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 Jay RosensteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' MORE planned for Wednesday.

Reps. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview Gowdy calls congressional hearings like Cohen's 'utterly useless' The family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case 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 ComeyTlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Barr faces political storm over Mueller report 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 MeadowsOmar controversy looms over AIPAC conference Winners and losers from Mueller's initial findings Mueller delivers a win for Trump — Five Takeaways 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 JordanRaskin embraces role as constitutional scholar Winners and losers from Mueller's initial findings Jordan: Mueller report should end congressional investigations into Trump 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.