Thomas Gallatin / May 3, 2018

Deputy AG Defiant in Face of Impeachment Threat

Congressional Republicans, tired of DOJ's slow-walking requested documents, take action.

The relationship between the Justice Department and Congress has become progressively strained. So much so that some Republican House members have drafted and threatened to issue articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if he continues to resist Congress’s demand that the department turn over documents related to the initiation of Robert Mueller’s special investigation and the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The DOJ has failed to meet several deadlines for turning over requested documents to Congress, which has generated complaints that the department has been intentionally slow-walking its compliance, if not stonewalling altogether.

Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows (R-NC) explained, “There is really nothing to comment on there, but just give me the documents. … I have one goal in mind, and that is not somebody’s job or the termination of somebody’s job; it is getting the documents and making sure we can do proper oversight.” He added that there are “no current plans to introduce an impeachment resolution.”

Rosenstein reacted in a surprisingly defiant and personalized manner, arguing, “There have been people making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. They should know by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted, and that any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.” However, Congress is fully within its constitutionally granted oversight powers to demand that the DOJ turn over requested documents, so long as doing so does not pose significant danger to national security. Meadows pointedly replied, “If he believes being asked to do his job is ‘extortion,’ then he should step aside and allow us to find a new deputy attorney general.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) seemed to have a different opinion, asserting that he was “satisfied” with the DOJ’s cooperation. “I appreciate Rosenstein’s willingness to work with the committees,” he said, “and I have confidence in his leadership.”

The question here is why Rosenstein has chosen a course of subtle resistance. It’s clear that what he considers personal attacks have impacted his willingness to comply with congressional demands. It’s also quite apparent that Rosenstein doesn’t trust Congress. He insisted Tuesday that it would be dangerous to “just open our doors to allow Congress to come and rummage through the files.” The trouble is the DOJ has a serious image problem, most of it self-inflicted. It doesn’t help when the man responsible for giving the green light to the Mueller investigation — an investigation that has clearly strayed far from its original justification — appears unwilling to work with Congress to dispel legitimate concerns over politicization of the department. Americans’ trust is not a commodity easily regained once it has been squandered. Rosenstein’s defiance may prove only to push that trust lower.

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