While media attention has been focused on the astounding events unfolding quickly in Singapore, a longtime standoff between Congress and the DOJ is coming to a head. And like an erupting skin lesion, the result is not going to be pretty.
We’ve learned that at a tense meeting held in January of this year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reacted to the possibility of being hit with contempt charges by threatening to subpoena the emails, phone records and other documents of Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee and their staff. In emails reviewed by Catherine Herridge at FOX News, the scene was characterized by aides as a “personal attack.”
One committee staffer summed it up: “Let me just add that watching the Deputy Attorney General launch a sustained personal attack against a congressional staffer in retaliation for vigorous oversight was astonishing and disheartening….Also having the nation’s #1 (for these matters) law enforcement officer threaten to ‘subpoena your calls and emails’ was downright chilling.” The DOJ will try to defend this threat as a call for “discovery” in the event Rosenstein is held in contempt of Congress –- a richly deserved charge at this point –- but the staffer read it as “a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us.” FOX News’ Gregg Jarrett has called it “likely an abuse of power and obstruction.”
The staffer’s account is disputed by representatives of the FBI and DOJ. Alleged Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just defended Rosenstein publicly against charges of threatening, saying, “We do believe that we have tried to be cooperative with them and made progress as the months have gone by, and, in fact, have had some good relationships with top members of Congress.”
I guess by “good relationships” he’s referring to the mysterious passivity of “pod people” Trey Gowdy and Paul Ryan. Otherwise, only another pod person would call the relationship between the DOJ/FBI and Congress “good,” and in the strangely subdued video clip of Sessions, he does appear to have been taken over. So what is it going to take for Congress to get key documents relating to the FBI’s Russia investigation? After all the fighting for months and months over their release, one has to ask: what in the blue blazes are they trying to hide?
Things have only gotten more contentious in recent weeks. Tom Dupree, former principal deputy assistant attorney general under George W. Bush, views the attempts at intimidation as symptomatic of not just a deteriorating relationship, but much worse: “a massive breakdown in the system.” Committee Chairman Devin Nunes had set Tuesday as the deadline for the receipt of documents relating to the use of a “confidential human source” (SPY) to SPY on some associates of the Trump campaign, and now Tuesday has come and gone. Rosenstein and others have offered to have yet another talk-fest on Thursday –- apparently without the documents in question. If this is just one more verbal briefing without the actual evidence, it is unacceptable. (Incidentally, Thursday is the date set for the release of the Inspector General’s report.)
House Oversight Committee members Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan appeared on Tuesday’s Laura Ingraham show and responded to Sessions’ lame defense of Rosenstein, outlining the many instances of documents being withheld or redacted for no acceptable reason. Jordan slammed Rosenstein for threatening to go after their communications when they’re just doing their constitutional duty. Meadows pointed out that since they are a separate branch of government, the DOJ doesn’t have the right to come after them in that way unless they’re under “some kind of criminal investigation.”
He said Sessions doesn’t know what he’s talking about. “I’m here to tell you,” he added, “we’re fed up with it.”
He announced that they were planning to file a resolution on Wednesday to compel the DOJ to turn over the documents. Since a subpoena hasn’t worked, they want the whole House of Representatives to pass their resolution, theorizing that this will add more force. Really?
Obviously, they don’t want to file contempt or impeachment charges unless all other efforts have been exhausted. But surely they know the DOJ is not going to comply. It has drawn the line. We can see now that there really is a “deep state,” and this is is the hill it apparently chooses to die on, most likely protecting...someone...who did...something...unspeakably bad.