National Security

Live coverage: Tensions mount as Rosenstein grilled by GOP

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Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray are expected to face tough questioning from Republicans at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.

The two testified as the House approved a measure demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) turn over documents related to the FBI’s handling of investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign.

Goodlatte gavels out

3:05 p.m.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) concluded the hearing by thanking Rosenstein and Wray for their testimony but signaled the committee still has outstanding questions related to its oversight investigation of the FBI’s activities leading up to the 2016 election. 

While Goodlatte “commended” both officials for working to improve the FBI’s document production to Congress, he nevertheless reiterated the committee’s need for documents underlying the Justice Department inspector general report.

“We will communicate with you further beyond right here to work on that,” Goodlatte said.

He also emphasized Republican lawmakers have “no intention” of interfering with the substance of Mueller’s investigation.

— Morgan Chalfant

Lieu blasts ‘stupid’ hearing on Clinton emails

2:55 p.m.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) blasted his Republican colleagues for holding a “stupid” emergency hearing centered on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

“Let me start by saying it is ridiculous and stupid we are having an emergency hearing into an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016,” Lieu said during the heated Thursday hearing.

“But since Republicans control the agenda, let’s at least try to have this stupid hearing be based on the facts and the central fact from this [inspector general] investigation is that no personal views of any FBI or DOJ employee affected the integrity of the investigation.”

Lieu noted that while GOP lawmakers are rehashing issues that arose during 2016, there are matters in 2018 that warrant attention, like the Trump administration’s “child separation policy.” 

“It is now June 2018 and thousands of kids have been ripped away from their parents by the Trump administration’s child separation policy,” Lieu said.

— Olivia Beavers

Rosenstein unaware of ‘disqualifying’ conflict of interest for Mueller

2:20 p.m.

Rosenstein said that he is unaware of any conflicts of interest that would disqualify sepcial counsel Robert Mueller for leading the federal investigation into Russian interference.

Rosenstein’s answer came hours after President Trump wrote on Twitter that Mueller should “list his conflicts of interest.”

“Does Bob Mueller have any conflicts of interest?” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked Rosenstein during the hearing.

“If there were any conflicts of interest that were brought to our attention, I would discuss it with Mr. Mueller and then there could be review within the department if there were a credible allegation of a conflict of interest,” Rosenstein said. “I am not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest.”

Some have alleged that Mueller’s friendship with James Comey, with whom he worked at the FBI, represents a conflict that should disqualify him from the probe.

President Trump tweeted Thursday morning in advance of the hearing, “When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest? Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report.”

“And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail and … persecuted on old and/or totally unrelated charges (there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion)…And what is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!” Trump wrote.

— Morgan Chalfant

Issa presses Wray on whether Comey is ‘above the law’

1:50 p.m.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked Wray whether or not he would investigate former FBI Director James Comey to determine whether he leaked a Justice Department inspector general report to a news outlet in advance of its release.

Bloomberg and other outlets reported on excerpts of the report before it was formally released. Issa accused Comey of likely violating a nondisclosure agreement he signed to receive an advanced copy of the report, suggesting the former FBI director leaked its contents.

“He violated the nondisclosure agreement in that he contacted a news source more than four hours beforehand, because it was published four hours before it was released, probably 24 to 48 hours in advance, will you agree to look into whether or not he violated that [agreement]?”

Wray declined to comment on whether he would open such a probe.

“So you’re not going to say whether he’s above the law for what he did?” Issa followed up.

“I do not think there’s anyone on this planet who is above the law,” Wray replied.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Democrats demand Republicans release Strzok’s transcribed interview

1:25 p.m.

Judiciary Committee Democrats demanded that the majority release the transcript of FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok’s 11-hour testimony that took place Wednesday behind closed-doors, accusing their Republican colleagues of taking Strzok’s words out of context. 

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) interrupted Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) amid his questioning after the GOP lawmaker began noting what Strzok had said during his Wednesday testimony as it related to Mueller’s Russia probe. 

“Point of order, Mr. Chairman. If you want to talk about his testimony like this, release the transcript,” Lieu interjected.

“That is not a valid point of order,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) responded.

Ratcliffe then continued his line of questioning, only to be interrupted again by other Democrats on the panel.

“I assume it is a valid point of order to object to quoting or characterizing his statements in a confidential setting,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y), the top Democrat on the committee. “We were under the impression, Mr. Chairman, that these transcripts were not to be quoted.”

Lieu agreed, asking Goodlatte to “release the transcript.”

“Release the transcript, Mr. Chairman,” said Lieu. “The American people deserve to hear Peter Strzok’s testimony under oath. Do not hide his testimony.”

“The transcript will be released to the American people in the appropriate time, but the gentleman can use it for the purpose of his questioning to the witness in this hearing,” the chairman ruled.

— Olivia Beavers

Jordan, Rosenstein exchange barbs as hearing gets heated

11:45 a.m.

Rosenstein punched back at one of the fiercest critics of the Department of Justice, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), in an extraordinary and bitterly fought exchange just moments before the House voted on a measure aimed squarely at him.

Jordan attacked Rosenstein for “withholding information from Congress.”

A tight-faced Rosenstein flatly denied those accusations, as Jordan repeatedly interrupted his responses.

“I think in a few minutes the House of Representatives is going to go on record saying you have not complied with requests from a separate and equal branch of government, that you haven’t complied with subpoenas, and you’ve got seven days to get your act together,” Jordan said. “And I don’t know why you won’t give us what we’ve asked for.”

“Sir, I certainly hope that your colleagues are not under that impression. It is not accurate, sir — ” Rosenstein said.

“It is accurate,” an animated Jordan said. “We have caught you hiding information — “

The back-and-forth escalated as Jordan continued to volley accusations at Rosenstein, until the deputy attorney general fired back. 

“Your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong,” he said.

Just moments after Jordan’s five minutes of question time expired, the committee left to vote on a resolution demanding that the DOJ turn over the documents Republicans have demanded.

— Katie Bo Williams

Gowdy: Finish Russia investigation ‘the hell up’

11:25 a.m. 

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) urged the Justice Department to swiftly finish the investigation into Russian election interference, saying that the probe has “torn” the American people apart.

He urged the department to present evidence of any wrongdoing by President Trump, if they possess it.

“There’s an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied,” Gowdy said. “I think right now all of us are being denied. Whatever you’ve got, finish it the hell up, because this country is being torn apart.” 

“I have heard suggestions that we should just close the investigation,” Rosenstein replied. “I think the best thing we can do is finish it appropriately and reach a conclusion.”

Rosenstein went on to stress that there has been “no allegation” by the Department of Justice or special counsel Robert Mueller beyond what is contained in the public indictments.

“People should not jump to conclusions without seeing the evidence,” Rosenstein said.

— Morgan Chalfant

Rosenstein defends Page warrant

11:14 a.m.

Rosenstein declined to publicly discuss a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application that he approved for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page after the election was over and Page was no longer a part of the campaign.

But he defended his decision to approve the application, which conservatives have insisted without evidence was uncorroborated and based primarily on opposition research paid for in part by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“If the inspector general finds I did something wrong, I’ll accept that judgment, but I think that’s highly highly unlikely,” he said in a testy exchange with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), referring to an ongoing review of the matter by Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz.

— Katie Bo Williams

GOP lawmaker presses Rosenstein on Trump campaign, Russia probes timeline 

11:10 a.m.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of the Justice Department’s fiercest critics, repeatedly asked Rosenstein questions centering on whether federal officials began collecting intelligence on the Trump campaign and Russia before launching its investigation in July 2016. 

“Did any investigative activity regarding the Trump campaign and Russia occur before July 31, 2016?” Gaetz asked, noting this is the date the FBI initiated its counterintelligence investigation, according to the Democratic memo produced by the House Intelligence Committee. 

“Congressman, as you know, we are dealing with the Intelligence Committee on that issue and Chairman [Devin] Nunes met with Director Wray and me. I received the same briefing that he received so I do not know any additional information beyond what he knows about that and I’m not able to produce any information beyond what the FBI has told me,” Rosenstein replied. 

Gaetz also asked whether Rosenstein knew of any payments to collect intelligence on the Trump campaign before the FBI launched its probe. 

“No, but keep in mind I wasn’t there. I only know the information we’ve obtained from the FBI records,” Rosenstein replied.

Rosenstein responded similarly when Gaetz asked if he knew about government efforts to contact Roger Stone, a close associate to the president, and Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo before this time.

“I don’t have any personal knowledge, congressman, but I know we are seeking to respond to Chairman Nunes’s request,” he said, noting that they will let Nunes (R-Calif.) know if they find any credible evidence of such.

— Olivia Beavers 

GOP lawmaker suggests Rosenstein should be recused from Russia probe

11:05 a.m.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) suggested that Rosenstein should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, pointing to the fact the deputy attorney general himself wrote the memo to President Trump recommending former FBI Director James Comey be fired.

“They talk about the Mueller investigation. It’s really the Rosenstein investigation. You appointed Mueller. You’re supervising Mueller, and it’s supposedly about collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia and obstruction of justice,” DeSantis said.

“But you wrote the memo saying that Comey should be fired and you signed the FISA extension for Carter Page. So, my question is to you, it seems like you should be recused from this more so than [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions just because you were involved in making decisions affecting both prongs of this investigation,” DeSantis continued. “Why haven’t you done that?”

Rosenstein responded he would recuse himself if “it were appropriate.”

“Congressman, I can assure you that if it were appropriate for me to recuse, I would be more than happy to do so,” Rosenstein said. “But, it’s my responsibility to do it.”

DeSantis drilled down, emphasizing that Mueller is said to be investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president in the Comey firing. While press reports have indicated that the special counsel is looking into possible obstruction of justice, officials have not spoken publicly about the lines of inquiry in the probe.  

“I am not commenting on what is under investigation by the Mueller probe and to the best of my knowledge, neither is Mr. Mueller,” Rosenstein said.

— Morgan Chalfant

Rosenstein denies threatening congressional staff 

11:00 a.m.

Rosenstein flatly denied allegations that he “threatened” House Intelligence Committee staff behind closed doors over their demands for document production.

“Congressman, people make all kinds of allegations,” Rosenstein said in response to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). Grinning grimly, he added, “In my business, we ask who’s the witness and how credible are they?

“The answer is no.”

— Katie Bo Williams

Wray defends FBI document production

10:54 a.m.

Wray defended the bureau’s document production to Congress, saying that it has “substantially complied” with a committee subpoena seeking a tranche of documents.

“For months, we’ve been working with your committee to make witnesses available, answer questions, and produce or make available to you and your staff over now 880,000 pages,” Wray told the committee in his opening remarks.

“Although we have now substantially complied with a majority of the committee’s subpoena, we are determined to get through the outstanding items and we have increased staffing on this project even further,” he added.

Republicans have fiercely and repeatedly criticized the FBI and Department of Justice in recent months, accusing the agencies of slow-walking their document production to House committees that are conducting parallel investigations into FBI and Justice Department decisionmaking during the 2016 presidential race.

“In just the past week, for example, we’ve had approximately 100 employees working day and night dedicated to this project through the weekend to collect, review, process and produce thousands of additional pages,” Wray added.

— Olivia Beavers

Rosenstein defends DOJ document production 

10:50 a.m.

Rosenstein used his opening remarks to defend the Justice Department’s document production to Congress, saying that the FBI has been making “unprecedented disclosures” to congressional committees under the Trump administration.

Rosenstein stressed that he heard concerns from lawmakers about the speed and scope of document production by the FBI related to the inspector general’s investigation, leading him to charge a U.S. attorney from Chicago with overseeing the process. 

Now, Rosenstein said, the process “seems to be working very well.”

“I understand some people still state concerns about the speed of the production, but those concerns are mistaken,” Rosenstein said. “Most requests have been fulfilled and other document productions are in progress for this committee and other committees.”

Rosenstein also stressed that the department is taking the revelations of the inspector general report seriously.

“We need to correct errors, hold wrongdoers accountable, and deter future violations,” Rosenstein said.

“Our mandatory training will include lessons from the inspector general’s report and we are considering other recommendations,” he said.

— Morgan Chalfant 

Nadler blasts Republicans for efforts to undermine Mueller, blast Clinton

10:07 a.m.

The top Democrat on the panel slammed his GOP colleagues for what he said is their efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by attacking the FBI and Justice Department.

He also took aim at the Republicans’ continued focus on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.

“Why has the majority abandoned the rules and traditions that govern civility in the House? The tired story of Hillary Clinton’s emails, of course — plus conspiracy theories about the special counsel,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y) said in his opening remarks.

Nadler listed a series of emergency hearings the committee has failed to hold on the family separation crisis, “Dreamers,” election interference and the Trump administration’s conflicts of interest. He noted that despite these matters that warrant such hearings, the committee has only moved to do so for hearings related to Clinton’s emails.

“The president and some of his closest advisers are under investigation for having participated in a criminal conspiracy with a foreign power against the United States. That is an emergency,” he continued, noting the investigation has already yielded five guilty pleas.

— Olivia Beavers 

Goodlatte laments DOJ document production

9:53 a.m. 

Although House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said document production by the Department of Justice has “improved considerably” — citing the work of U.S. Attorney John Lausch, Chicago’s top federal prosecutor, whom Attorney General Jeff Sessions tapped in April to oversee the matter — committee Republicans “still have complaints.”

In his opening statement, Goodlatte said that he “recently learned” that Justice Department determined “emails between prosecutors working the Clinton case” did not fall under a subpoena he issued requesting all documents provided to the inspector general — something he called “unacceptable.”

“We are not receiving and have not received potentially enlightening communications between prosecutors themselves, between prosecutors and DOJ management including former Attorney General Lynch, or even communications between DOJ officials and those with the Obama White House,” he said.

— Katie Bo Williams

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) gavels in

9:48 a.m. 

Both Wray and Rosenstein have taken their seats, with Rosenstein several times leaving the table to shake hands with lawmakers — including some of his fiercest critics.

In one notable moment, he shook hands and exchanged “good to see yous” with Gaetz, one of his most notable critics in the House.

— Katie Bo Williams

Tags Bob Goodlatte Darrell Issa Department of Justice Donald Trump Eric Swalwell FBI Hillary Clinton House Judiciary Committee James Comey Jeff Sessions Jim Jordan John Ratcliffe Matt Gaetz Robert Mueller Rod Rosenstein Roger Stone Ron DeSantis Trey Gowdy Zoe Lofgren
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