Dems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee

Senate Democrats are raising objections to President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE’s pick for the No. 2 post at the Justice Department (DOJ) over his potential role in the Mueller report’s release and investigations into the president.

Jeffrey Rosen, a DOJ outsider who would succeed Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinTrump denies ordering McGahn to oust Mueller Poll: Majority says Barr's summary of Mueller report was 'largely accurate' Heavy lapses in judgment are politicizing the justice system MORE as deputy attorney general, was attacked by Senate Democrats at a confirmation hearing Wednesday, with senators calling into question his qualifications and what involvement he would have overseeing any probes stemming from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook expects up to B FTC fine | DHS face scanning at airports sparks alarm | New Twitter tool targets election misinformation | Lawmakers want answers on Google 'Sensorvault' Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling Kushner saying immigration plan will be 'neutral' on legal admissions: report MORE (R-Utah) was among those who repeatedly pressed Rosen over what the Utah senator viewed as Justice Department attempts to hold off implementation of a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill signed into law last year, raising the possibility that the issue could factor into Rosen’s confirmation prospects.

The deputy attorney general post used to be a relatively low-profile job on the national stage. But Rosenstein’s stint — including his role in the firing of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeySessions: It's time to accept the results of the Mueller report and move on Davis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Sarah Sanders is entitled to her opinions, but not her own facts MORE and subsequent oversight of the Mueller probe — quickly elevated the position’s status, meaning Rosen is likely to face more scrutiny than previous nominees.

Rosen, a Transportation Department official who lacks experience as a prosecutor, told senators that if confirmed he would follow DOJ guidelines, including adhering to an Obama-era memo that outlined how the White House and senior Justice Department officials can communicate about ongoing investigations.

“I’m not at the department, I’m not yet in a position to make a pronouncement about it,” Rosen told Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHarris wins town hall war among CNN viewers Cory Booker releases 10 years of tax returns Dems accuse White House of caving to Trump's 'ego' on Russian meddling MORE (D-Minn.) about the communications policy. “But I know it’s in effect and it appears to me to be a sensible way to proceed.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) went further in his questioning, demanding that Rosen commit to making sure Mueller’s report — currently being processed by the DOJ — is released in its entirety to Congress.

Rosen declined to make that promise, noting he is not yet a Justice Department employee and that Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrSessions: It's time to accept the results of the Mueller report and move on George Conway lashes out at 'Deranged Donald' on Twitter The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' MORE has ultimate authority at the agency.

ADVERTISEMENT

Blumenthal said he would not vote to advance Rosen out of committee unless the nominee committed to ensuring the report’s full release.

“He’s given me no reason to have even a glimmer of confidence in his standing strong for the integrity and independence of the ongoing investigations regarding President Trump or any other individuals in power, and the transparency and disclosure of the Mueller report,” Blumenthal said after the hearing.

Rosen is a deputy secretary at the Department of Transportation. He has worked as a general counsel at both Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget and spent nearly 30 years at the international law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where he was a senior partner.

During the hearing, Rosen defended his lack of experience as a prosecutor by pointing to his lengthy career as a litigator.

He said that if Barr were to recuse himself from any matters or had to step down, he felt confident he could fill the role of attorney general. If that situation arose, he said, he would turn to the “seasoned and experienced and highly capable prosecutors” at the department to help him carry out the duties of the nation’s top law enforcement job.

“There are resources available and I would make it my job to utilize and leverage the expertise and experience they bring to bear, while combining that with my own experience and judgment to do the very best I could to serve in this position,” Rosen said.

GOP senators at the hearing appeared generally supportive of Rosen, who fielded questions about alleged political bias against Trump at the FBI and Justice Department.

Rosen said that while he did not know all the facts of the situation, he would follow the conclusions reached by any investigations into any potential biases.

“I don’t think we should have an attitude that anybody is above the law,” he said.

But he did face some bipartisan pushback over the Justice Department’s implementation of the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform legislation that Trump signed into law last year.

Lee, in particular, prodded Rosen over the agency’s adoption of the law. He pointed to DOJ missing the deadline to implement some provisions, and its decision to host a committee created by the act at the conservative Hudson Institute, which had criticized the criminal justice law, as evidence that the department wasn’t moving forward in good faith.

Other Republicans didn’t appear concerned about the criminal justice efforts.

“He said to me when we met and he reiterated, I think, this morning that he’s committed to implementing the law and all the laws,” freshman Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHillicon Valley: Mueller report coming Thursday | YouTube adds 9/11 info to Notre Dame fire video | New details on case against Assange | Thousands sign petition to ban Trump on social media | Conservatives side with big tech in GOP fight Conservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Pelosi puts tech on notice with warning of 'new era' in regulation MORE (R-Mo.) told The Hill, adding that he hadn’t heard similar worries from other Republicans.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTime to keep the promises for farmers to compete in energy Graham challenges Dems to walk the walk on impeachment McConnell pledges to be 'Grim Reaper' for progressive policies MORE (R-Iowa) said she hasn’t “seen any evidence” that Rosen wouldn’t fully implement the criminal justice law.

She also defended Rosen against Democrats’ criticism, saying that if they wanted to try and hold up his confirmation, “that’s their decision.”

“But I think he’s well qualified,” Ernst added.