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 RosensteinFull appeals court to rehear case over McGahn subpoena Graham starts closed-door depositions in FISA probe Attorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself 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 postpones March 31 GOP Senate runoff Biden has broken all the 'rules' of presidential primaries The Hill's Campaign Report: Defiant Sanders vows to stay in race MORE recused himself back in 2017, has made clear he plans to step down as early as next week when Sessions’s replacement, William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocratic Senators urge FTC to prevent coronavirus price gouging Maduro pushes back on DOJ charges, calls Trump 'racist cowboy' DOJ charges Venezuela's Maduro with drug trafficking 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 Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senators clinch deal on T stimulus package White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package The Hill's 12:30 Report: Lawmakers near deal on stimulus 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 JordanTrump, privacy hawks upend surveillance brawl Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition McConnell, top GOP senators throw support behind surveillance deal as deadline looms 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 CohenJudge rejects Michael Cohen's plea for early prison release amid coronavirus Michael Cohen cites 'absence of presidential leadership' over coronavirus in effort to move to home confinement Free Roger Stone 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 GrahamSunday shows preview: Lawmakers, state governors talk coronavirus, stimulus package and resources as pandemic rages on Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus 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.