Er …. maybe. After getting a public vote of confidence from his boss Donald Trump, Rod Rosenstein may have lost interest in getting one from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Earlier today, Roll Call reported that the deputy Attorney General won’t appear to testify to two House committees as expected regarding a New York Times report last month that had Rosenstein supposedly strategizing a 25th Amendment removal of Trump and advising colleagues to tape all conversations with him. Now two Republican representatives want to send Rosenstein a gilt-edged invitation … better known as a Congressional subpoena:
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was expected to testify in a closed session with the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees this week but he will not appear, according to a news release from GOP Reps. Andy Biggs and Matt Gaetz. …
“Despite speculation that he would appear on Thursday, October 11th, Rosenstein has again failed to cooperate with congressional leaders,” Biggs said. “The Judiciary Committee must now subpoena him to appear. His obstinance should not be rewarded with more delays. Rod Rosenstein has stonewalled congressional investigations for months, while allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to escape oversight of his investigation.”
Gaetz accused DOJ of “playing hide-and-seek with Congressional interviews,” saying that suggests they are not taking lawmakers seriously.
But did Rosenstein actually set a date and time to meet with either committee? A House Judiciary staffer told The Hill that nothing had been scheduled so far, which the Department of Justice confirmed:
A House Judiciary Committee aide told The Hill that the panel does not have a time confirmed for Rosenstein to appear on Capitol Hill.
“We have many questions for Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and expect answers to those questions. There is not at this time a confirmed date for a potential meeting. Nevertheless, we will continue to provide updates as we have them,” the aide said.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur-Flores said they had “nothing to announce at this point.”
The Washington Post headline declares, “Rosenstein’s interview with Trump’s congressional allies postponed indefinitely,” but the reporting suggests that it’s only been postponed until next month, after the election:
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s interview with a joint House panel reviewing the Justice Department investigation of President Trump’s alleged Russia ties will not take place this week as expected, according to congressional aides involved with the planning.
The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees were expected to speak with Rosenstein behind closed doors Thursday as part of their probe into federal law enforcement’s conduct during the investigations of Trump’s campaign and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. But a dispute over the interview’s terms prevented the committees and the Justice Department from reaching a deal to hold the meeting, according to people familiar with the discussions.
So there was no agreement for a specific appearance. CNN reported that the committees had “tentatively” scheduled some time tomorrow for grilling Rosenstein. That sounds as though no confirmation was given, which makes it sound a bit like Gaetz and Biggs jumped the gun on their press release. Given how unsettled Rosenstein’s status was until his Air Force One tête à tête with Trump yesterday, any scheduled meetings would have had to be subject to change. In fact, until Rosenstein stepped off the plane yesterday, it might well have been moot.
And in fact, one has to wonder why it’s not moot anyway. Trump seems fine with Rosenstein continuing in his role, even more so than with Jeff Sessions. If Rosenstein has a victim at all in the New York Times narrative, it would be Trump, not Congress. That doesn’t mean Congress can’t ask questions about it, but it’s not at all clear as to why it has to be tomorrow, or before the midterm elections. Gaetz and Biggs can’t fire Rosenstein for Trump, after all, and Trump could fire him now if that’s what he wanted.
The Post notes that they’re hoping to get Rosenstein in front of the committee for other reasons:
House lawmakers — some of whom have expressed skepticism about McCabe’s credibility while he is under investigation amid allegations that he lied to FBI officials — say they want to hear directly from Rosenstein. They are also expected to ask him about other outstanding materials that Trump’s allies say will expose what Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has called the “rotten” foundations of Mueller’s probe.
Support from House Republican leaders for these efforts has ebbed and flowed. Last month, frustrated by what they saw as a lack of action by the committees, Trump’s allies appealed directly to Trump to declassify documents they see as key to the congressional panels’ investigation. Trump initially agreed — before reneging, under pressure from allies.
The Judiciary Committee has since subpoenaed documents it believes will show that the FBI left critical information out of its application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — details, they say, that could have drawn suspicion away from Page and the Trump team.
Again, that’s not a highly time-sensitive issue. Trump himself isn’t pressing too hard on this, which might be an indication that there’s not much there in the first place. If there is, it might be good information to have in hand when Mueller comes out with his report, but that almost certainly won’t be before the midterms. The last thing Republicans should want is to make the Mueller probe the top headline story between now and Election Day and distract from the Kavanaugh effect reverberating around the electorate.
Trump appears smart enough to let Rosenstein ride for the next few weeks. House Republicans should take a hint.