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Rod Rosenstein's final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony

On his way out the door from a stormy tenure at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House MORE is talking. Just not talking to the congressional committees that he stalled when they demanded his testimony last year.

Instead, the departing deputy attorney general is giving a series of off-the-record interviews to reporters, multiple sources confirm to me.

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For those not privy to the ways of the media, it means Rosenstein is telling his story to reporters in a way that can’t be attributed to him. It’s a classic tactic some politicians and bureaucrats use to shape a legacy — without leaving their public fingerprints on the story line.

It also means the House judiciary and oversight committees that aggressively sought Rosenstein’s testimony remain empty-handed months after Republicans on the committees demanded answers under oath to such questions as:

Rosenstein managed to escape testifying on these issues by using an “I’m too busy” argument and running out the clock on the Republicans who then controlled the House but gave up power on Jan. 3, after Democrats won the majority in the November election.

Rosenstein, who took over the Trump-Russia probe when former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE recused himself back in 2017, has made clear he plans to step down as early as next week when Sessions’s replacement, William BarrBill BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE, presumably is confirmed by the full Senate.

Those Republican lawmakers who pursued Rosenstein’s testimony for months aren’t happy now that he is demonstrating he had enough time for reporters in his final days yet never had it for the lawmakers when it came to congressional oversight questions that arose last summer about possible abuse of the FISA process and discussions of secretly recording the president.

“Rod Rosenstein’s decision to clear his schedule and talk with reporters is just another example of the deputy AG’s anonymous spin to paint his decision-making in a more favorable light,” said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE (R-N.C.). “When given the opportunity to be transparent and tell the truth under oath, he refused. Any stories he shares in his final days at DOJ should be met with a degree of skepticism and a heavy dose of declassification.”

Added Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanCheney, top GOP lawmakers ask Trump campaign for proof of election fraud New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future Sunday shows preview: Biden team gears up for transition, Trump legal battles continue and pandemic rages on MORE (R-Ohio), ranking member on the House Oversight Committee: “Rod Rosenstein plotted against the president and obstructed congressional efforts to get the truth. He should be testifying before Congress, not giving rounds of press interviews to friendly reporters. As he leaves office, Mr. Rosenstein must cooperate fully with IG (Michael) Horowitz’s investigation into Justice Department media leaks. Democrats in Congress should insist on Mr. Rosenstein’s public testimony — a far better use of our time than the Lanny Davis-produced circus with Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenPress: Trump's biggest fear is — lock him up Biden faces politically thorny decision on Trump prosecutions New York expands Trump tax fraud investigations to include write-offs: report MORE.”

A DOJ spokesperson for Rosenstein did not return requests for comment.

With House Republicans unable to get their answers and, now, out of power on the committees, the only line of direct GOP inquiry will be newly-minted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Spokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome MORE (R-S.C.). Graham has signaled he plans aggressive oversight on the issue of possible FISA abuses in the Russia probe.

The question now is whether the information Rosenstein is passing to reporters in his farewell tour will become part of that inquiry.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.