which Trump often refers to as a “witch hunt.”
Meadows said Thursday that he didn’t care if Trump had decided to give Rosenstein a pass.
“I worry about what I say; I let the president worry about what he says,” Meadows said. “I can tell you that based on the information that I’ve heard over the last week, I think it’s best that Rod Rosenstein resign.”
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.