Rod Rosenstein Backs Devin Nunes Into a Corner With ‘Chilling’ Subpoena Threat: Report
The ongoing battle between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s and House Republicans reached new heights after Rosenstein threatened to “subpoena” emails, phone records and other documents from the chairman of the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and other members of the committee, CNN reported Tuesday.
Rosenstein has clashed with House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes for months over a subpoena for documents related to the Russia investigation, but the battle spilled out into public view Tuesday after Fox News reported that Nunes and his staff felt “personally attacked” at a meeting with Rosenstein in January.
Citing emails documenting a closed-door meeting involving senior FBI and Justice Department officials as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee, CNN reports that Rosenstein threatened to turn the tables on the committee’s inquiries regarding the Russia probe.
“The DAG [Deputy Attorney General] criticized the Committee for sending our requests in writing and was further critical of the Committee’s request to have DOJ/FBI do the same when responding,” the committee’s then-senior counsel for counterterrorism Kash Patel wrote to the House Office of General Counsel. “Going so far as to say that if the Committee likes being litigators, then ‘we [DOJ] too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall.”
A second House committee staffer at the meeting backed up Patel’s account, writing: “Let me just add that watching the Deputy Attorney General launch a sustained personal attack against a congressional staffer in retaliation for vigorous oversight was astonishing and disheartening. … Also, having the nation’s #1 (for these matters) law enforcement officer threaten to ‘subpoena your calls and emails’ was downright chilling,” he said according to Fox News.
The committee staffer noted that Rosenstein’s comment could be interpreted as meaning the department would “vigorously defend a contempt action” — which might be expected. But the staffer continued, “I also read it as a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against us.”
Justice Department officials dispute the recounting of the closed-door meeting detailed in the story, and Rosenstein now plans to “request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct” when he returns from a foreign trip this week, a Justice Department official said.
“The Deputy Attorney General was making the point — after being threatened with contempt — that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false,” the official added.
“That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so.”