Appearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein denied the claims, made by Republican House Intelligence Committee staffers, that he threatened them in a tense conversation about Justice Department document production.
In denying the claims, which had been previously been denied by the Justice Department and the FBI, Rosenstein also made a subtle dig at how the staffers’ allegations were leaked anonymously to the media.
“People make all kinds of allegations and in my business, we ask who’s the witness, now [are they] credible?” Rosenstein said, responding to a question by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). “And if somebody swears under oath that I threatened them, I’ll be happy to respond.”
He pointed out that two other Trump DOJ appointees — FBI Director Christopher Wray and Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd — joined him in the meeting, as did two former GOP U.S. attorneys, before denying the allegations.
In February, unnamed sources told Fox News that Rosenstein threatened to use his subpoena powers in a January meeting. Fox News later reported on emails from Kash Patel, an aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who wrote to the House Office of General Counsel about the meeting. A second unnamed staffer also wrote an email to the House General Counsel alleging that Rosenstein launched a “sustained personal attack” on his colleague that he interpreted to be “a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us.”
CNN followed up with the Fox News story with a report, based on an unnamed Justice official, that Rosenstein was only making clear that if Congress sought to hold him in contempt, he would be able to defend himself, “including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) returned to the allegations later in the hearing — as part of an extended tirade against the deputy attorney general — asking Rosenstein if he threatened to “subpoena their calls and emails?”
“No, sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein said, prompting laughter, and recommended that Jordan not depend on the press reports on the meeting.
“Who are we supposed to believe, staff members who we’ve worked with who’ve never misled us or you guys who’ve we caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer our questions, who are we supposed to believe?” Jordan barked back.
“Thank for you making it clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan,” Rosenstein replied, sarcastically.
“You should believe me because I’m telling the truth and I’m under oath. If you want to put somebody under oath, and they have something different to say, I’d be happy to respond,” Rosenstein added.