Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) got into a heated exchange during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Ohio conservative grilled Rosenstein on why he withheld from Congress information about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The deputy attorney general repeatedly snapped back in frustration, explaining that he has not personally withheld anything from Congress.
The back-and-forth came after the House GOP voted on a resolution demanding the Rosenstein’s Department of Justice comply with information requests from both the House intelligence and judiciary committees.
“I am the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, OK?” Rosenstein said. “I’m not the person responsible for doing the redacting… Your use of this to attack me personally is wrong.”
“It's not personal,” Jordan responded.
“I appreciate you saying it isn’t personal, sometimes it feels that way,” Rosenstein said.
The tense exchange went on for several minutes, with Rosenstein asserting that he is not “personally trying to conceal something” from the GOP-led House. “It means we’re trying to run an organization that’s trying to follow the rules,” he said.
Citing a recent Fox News report, Jordan accused Rosenstein of telling FBI agent Peter Strzok—who is at the center of a controversy involving anti-Trump text messages—not to answer questions from Congress, and wanting to subpoena the calls and emails of House Intelligence Committee staffers.
“This is what they said: ‘Having the nation's number one law enforcement officer threaten to subpoena your calls and emails is downright chilling,’” Jordan read. “Did you threaten to subpoena their calls and emails?"
“No sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” quipped Rosenstein, prompting audible laughter among the Democratic members in the room.
Jordan explained that he was simply reading what Fox had reported. “I suggest you not rely on what the press says, sir,” the number-two DOJ official responded. While subpoenaing phone records is possible, subpoenaing phone calls is not—Rosenstein was clearly not willing to let Jordan off on a technicality.
Towards the end of the exchange, the Republican lawmaker challenged Rosenstein’s credibility, asking, “Who are we supposed to believe? Staff members who we’ve worked with, who have never misled us, or you guys who we’ve caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer questions from us, who are we supposed to believe?”
Rosenstein told Jordan should believe him because he was “telling the truth” and “under oath.” He also dryly let the congressman know what he thought of this line of questioning.
“Thank you for making it clear it’s not personal, Mr. Jordan.”