Rep. Johnson Grills Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in Judiciary Oversight Hearing
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on whether the President obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, the appropriateness of the President to publicly comment on the Russia investigation and whether he feared for his job:
Rep. Johnson Grills Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein in Judiciary Hearing: Link HERE
Chair: The chair recognizes the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Johnson, for five minutes.
Mr. Johnson: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your service to the country, Mr. Rosenstein. Based on the language in your special counsel order or your order appointing the special counsel, does the special counsel have the authority to investigate any individual who may have obstructed the investigation that FBI Director Comey confirmed on March 20th of this year, which was the Russian interference with the 2016 (U.S) elections?
Mr. Rosenstein: The Special Counsel does have the authority to investigate any obstruction related to his jurisdiction.
Mr. Johnson: Does this authority to investigate possible obstruction include investigating President Trump?
Mr. Rosenstein: I hope you won't take an inference one way or the other, but we do not discuss who may or may not be under investigation.
Mr. Johnson: I’m not asking you whether or not the president is under investigation. I’m just simply asking whether or not your order appointing the special counsel authorizes the special counsel to investigate the president.
Mr. Rosenstein: It authorizes him to investigate anybody who there’s predication to believe obstructed justice.
Mr. Johnson: And that includes the president, correct?
Mr. Rosenstein: It would include anybody who’s suspected of obstructing justice.
Mr. Johnson: All right. Do you think that it's appropriate for the president to comment publicly on any pending investigation?
Mr. Rosenstein: Congressman, the decision about whether people in political positions comment on investigations is not my responsibility is to ensure that our investigations are not impacted improperly by any opinion.
Mr. Johnson: It would not be appropriate for you to comment about any pending investigation, isn't that correct?
Mr. Rosenstein: Correct.
Mr. Johnson: And the president is the chief law enforcement officer. …at least he considers himself to be in the country. It would be inappropriate for him then to comment on a pending investigation, would it not?
Mr. Rosenstein: I believe over the years there have been presidents who have made comments about investigations. It’s simply not my responsibility to make that decision.
Mr. Johnson: Do you think it’s appropriate for the president to call for investigation of specific individuals?
Mr. Rosenstein: I’m simply not going to comment on that congressman, other than to tell you it’s my responsibility along with the attorney general to make sure those decisions are made independently by the department based upon the facts and the law.
Mr. Johnson: Has the president ever contacted you to urge action in any pending investigation?
Mr. Rosenstein: Congressman, I have not received any improper orders and I’m not going to be talking about particular communications I may have which are appropriate communications with the White House.
Mr. Johnson: What would be your legal basis for refusing to answer the question whether or not the president has contacted you to urge any action in any pending investigation? What would be your legal basis for refusing to answer that question?
Mr. Rosenstein: This is not a partisan issue. I worked on an investigation where the previous president encouraged the department to do an expeditious investigation. So the question for me is are we or are we not appropriately making an independent determination regardless of who comments on it.
Mr. Johnson: My question is: Has the president ever con you to urge action in any pending investigation, yes or no?
Mr. Rosenstein: I have nothing further to say.
Mr. Johnson: So, you're going to refuse to answer a question from a member of Congress seeking to do oversight?
Mr. Rosenstein: I’ve told you I have not received any improper orders and I’m simply not going to talk about communications. I think in every administration senior law enforcement officers have to be able to communicate with the president and his officials about appropriate matters within their responsibility and not comment on it. You shouldn’t draw any inference. It’s simply not appropriate for me to talk about communications I may have with the administration. I would tell you if something happened that was wrong if somebody ordered me to do that was something improper but that has not happened.
Mr. Johnson: It would be improper for the president to ever contact you about initiating an investigation of someone, would it not?
Mr. Rosenstein: We’ve discussed this previously Congressman. Presidents have commented publicly.
Mr. Johnson: No, no, no. My question is it would be improper for a president to contact you about initiating an investigation of someone? It would be improper wouldn’t it?
Mr. Rosenstein: It would be improper for the president to order me to conduct an investigation.
Mr. Johnson: It would be improper for the president to ask you to initiate an investigation, would it not?
Mr. Rosenstein: If it were for improper reasons, yes.
Mr. Johnson: Is it your testimony today that the president has not asked you to investigate someone specifically?
Mr. Rosenstein: I understand what you’re getting at. But as I said, I was in the last administration and the president of the last administration commented on matters. There’s nothing wrong about that.
Mr. Johnson: You’re being very artful in jumping around and evading answering my question. So you're not going to answer and that’s unfortunate. Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?
Mr. Rosenstein: No, I am not Congressman.
Mr. Johnson: With that, I will yield back
Chair: The time of the gentleman has expired.