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 RosensteinWhat to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony Feds will not charge officer who killed Eric Garner MORE planned for Wednesday.

Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteImmigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute MORE (R-Va.) and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower 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 ComeyComey pens blog revealing what he would ask Mueller in upcoming testimony FBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier Hannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour 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 MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran 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) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 JordanDOJ, Commerce slam House Dems contempt vote as 'political stunt' White House blasts 'shameful and cynical' Barr, Ross contempt vote House votes to hold Trump Cabinet members Barr, Ross in contempt 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.