For a few minutes Tuesday, Room 2121 of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill looked more like the British Parliament as Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed during testimony by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray on the Justice Department’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and on Rosenstein’s oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
In one remarkably tense exchange, Rosenstein sparred with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who accused the deputy attorney general of “hiding” information from Congress by not turning over outstanding documents the House Judiciary Committee had subpoenaed.
“I want to know why you won’t give us what we asked for,” Jordan said.
Rosenstein called Jordan’s characterization “inaccurate,” causing Jordan to erupt.
“It is accurate!” he exclaimed. “We have caught you hiding!”
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., appealed to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., demanding that Rosenstein be allowed to answer.
“We can go to Mr. Jordan’s press conference to listen to him,” Swalwell said. “But we came here to hear from the witness.”
Goodlatte said “the time belongs to the gentleman from Ohio,” meaning Jordan.
“Can we allow him to answer?” Swalwell protested, referring to Rosenstein.
Goodlatte said Swalwell was out of order, and Jordan followed up by asking why some of the documents were redacted.
“I appreciate you allowing me a chance to respond,” Rosenstein said sarcastically. “I’ve heard you make those allegations publicly on TV. Now, Mr. Jordan, I am the deputy attorney general of the United States, OK? I’m not the person doing the redacting.”
Rosenstein accused Jordan of “attacking” him personally.
“It’s not personal,” Jordan said.
“Sometimes it feels that way,” Rosenstein said.
Jordan accused Rosenstein of instructing FBI agent Peter Strzok — who testified before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees — not to answer the panel’s questions.
“I appreciate your sincere concerns, but I didn’t give Peter Strzok any instructions,” Rosenstein said.
Jordan then asked why Strzok said he couldn’t answer a question about whether he had met with Glenn Simpson, a former journalist who co-founded the Washington-based research firm Fusion GPS, which produced the controversial dossier that made salacious but unverified claims about President Trump’s ties to Russia.
“How would I know? You interviewed Mr. Strzok, I didn’t,” Rosenstein said.
“He works for you!” Jordan said.
“There are 115,000 people who work for me, sir,” Rosenstein responded.
Jordan then asked Rosenstein whether he had threatened staffers on the House Intelligence Committee. “Media reports indicate you did,” Jordan added.
“Media reports are mistaken,” Rosenstein said.
“Sometimes they are,” Jordan said, before reading from the report. “‘Having the nation’s No. 1 law enforcement officer threaten to subpoena your calls and emails is downright chilling.’ Did you threaten to subpoena their calls and emails?”
“No sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein said to laughter.
“Who are we supposed to believe,” Jordan said. “Staff members we’ve worked with, who’ve never misled us, or you guys, who we’ve caught hiding information from us?”
“Thank you for making clear it’s not personal,” Rosenstein said.
In recent weeks, Jordan and fellow GOP members of the House have ratcheted up pressure on Rosenstein as Mueller’s probe into possible ties between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign continues to cast a shadow over the administration.
Earlier in Thursday’s hearing., Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., berated both Rosenstein and Wray for allowing the Russia investigation to continue. Gowdy did not ask a question.
“Whatever you’ve got, finish it the hell up, because this country is being torn apart,” Gowdy said.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked Rosenstein and Wray if they could promise the American people they would not bow to political pressure and “stay to finish the job.”
“Congressman, in the Department of Justice, we’re accustomed to criticism,” Rosenstein said. “And it does not affect our work.”
Wray said he is “committed to doing this job by the book,” adding: “There is no amount of political pressure that is going to dissuade me from that.”
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