Nadler Questions Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein on Special Counsel Mueller and Republican Efforts to Discredit Investigation

Dec 13, 2017 Issues: Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, questioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during the Committee’s oversight hearing.

 

 Click on the photo for a video of the exchange.

The full text of Rep. Nadler's Q&A with DAG Rosenstein follows below:

Nadler: On Monday Ranking Member Cummings and I wrote you a letter, sir, about the Majority’s ongoing investigation into the investigation of former Secretary Clinton. [Without objection entered]. The first part of our letter discussed the Department’s failure to provide the minority with access to the documents you already provided to the majority. Yes or No: will you commit to ensuring the minority, that we receive equal access to the materials you provide to the majority and to the committee in the future?

Rosenstein: Yes, My understanding is that we may have provided… [Nadler interrupts]

Nadler: I have to be…I have a lot of questions. The majority of this committee, President Trump’s private attorneys have all called on the DOJ to appoint a new Special Counsel to investigate a number of Hillary Clinton related matters. I think we can benefit from your experience in how the special counsel regulation work. The Regulations say the Attorney General, or in your case the acting Attorey General, will appoint a Special Counsel when you determine that 1. Criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted. 2. Investigation either presents a conflict of interest to the Department or some other strong public interest requires you to appoint a special counsel. That first part, when he or she determines that investigation of a personal matter is warranted, is that part of the regulation optional?

Rosenstein: No.

Nadler: So a criminal investigation must first be determined to be warranted before you can assign a special counsel to the matter?

Rosenstein: Yes.

Nadler: Thank you. And at the DOJ, a criminal investigation requires an initial assessment and a preliminary view of the evidence?

Rosenstein: Correct.

Nadler: Has that assessment been made with respect to former Director’s Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation?

Rosenstein: I’m not going to comment on any investigations. In the normal course, before we made a determination, we would conduct an appropriate review.

Nadler: And I assume your answer would be the same if I asked you about the FBI’s interaction with Fusion GPS?

Rosenstein: It would be the same for any of them.

Nadler: Then presuming for a moment. Presuming for a moment the department has conducted an initial assessment and found no predicate for a criminal investigation. So in plain English, there is no ongoing criminal investigation. Under this presumption, can you or the Attorney General Sessions simply appoint a special counsel to look into these matters?

Rosenstein: No.

Nadler: As I said earlier to my knowledge there’s been no credible factual or legal claims that anyone in the department violated any law by deciding not to bring charges or by attempting to meet with Fusion GPS. If that is true, and if there is no underlying criminal investigation because there is insufficient evidence of a crime, in this or any other case, do the regulations permit you to appoint a special counsel?

Rosenstein: No.

Nadler: According to the Department, the office of the Inspector General informed Special Counsel Mueller of the existence of these text message between Strzok and Lisa Paige on July 27, 2017. The texts you sent us last night. Mr. Mueller immediately concluded that Mr. Strzok could no longer participate in the investigation and he was removed from the team in the same day. Did Mr. Mueller take appropriate action in this case?

Rosenstein: Yes, he did.

Nadler. Thank you. In testimony before Senate Intelligence Committee, you said you would only fire Special Counsel Mueller for good cause and that you had not seen any yet. Several months have passed since them. Have you seen good cause to fire Special Counsel Mueller?

Rosenstein: No.

Nadler: If you were ordered today to fire Mr. Mueller. What would you do?

Rosenstein: I’ve explained previously, I would follow the regulation. If there were good cause, I would act. If there were no good cause, I would not.

Nadler: And you’ve seen no good cause so far?

Rosenstein: Correct.

Nadler: On May 1, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued an opinion arguing that “Ranking Minority members do not have the authority to conduct oversight.” Shortly thereafter, Politico reported that White House Counsel instructed federal agencies not to cooperate with requests from Democrats. Since then, Democrats on this committee have written over 40 letters to the administration without any meaningful response thus far. Can you clarify your current position on responding to letters from the minority? And are you concerned that OLC’s May 1 opinion may serve to justify a policy of stonewalling by the administration?

Rosenstein: My position, Congressman, is that we make every effort to respond to any legitimate inquiry. A member of Congress, we prioritize inquiries by the chair of the committee on behalf of the committee. We’ll make an effort to respond to any inquiry. We get a lot of letters. So I apologize that…

Nadler: But will you also prioritize, after letters form the majority, letters form the minority?

Rosenstein: Our goal is to respond to all those letters in a reasonable manner. In fact, when our new Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd took office there was quite a backlog.

Nadler: Would you encourage the OLC to withdraw its May 1 opinion?

Rosenstein:  I’ll take a look at it….Congressman. As I said, without regard to the law may require, our policy is to try to…

Nadler: I understand that, but you’ll take a look as to whether you’ll encourage the OLC to withdraw that May 1st opinion?

Rosenstein: I will not commit to anything. I will agree to look at it.

Nadler: Finally, I just want to say and I wanted follow up to what the chairman was saying as to Section 702. The bill this committee reported: The bill specifically said if you are doing a counter or foreign intelligence investigation, or terrorism investigation, you don’t need a warrant to query Section 702 data. But where you conduct an investigation of domestic crimes, then, like any other investigation of domestic crimes, you would need a warrant. So that the danger that you were referring to was taken care by the bill. And I endorse the comments of the Chairman to that effect. I urge you to take a look at it. Thank you. I yield back.

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