After the frustration of FBI agent Peter Strzok’s behind-closed-doors hearing on Monday, in which he managed to avoid answering the important questions, we got to have a public hearing of FBI Director Christopher Wray and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in which they managed to avoid answering the important questions.
Still, they communicated more than perhaps they know, because we learned a lot about what we’re dealing with. And it’s not good.
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These two have been stonewalling for many months. To set the scene, here’s a refresher from Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal from a little over a month ago, lamenting “the Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and to the department’s relationship with Congress.” It explains how both the President and Congress have been forced into an adversarial position with the DOJ, and how political judgments with no authority are being used to inhibit them --- especially President Trump --- from taking action in perfectly constitutional ways. A key observation that relates to Thursday’s hearing is that the DOJ is refusing to tell Congress who did the heavy redacting of documents that turned out to have nothing to do with national security but that obviously was done to hide information that put them in a bad light. Strassel’s conclusion is that Trump should refuse to be boxed-in legally and just declassify everything possible.
Now we come to Thursday’s hearing. Tension was in the air, as members of Congress who have been waiting in some cases for A YEAR for documents expressed their fury. When Rosenstein was pressed on information regarding the redactions, he implied that his job was above the pay grade of those underlings (who still remain nameless) who do the redacting, huffing, “I’m the DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL...OKAY? I’m not the person doing the redacting.” OKAY, Mr. Rosenstein, but you’re that person’s boss, and you have the constitutional duty to supply that information to Congress. They also have the right to know who that person is so they can question him or her.
When asked if it might be appropriate that he recuse himself, given his huge conflicts, Rosenstein bizarrely smirked and chuckled, saying only that he would be "happy" to recuse himself if it were appropriate.
Trey Gowdy, who has come to life since the release of the IG report, made it clear that he is fed up. In fact, he went ballistic, saying, “If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this President acted inappropriately, present it to the American people...whatever you got, finish it the hell up, ‘cause this country is being torn apart.”
Rosenstein refused to comment on FISA applications, or even to answer the question of whether not not he read the one he signed. Showing that we are indeed through the looking glass, he denied in an extremely confrontational exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan that he is keeping information from Congress, saying the impression that he has done so is “not accurate.” In another exchange concerning Peter Strzok’s refusal to answer questions in Wednesday’s hearing, he chose to be flippant: “How do I know, sir? I mean, you interviewed Mr. Strzok, I didn’t.”
So, enough of this. Why won’t Trump order Rosenstein to declassify documents and provide them to Congress? Andrew C. McCarthy, appearing Thursday evening with Laura Ingraham, hypothesized that Trump has received advice --- “I don’t think it’s particularly good advice” --- not to act and force disclosure because that might be interpreted as obstruction of justice.
“That’s nuts,” he said. “I don’t see a legal obstruction, but I think that’s where they’re at.”
On Thursday, Rosenstein was given one more chance to cooperate with Congress, as a resolution was passed 224-184 in favor of imposing a seven-day deadline on the DOJ for the production of documents under subpoena. But we all know the DOJ is not going to cooperate with this. Whoever is doing the stonewalling and redacting of information is making the department look so bad, it’s hard to imagine how much worse for them the release of it might be. What in God’s name are they hiding?
President Trump is going to have to step in and pry it out. He appointed both Rosenstein and Wray and is their boss. At this point, considering how sick most Americans are of this, I don’t see how he gains political advantage by dragging out his own victimization. And how transparency can be redefined as obstruction is beyond me.
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