Feud between House GOP, DOJ shows no sign of waning
The feud between House Republicans and the Department of Justice (DOJ) is showing no sign of abating, with lawmakers insisting that moving to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is still on the table.
Republicans have grown increasingly furious at DOJ for what they see as a failure to respond to congressional requests for documents related to the department’s investigations into Russian election interference and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Rosenstein, the top DOJ official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, has become a key target of their wrath.
Lawmakers from the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees met with Justice Department officials Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. regarding outstanding document requests.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told The Hill in advance of that meeting that his expectations of what they would achieve were not high.
“Based on history, not much, but we still got to keep trying,” Jordan said.
When asked if impeachment is on the table, Jordan responded, “Everything is on the table — always has been.”
Upon leaving the meeting, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the head of the House Freedom Caucus and one of the most vocal DOJ critics, said he plans to have conversations with the chairman about moving forward on impeachment, describing document production as a “laborious process” in which the FBI and DOJ have complied little.
“We reached an agreement on a couple of areas. There is still is a great deal of difference between where we believe things should go and where their compliance has been,” Meadows told reporters. “The thing that is very concerning to me is that still today, nine months into it, we don’t know how many documents are out there that are responsive to the subpoena.”
He noted that he did not bring up the issue of impeachment during the meeting, saying that is not the time or place.
Despite the lingering impeachment threat, DOJ and FBI shown increasing signs they are willing to fight back.
Shortly before the meeting took place, DOJ officials on Wednesday described in detail the steps they are taking to complete the outstanding document requests issued by the heads of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees.
While Republicans say the FBI and DOJ have not provided all the documents related to their investigations into FBI decision-making during the 2016 election, DOJ officials say they have largely completed Congress’s document requests and they are still working on any outstanding ones.
So far, DOJ officials say they have given lawmakers access to 880,000 pages they’ve requested, and the officials continue to accept requests for new information related to House GOP probes.
The officials listed three congressional subpoenas, issued by House Republicans, that they say have either been fulfilled or that they are close to fulfilling.
One DOJ official noted that while the requests are historically high, they are working to respond to the lawmakers’ records requests — and much of it is done quietly.
“It’s been over 9 months since Congress began requesting documents from the DOJ and FBI,” Meadows tweeted last week. “[Nine] months later, tens of thousands of pages are still outstanding–even after multiple subpoenas. Most Americans would find this behavior from DOJ/FBI leadership to be contemptible.”
Meadows, however, has not only gone after Rosenstein for his involvement in the document production, he has also called on the DOJ official to recuse himself from the Mueller probe over what he views as a conflict of interest.
The North Carolina lawmaker has seized on the fact that Rosenstein signed off one of surveillance warrant renewals for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, a new detail that surfaced after the Justice Department publicly released a heavily redacted FISA warrant application over the weekend.
“The Carter Page FISA application revealed Rod Rosenstein signed the document and authorized surveillance. Mr. Rosenstein is a fact witness and should recuse himself from this process immediately,” Meadows tweeted Tuesday.
The surveillance of Page is believed to have been a factor in launching the federal counterintelligence probe.
Earlier this month, Meadows also accused Rosenstein of withholding two text messages from FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI agent Lisa Page, raising “grave concerns” because were not provided to Congress.
“Once again, we have obtained evidence the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have intentionally withheld material information from Congress,” Meadows writes in a letter to Rosenstein dated July 12th, according to a copy obtained by The Hill.
The DOJ officials, however, dismissed this claim they have withheld evidence. They said the text messages Meadows mentions were not included because they were personal and unrelated to the congressional investigations examining Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State as well as the Russia probe. The officials added that one of these text messages was provided to Congress earlier this year.
Friction between the DOJ and FBI first began building last year when Nunes pressed the agency to turn over information that led the FBI to launch its Russia probe. In late April, a group of House lawmakers took the feud a step further when they drafted a resolution that called for the impeachment of Rosenstein.
The impeachment document made a series of charges against Rosenstein. This includes accusations that he violated federal law by refusing to comply to congressional subpoenas, knowingly providing misleading statements about the DOJ’s investigation into the Trump campaign, and failing to properly supervise the federal officials’ use of surveillance authorities.
Rosenstein and the FBI chief have both refuted the charges made against them or their agencies.
During a public hearing before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees last last month, Rosenstein not only fiercely defended the work of the FBI and DOJ, but also addressed the attacks directed against him.
“As with most things in Washington, the real work is not done on television, and it’s not all done by me. Trump administration officials are meeting and talking with your staff every day,” Rosenstein told House lawmakers, noting that the FBI has made “unprecedented disclosures” to Congress.
“I understand that some people still state concerns about the speed of the production. But those concerns are mistaken. Most requests have been fulfilled, and other document productions are in progress for this committee and other committees,” he continued.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has also recently defended their efforts.
“I’m committed to being responsive to congressional oversight, but I am also unwilling to budge on talking about ongoing investigations and protecting sources and methods,” he said last week at the Aspen Security Forum. “There can be tension, but we are working our way through [the issues.]”
If Meadows does move to introduce an impeachment resolution, it would come shortly before House lawmakers leave D.C. for August recess on Thursday.
Under House rules, lawmakers can force a vote two legislative days after filing a “privileged motion.” While the window for Meadows to do this before August passed on Tuesday, he could still choose to introduce a resolution before the break starts and wait for a vote when recess ends.
Juliegrace Brufke contributed.