Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s interview with a joint House panel reviewing the Justice Department investigation of President Trump’s alleged Russia ties will not take place this week as expected, according to congressional aides involved with the planning.
The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees were expected to speak with Rosenstein behind closed doors Thursday as part of their probe into federal law enforcement’s conduct during the investigations of Trump’s campaign and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. But a dispute over the interview’s terms prevented the committees and the Justice Department from reaching a deal to hold the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The delay means Rosenstein may not appear on Capitol Hill for an interview until after next month’s election, potentially exposing him to a subpoena. The House Judiciary Committee has frequently used subpoenas in this probe to compel witness testimony and the production of Justice Department documents.
“We have many questions for Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and expect answers to those questions,” a House Judiciary Committee aide said. “There is not at this time a confirmed date for a potential meeting. Nevertheless, we will continue to provide updates as we have them.”
Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, has been a target of Trump’s Republican allies on the joint panel. They’ve accused the Justice Department of intentionally drawing out efforts to produce documents for the panels’ investigation. That dispute exploded in a public faceoff over the summer, during which Republican lawmakers berated Rosenstein and urged him to wind down the special counsel probe, which is led by Robert S. Mueller III.
Lawmakers’ interest in bringing Rosenstein back to Capitol Hill followed publication of a New York Times report indicating that the deputy attorney general had suggested secretly recording Trump and invoking a constitutional amendment to remove the president from office. Rosenstein has disputed the report, though he offered to submit his resignation in its wake.
On Monday, Trump said he had no plans to remove Rosenstein, following a discussion the two had aboard Air Force One.
The House Judiciary Committee has already subpoenaed memos drafted by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe that say Rosenstein suggested recording the president. Last week, both the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees interviewed former FBI general counsel James Baker, who told the panels that he understood Rosenstein’s suggestion to be serious.
At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed FBI Director Christopher A. Wray about turning over a copy of McCabe’s memo detailing the May 16, 2017, meeting.
“Will we get that memo?” Johnson asked.
“We have to get back to you about that,” Wray replied. That angered the lawmaker, who complained that the FBI too often blocks congressional requests for information.
“It prevents the people’s representatives from actually getting to the truth,” Johnson said. “Every time there’s a criminal investigation, Congress can’t get information.”
House lawmakers — some of whom have expressed skepticism about McCabe’s credibility while he is under investigation amid allegations that he lied to FBI officials — say they want to hear directly from Rosenstein. They are also expected to ask him about other outstanding materials that Trump’s allies say will expose what Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has called the “rotten” foundations of Mueller’s probe.
Support from House Republican leaders for these efforts has ebbed and flowed. Last month, frustrated by what they saw as a lack of action by the committees, Trump’s allies appealed directly to Trump to declassify documents they see as key to the congressional panels’ investigation. Trump initially agreed — before reneging, under pressure from allies.
The Judiciary Committee has since subpoenaed documents it believes will show that the FBI left critical information out of its application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — details, they say, that could have drawn suspicion away from Page and the Trump team.