Conservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview

Conservatives fume over format of upcoming Rosenstein interview
© Greg Nash

House conservatives are fuming over the format of an upcoming interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinKey numbers to know for Mueller's testimony 10 questions for Robert Mueller What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much MORE, saying the closed-door setup will hinder transparency.

Reps. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWill Democrats be up to the task of publicly interviewing Mueller? 10 questions for Robert Mueller DOJ, Commerce slam House Dems contempt vote as 'political stunt' MORE (R-Ohio), both key figures in the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, have criticized the logistics of Wednesday's planned sit-down with Rosenstein which will be limited to the top Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees and a court reporter.

“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?” Meadows asked on Friday, while questioning whether the interview "will do anything to alleviate the concerns of Americans."

He added that Rosenstein “has “purposefully gone out of his way to not be transparent with the American people.”

Jordan indicated on Friday that some members plan to “push back” on the interview format, saying the setup is “completely unacceptable” because the American people will never know what was said.

Neither Jordan nor Meadows, two of President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE's top allies on Capitol Hill, directly blamed Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteImmigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute MORE (R-Va.) or Oversight Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower MORE (R-S.C.) for the interview arrangement. Instead, they said the format stems from "weakness."

Goodlatte and other GOP aides pushed back on their criticism, noting that a transcript of Rosenstein's sworn-oath testimony will be made public.

"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."

Goodlatte said lawmakers will be permitted to view the classified version of the interview before an unclassified one is made public. The Virginia Republican added that he and Gowdy proposed the interview format.

A Gowdy aide said that the Oversight chairman has encouraged other lawmakers to submit questions that he can ask on Wednesday alongside Goodlatte, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on Judiciary, and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump tweets, rally chant dominate Sunday shows as president continues attacks Sunday shows - Fallout over Trump tweets Cummings: 'No doubt about it' Trump is a racist MORE (D-Md.), the ranking member on Oversight.

Freedom Caucus members called for Rosenstein, the top DOJ official overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE’s Russia investigation, to be subpoenaed after plans for him to be interviewed by the two committees earlier this month fell through for reasons that are unclear.

Before the initial meeting was postponed, Meadows told The Hill that only joint task force members — a select group of Republican lawmakers on the two committees that include Meadows and Jordan — would be interviewing Rosenstein behind closed-doors, an arrangement that appeared acceptable to conservative lawmakers.

Conservative lawmakers have been eager grill Rosenstein, even before a bombshell New York Times article last month said he had considered wearing a wire to record Trump after the president fired former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyA question for Robert Mueller The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony MORE in May 2017.

The Times story also said Rosenstein had discussed the possibility of Cabinet officials invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.

Rosenstein and the Justice Department disputed the story, while some news outlets reported that he made the suggestions in jest.

Trump later said he had no plans to fire Rosenstein.

Despite the president’s recent assurances that Rosenstein is safe, Republicans continue to chatter that Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage House gears up for Mueller testimony Trump's no racist — he's an equal opportunity offender MORE — who recused himself from the Russia probe — will be out after the midterm elections.

Democrats have warned Trump not to fire Rosenstein and other top officials tied to the Mueller probe, saying that doing so would lead to a “constitutional crisis.”