Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to call on the House general counsel to investigate the conduct of Rep. Devin Nunes’ staffers on the House Intelligence Committee, CNN reported Tuesday evening.
On Tuesday, those tensions boiled over after a Fox News report claimed that Nunes’ staffers felt “personally attacked” at a meeting with Rosenstein in January.
The staffers reportedly claimed that Rosenstein threatened them with a criminal investigation — an account that the DOJ flatly rejected Tuesday.
In response to the staffers’ apparently misleading claims, Rosenstein will “request that the House general counsel conduct an internal investigation of these Congressional staffers’ conduct,” CNN reported, citing an unnamed DOJ official.
“The Deputy Attorney General never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation,” the official added, according to CNN. “The FBI Director, the senior career ethics adviser for the Department, and the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs who were all present at this meeting are all quite clear that the characterization of events laid out here is false.”
The DOJ official, who gave identical statements Tuesday afternoon to CNN and Fox News, said Rosenstein “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.”
“That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so,” the official said.
In other words, the deputy attorney general responded to an apparent threat by Nunes’ staffers to hold him in contempt by telling them that if they chose to go forward with the threat, he would not surrender his due process rights — including the right to issue subpoenas for evidence to defend himself.
As former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti put it, “Staffers for Devin Nunes apparently threatened to hold Rod Rosenstein in Contempt of Congress in a recent meeting. He told them if they did, he would have the right to subpoena their communications and put them on the witness stand to prove them wrong. He’s 100% right about that.”
“Rosenstein was just telling them the consequences of taking a very foolish action against him,” Mariotti added. “He has a right to due process, and during that process, the facts matter.”
As the DOJ’s top official overseeing the Russia probe, Rosenstein has become the focus of intense criticism and attacks lobbed by congressional Republicans seeking to shield Trump from scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
In April, CNN reported that the White House was preparing a smear campaign aimed at undermining Rosenstein’s credibility. As part of that effort, Trump reportedly planned to use his allies in Congress and right-wing media as attack dogs to go after Rosenstein, hoping to build a case for firing him without it looking like he’s interfering in the Russia probe.
As Trump’s chief enabler and lapdog, Nunes has led the charge against Rosenstein and the DOJ, calling for the DOJ to be investigated for not blindly opening its evidence locker every time Nunes wants to peak inside of it so he can run back to Trump and tell him what he found.
But now, Nunes is discovering the hard way that his calls to investigate the investigators are not a one-way street. And unlike Rosenstein, Nunes may find himself in some very hot water once the tables are turned on him.
Published with permission of The American Independent.