The FBI hasn’t had a good reputation under the Trump administration, with its use of a “salacious and unverified” opposition-research “dossier” to launch a probe of the Trump campaign, fired director’s James Comey open warfare against the president and more.
The latest flashpoint is a report that Assistant Director Rod Rosenstein threatened members of Congress with subpoenas for their records.
The move, concluded famed legal analyst Jonathan Turley, was “really reckless.”
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge reported on emails that described a tense closed-door meeting in January.
“Written by House Intelligence Committee staffers, they said Rosenstein threatened to subpoena emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and aides on the committee — in response to inquiries regarding the Russia probe,” Fox News said. “The DOJ and FBI have disputed the characterizations of the meeting, with a DOJ official telling Fox News that officials in the room described the description of events as false.”
Turley, a professor of constitutional law, explained Rosenstein is subject to oversight by committees in the House and Senate, and those committees have a right to see various documents supporting FBI investigations.
“The allegation that one party used the FBI to investigate the opposing party is one of the most serious matters for oversight in our system,” Turley said on “America’s Newsroom.” “It goes to the very heart of our electoral system and our governmental system.”
One committee staffer said Rosenstein’s threat was a “sustained personal attack” and “downright chilling.”
The Gateway Pundit noted Herridge’s reporting documented Fox News analyst Gregg Jarrett’s tweet that a second source has now confirmed that in a Jan. 10 meeting, Rosenstein “used the power of his office to threaten to subpoena the calls & texts of the Intel Committee to get it to stop it’s investigation of DOJ and FBI. Likely an Abuse of Power & Obstruction.”
“Of course the FBI and DOJ are disputing this account and defending Rosenstein,” the blog reported. “The swamp always protects their own.”
The DOJ insisted Rosenstein was responding to a threat of contempt, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions agreed.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said Wednesday morning he saw first hand what Rosenstein’s threats did to congressional staff members.
Gaetz tweeted: “The #DOJ’s intimidation & stone-walling tactics have gone too far. I’ve heard first-hand from congressional staff following threats delivered Deputy AG #Rosenstein. Staff has literally been scared to the point of physically shaking in my office out of concern for their family.”
He said Rosenstien should remove himself from any Trump investigation, at least partly because he “improperly signed a FISA application renewal.”
The Hill said Rosenstein’s response to the controversy was to ask the House to investigate its own staff members.
His original threat was, according to a lawyer for the House, “Going so far as to say that if the committee likes being litigators, then ‘we too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to [the House Permanent Select committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall.”
A DOJ statement said the comments weren’t a threat.
Rosenstein has spent months battling requests from the committee for documents it needs to complete its own investigations.
The Gateway Pundit said it is suspected that Rosenstein is the person behind “the stonewalling and slow walking and attempted redactions of the much-anticipated IG report” coming out Thursday regarding the FBI’s decision not to refer charges in the Hillary Clinton email probe.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCarthy wrote in a National Review column that the House Intelligence Committee “is investigating whether the government has used the Justice Department’s awesome investigative authorities as a weapon against political adversaries.”
“We learned yesterday that, in response to this very investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein … threatened to use the Justice Department’s awesome investigative authorities as a weapon against political adversaries.”
McCarthy said Rosenstein “threatened to subpoena the committee’s records does not seem to be in serious dispute.”
“There are differing accounts about why. House investigators say that Rosenstein was trying to bully his way out of compliance with oversight demands; the Justice Department offers the lawyerly counter that Rosenstein was merely foreshadowing his litigating position if the House were to try to hold him in contempt for obstructing its investigations.
“Either way,” McCarthy wrote, “the best explanation for the outburst is that Rosenstein is beset by profound conflicts of interest, and he’s acting like it.”
McCarthy explained the position in which Rosenstein found himself.
“Among other things, the House Intelligence Committee and senior Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were pressing for disclosure of the applications the Justice Department submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISA court”) for warrants to eavesdrop on Carter Page, a former Trump-campaign adviser. … Back then, we were being told that the FBI and Justice Department would never provide the FISA court with unverified allegations from third- and fourth-hand anonymous foreign sources, purveyed by a foreign former spy whose partisan work — including the planting of media stories at the height of the election race — had been paid for by the Democratic presidential candidate. We were being told that if the sources of information presented to the FISA court had any potential biases, those would be candidly disclosed to the FISA court. And we were being told that information in FISA applications is so highly classified that disclosing it would reveal methods and sources of information, almost certainly putting lives and national security in jeopardy.”
What did happen?
“We learned that the Justice Department and FBI had, in fact, submitted to the FISA court the Steele dossier’s allegations from Russian sources, on the untenable theory that the foreign purveyor of these claims, Christopher Steele, was trustworthy — notwithstanding that he was not making the allegations himself, but instead was only relaying the claims of others.”