Rosenstein Under Pressure as House Republicans Prepare to Vote on Demands

(Bloomberg) -- House Republicans moved toward a vote this week on a measure pressing Justice Department officials to provide more documents on investigations during the 2016 presidential election, or risk contempt of Congress or impeachment.

Republican leaders gave their blessing to an effort to advance the resolution, and the Rules Committee scheduled a meeting on the resolution on Wednesday. The goal is to hold a floor vote on Thursday, one of the co-sponsors, GOP Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said in an interview Tuesday night.

Passing the resolution would escalate pressure on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to hand over material, including some related to the origins of the investigation into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The measure would give Rosenstein and other officials until July 6 to comply.

The resolution doesn’t specify any penalties if the documents aren’t delivered. But Jordan said earlier Tuesday that “all options are on the table” when someone “tells the House of Representatives to take a hike,” including action for contempt of Congress or even impeachment.

Deeper Involvement

“We want the majority of the House to support it; we just think that would be stronger,” he said of the push to bring the measure to the House floor.

Such a move could thrust Congress even deeper into an ongoing investigation -- uncharted territory for lawmakers, and a mark of the deep partisan divisions over Rosenstein and his appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“Here’s the bottom line: We are sick and tired of the Department of Justice giving us the runaround,” said Jordan, who sponsored the measure with Representative Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

‘Bad-Faith Effort’

Top Judiciary Committee Democrat Jerrold Nadler said Tuesday that the resolution is “a bad-faith effort by members of the majority” that he says is being orchestrated by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. Nadler said that the real aim is to sabotage or undermine Mueller’s investigation into whether there was “a possible criminal conspiracy with the government of Russia to rig an election.”

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland said the Republican resolution seems intended to provoke “a constitutional crisis” by demanding information that “we all know the Justice Department cannot turn over."

One of the changes made in consultation with Speaker Paul Ryan’s office Tuesday night was to take out demands for an an unredacted copy of an August 2017 memo outlining the jurisdiction and scope of Mueller’s Russia probe. The Republicans have claimed the memo added details to an earlier version, and they want to know why those changes were made.

But the measure still includes demands contained in two subpoenas issued by the Intelligence and the Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary committees for documents. Those relate to alleged surveillance abuses and decisions made by the Justice Department in its investigations of the handling of emails by Hillary Clinton and Russian election interference.

The measure is needed for the committee to “conduct meaningful oversight” of the Justice Department and FBI, including looking into potential surveillance or other “abuses,” said Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. He said his committee will further press for the material during a scheduled public hearing Thursday with Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

In addition, FBI agent Peter Strzok, a prime target of Republican criticism for anti-Trump tweets he wrote during the 2016 campaign, was being interviewed behind closed doors Wednesday by members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. Members have said they expect a public hearing later.

In the Senate, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said Tuesday that he isn’t yet convinced there’s been a coverup of the Justice Department’s actions at the start of the Russia investigation, but he’s starting to get suspicious.

“I’d have to have more evidence to draw that conclusion,” he said. “But when you have certain things that are common sense that we ought to have access to -- information, documents, etc. -- it kind of makes you suspicious that they might be trying to cover up. But do I have proof of cover-up? No.”

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