Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pushed back against his House Republican critics on Tuesday, warning that the Justice Department is “not going to be extorted” amid threats that he could be impeached.
“There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted,” Rosenstein said at an event at the Newseum in Washington.
Rosenstein was asked to respond to a Washington Post report Monday that Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and other members of the House Freedom Caucus have drafted articles of impeachment against him. The deputy attorney general brushed off the threat to his job.
“I just don’t have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and that they leak in that way,” he said.
Meadows quickly fired back on Twitter, suggesting Rosenstein should step aside: “If he believes being asked to do his job is ‘extortion,’ then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new Deputy Attorney General—preferably one who is interested in transparency.”
Rosenstein has been the target of vocal criticism from a number of House Republicans, and Meadows told the Post that the impeachment articles had been drafted as a “last resort.” But other Republicans have also raised the notion that the deputy attorney general could be removed from office, including House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes of California, who was threatening contempt and impeachment last month in his effort to gain access to the July 2016 electronic communication document that launched the FBI’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.
House Republicans have accused Rosenstein and the Justice Department of stonewalling them on a range of document requests tied to both the Hillary Clinton and Russian election meddling investigations, which has prompted a number of House Republicans to call for Rosenstein to be held in contempt.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents related to the FBI’s handling of the Clinton investigation, although the lawmakers struck an agreement with the department last month for staffers to review classified documents at the DOJ, according to sources familiar with the agreement.
Goodlatte, Nunes and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina also demanded that Rosenstein give Congress copies of the memos drafted by former FBI Director James Comey detailing his interactions with Trump. Under the threat of a subpoena from Goodlatte, the Justice Department provided Congress with unclassified and classified versions of the memos.
Some Democrats argue that the Republicans are targeting Rosenstein in order to give the President reason to fire the deputy attorney general, who supervises special counsel Robert Mueller.
On Tuesday, Rosenstein said the Justice Department was responding to congressional oversight requests based on the “rule of law,” not threats against him.
“We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job,” he said.
This story has been updated to include additional information.