House Conservatives Want to Press Rosenstein, Regardless of His Fate with Trump

President and deputy attorney general will meet next week

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talk during the press conference on Sept. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., left, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talk during the press conference on Sept. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 27, 2018 at 4:58pm

Conservative Republicans on the House Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform committees want to press Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on comments he allegedly made about recording President Donald Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.

And they want to plow ahead with their plans to bring Rosenstein before the joint panel regardless of whether Trump decides he trusts the deputy AG or jettisons him from the department.

“That’s a White House decision on what his status is,” House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan of Ohio said of Rosenstein, who reportedly verbally offered White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly his resignation earlier this week because he believed Trump was prepared to fire him.

“I don’t think that changes what Congress should be doing as far as oversight,” Jordan said.

Jordan, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and other conservatives on the joint Judiciary and Oversight panel have lingering questions about Rosenstein’s alleged comments, which he denied to the president in a meeting this week, a denial Trump signaled he believes.

“We’ve had a good talk,” Trump said Wednesday of his conversation with Rosenstein this week. “He said he has a lot of respect for me, and he was very nice.”

Trump pushed his follow-up meeting with Rosenstein that was originally scheduled for Thursday to next week. He is expected to decide the deputy AG’s fate at that meeting.

Watch: Blumenthal — Trump Firing Rosenstein Would Be a “Break the Glass Moment”

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Democrats have said Rosenstein’s ouster would amount to a constitutional crisis since the deputy attorney general is overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia and potential obstruction of that probe by the president.

But Republicans want to know more about what Rosenstein said in a meeting with top DOJ officials early in the Trump administration.

“In my humble opinion, you can’t have the guy who’s running the Justice Department talking about recording the commander in chief, even if it’s done in a joking, sarcastic manner,” Jordan said. “If [Rosenstein did say such things] and the president is satisfied that it’s still OK, and keeps him, that’s fine — that’s the White House’s call. But we should be able to ask questions about what took place in that meeting.”

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia issued a subpoena Thursday ordering the DOJ to hand over memorandums drafted by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe about the meetings in which Rosenstein allegedly made the comments.

The decision to order Rosenstein to testify in front of the Judiciary and Oversight panel ultimately rests with Goodlatte and GOP leadership.

Meadows and Jordan are threatening to bring a privileged resolution to the floor calling for Rosenstein’s impeachment if Goodlatte and GOP leaders do not call a hearing.

“I’m more interested in his testimony than having to force any kind of issue on the House floor,” Meadows told reporters Tuesday, but noted that “any option in our tool bag is certainly an option that we can still deploy.”

Jordan said Thursday that, based on his discussions with Goodlatte and leadership, he doesn’t think such a step will be necessary.

“I think we’re moving in a good direction as far as getting Mr. Rosenstein to come in front of Congress,” he said.