Politics

Wednesday Won’t Be Your Average Recess Hump Day

Rosenstein testimony, Senate Judiciary, Trump rally to showcase tribal warfare

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be interviewed by the leaders of two House committees on Wednesday, part of a busy time at the Capitol and White House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Embattled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein finally testifies. The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue its autumn of discontent. And President Donald Trump will sign opioids legislation before taking his midterms road show to Wisconsin.

No, Wednesday will not be your typical recess day. Rather, it will be a cable news bonanza chronicling the country’s era of tribal political warfare.

From the hallway outside a House hearing room where the chairmen and ranking members from two committees will grill Rosenstein to a rally stage in Mosinee, Wisconsin, America’s deeply partisan divisions will be on a full display.

A lone exception will be Trump, during an East Room ceremony, making law a bipartisan bill to combat the country’s opioid crisis. The measure received 393 votes in the House and 98 in the Senate. Republican and Democratic lawmakers will be in the room when Trump puts pen to paper, a White House spokesman said.

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That event will serve as a kind of intermission for both Congress’ midterm recess and a day of Red Team vs. Blue Team election-year combat and posturing, which will go on into the night as Trump fires up supporters in a state he plucked from the Democrats’ so-called Midwest “blue wall” two years ago.

Conservative House members who are closely aligned with the president long have wanted to haul the deputy AG, who was nominated by Trump and confirmed by a GOP-controlled Senate, to Capitol Hill to testify. Those wishes only intensified last month after a New York Times report that Rosenstein once talked openly with colleagues about someone wearing a wire to record Trump with the aim of using the recording to trigger the 25th Amendment.

That would be “a mechanism to declare the president disabled and therefore have somebody else, the vice president, presumably, serving in his place,” House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia told Fox News on Sunday. “These are very, very serious allegations. … Well, we have a lot of questions for him.”

The panel’s Republicans also intend to press the deputy AG on whether the Justice Department withheld information that showed the Trump 2016 campaign did not collude with Russians when it sought renewals of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants related to the ongoing special counsel probe.

“I think there is a lot to suggest that what [GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe of Texas] is suggesting is a very serious concern,” Goodlatte said Sunday. “And that’s why we want the deputy attorney general to respond to that and give his perspective on it.”

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On hand will be the leaders of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee — Chairman Trey Gowdy and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings — along with Goodlatte and Judiciary ranking member Jerrold Nadler.

The GOP side will likely attempt to obtain information that will provide some homestretch midterm fodder to further their charges that the Justice Department and FBI upper echelon are out to get Trump, a narrative the president himself offers often. And the Democrats likely will seek to bolster their narrative that DOJ brass are merely guarding against a president who views himself as above the law and might have sought ongoing help from Moscow to defeat 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The leading House conservatives on the panel, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina and speaker candidate Jim Jordan of Ohio, have expressed outrage over the arrangement for Rosenstein’s testimony, grousing that they and others are being shut out of the interview process.

“Everyone else has come and talked to the task force in a transcribed interview setting,” Ben Williamson, Meadows’ spokesman, said Tuesday. “Why should [Rosenstein] be getting a different set-up?”

Goodlatte has said he and Gowdy will ask Rosenstein any questions members of the panel submit to them before the meeting Wednesday

Meanwhile, the Senate, despite its campaigning break, is not about to let the House and president steal the tribal show.

Last week, Judiciary Committee Republicans called a rare recess hearing to approve a number of Trump judicial nominees. Enough GOP members showed up to send the nominations to the floor — but Democratic members howled from afar as they boycotted the session.

Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray on Tuesday called for the nomination of Eric Miller, a partner at Perkins Coie, to be held over at least until the Senate returns to legislative session.

“Senate Republicans have been trampling on long-standing Senate norms in order to rush extreme conservatives onto the courts as quickly as they can, and this needs to end,” the Democrat from Washington said. “So I am not going to be complicit in this latest rushed process to load the courts with Trump nominees in the lame duck session and I will not be returning the blue slip that signals my approval of this process.”

Miller has been nominated by Trump for a seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is connected to Murray’s home state.

In a letter last week, Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said he believed both Murray and fellow Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell had been adequately consulted by the Trump administration, including conversations with then-White House counsel Don McGahn and that the hearing would go on. 

But Democrats are not likely to let that be the final word on the nomination, and even some Republicans might have tough questions for the nominees, if last week was any indication.

So expect more of this noisy recess Wednesday. And that’s even before Trump hits the stage in Wisconsin.

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Griffin Connolly and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.