Dems sound alarm over top DOJ nominee

Senate Democrats are raising objections to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment 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 RosensteinTrump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon GOP group urges Republicans to speak out on obstruction claims against Trump in new ad 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s investigation.

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And Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale 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 ComeyFive memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Under Trump, our democracy is for sale 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 KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' 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 BarrAnticipation builds for final Supreme Court rulings Anticipation builds for final Supreme Court rulings Trump's Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy MORE has ultimate authority at the agency.

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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 HawleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle Trump judicial nominee says he withdrew over 'gross mischaracterizations' of record MORE (R-Mo.) told The Hill, adding that he hadn’t heard similar worries from other Republicans.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles 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.