House Republicans postpone Rosenstein interview

House Republicans postpone Rosenstein interview
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are postponing a closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests Rosenstein to testify as part of Graham's Russia investigation probe MORE planned for Wednesday.

Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyMore than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case Sunday shows preview: As states loosen social distancing restrictions, lawmakers address dwindling state budgets John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE (R-S.C.), the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, respectively, announced Tuesday evening that they would push back the interview because they are "unable to ask all questions" of Rosenstein in the allotted time.

"The Committees are unable to ask all questions of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein within the time allotted for tomorrow's transcribed interview, therefore, the interview will be postponed," the chairmen said in a statement.

"Mr. Rosenstein has indicated his willingness to testify before the Judiciary and Oversight Committees in the coming weeks in either a transcribed interview or a public setting. We appreciate his willingness to appear and will announce further details once it has been rescheduled."

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The interview — which was supposed to be under oath — was expected to focus largely on a New York Times article published last month that said Rosenstein proposed secretly taping conversations with the president and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment and expel him from office after he fired FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests MORE.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have been eager to interview the No. 2 official at the Justice Department ever since the bombshell report.

The interview would have been Rosenstein’s first appearance on Capitol Hill since rumors swirled that he would be fired or resign following the Times report. Speculation mounted that Trump could move to fire Rosenstein, but that dissipated when the president said earlier this month that he had no such plans.

Goodlatte and Gowdy's announcement comes after members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus criticized the format of the planned sit-down, which was limited to top Republicans and Democrats on the two panels — only four lawmakers. 

“Why are we continuing to do hearings in private where we don’t have press or the American people to be the arbiter of what is fair and right?” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump to return to Florida for rescheduled SpaceX launch Pence names new press secretary House leaders take vote-counting operations online MORE (R-N.C.) said on Friday. He added that the deputy attorney general "had purposefully gone out of his way to not be transparent with the American people.”

Freedom Caucus members had called for Rosenstein to be subpoenaed after initial plans for him to be interviewed by the two panels fell through.

Goodlatte had pushed back on their criticism of the handling of the Rosenstein interview. "It's important to note that there is no limitation on the scope of these questions," Goodlatte told Fox News on Sunday.

"We will have a court reporter present who has a security clearance, and we will have transcripts of that interview. And then we will turn that over to the intelligence community to make sure that there are no things that cannot be released the public,” he added.

The interview was originally scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

For months, Rosenstein has been the target of attacks from Trump and conservatives over his role overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s Russia investigation, which is looking into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign in 2016. Trump has denied there was any collusion.

Over the summer, a group of conservative House lawmakers led by Meadows and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (R-Ohio) introduced five articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, alleging that he failed to produce key documents needed for congressional oversight and stating that he has conflicts of interest overseeing Mueller’s investigation.

The lawmakers backed off their impeachment talk, but the Times story revived scrutiny of Rosenstein.

Meadows, a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, called for Rosenstein to resign as recently as last week.

“I think that it’s time that Rod Rosenstein steps down,” Meadows told reporters as last week as lawmakers questioned former FBI general counsel James Baker in another room. “He should do so immediately. And in doing that, I think it would serve the country well, it would serve this president well.”

Updated: 7:41 p.m.