As the months — and at this point, years — of the Russia investigation continue to unfold, House Republicans continue to cling tightly to the mantle of being some of President Donald Trump’s most ardent defenders. Overall, where others have sought to uncover the truth of the Russia scandal “wherever it may lead,” as the saying goes, Republicans, particularly on the House Intelligence Committee, have launched attack after attack on the whole investigative apparatus itself, claiming some kind of pandemic of corruption.
Their latest attack comes to us courtesy of Fox News. Unidentified staffers on the House Intel Committee told the network a story of feeling “threatened” by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with an essentially punitive subpoena during a meeting in January. That meeting and “threat” came in the midst of the battle between the House Intel Committee and the Department of Justice over documents covering the behind the scenes aspects to the Russia investigation. Republicans have sought the documents as a part of their quest to uncover supposed corruption that condemns the whole investigative undertaking.
The problem, though, with the staffers’ claims is that they’re false. There were no threats from Rosenstein during that January meeting. At the time, the committee itself was threatening to hold him in contempt of Congress for not producing documents in the fashion in which they’d have preferred.
In response to that, the deputy AG simply pointed out that in his capacity as a citizen of the United States, he would have the right to defend himself, including through requesting that relevant communications on the part of individuals associated with the House Intel Committee be produced. He never threatened anyone with any kind of punitive, retaliatory criminal investigation that would entail wanton subpoenas.
As an official with the DOJ put it:
‘The Deputy Attorney General was making the point — after being threatened with contempt — that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages… That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so.’
Rosenstein’s take on the matter does not end with him hoping that House Intel Committee members and staffers retained relevant communications should they ever bring a contempt of Congress charge against him.
CNN also reports that after returning to the United States later this week, Rosenstein plans to “request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct” who spoke to Fox News and claimed him to have threatened them.
The claims from the staffers floated in the Fox News report are one of what are at this point many instances of Republicans going after the DOJ because the Russia investigation exists. On numerous occasions, through such means as the release of the “Nunes memo” earlier this year produced by House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes, they’ve claimed the investigation to be — to use Trump’s terminology — a “witch hunt.” However, as in this case, their attempts to undercut the DOJ have repeatedly come up short.
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