Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will speak to congressional leaders next week behind closed doors to address reports that he discussed wearing a wire to secretly record President Donald Trump and recruited Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy said in a statement Thursday that Rosenstein has agreed to be interviewed by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees on October 24, in what will be his first appearance on Capitol Hill after he nearly departed the Justice Department last month amid the fallout over his comments about a wire and the 25th Amendment.
The interview will be held behind closed doors in a secure setting, the lawmakers said, but a transcript will be released once it is scrubbed by the intelligence community for sensitive information.
But the interview with just the four committee leaders and a court reporter may not stem the growing criticism of Rosenstein from Trump’s closest Republican congressional allies, who have been demanding Rosenstein appear so they can grill the deputy attorney general.
House Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows of North Carolina renewed his calls for Rosenstein to resign on Thursday, before the interview had been announced.
“At this particular point, Rod Rosenstein’s priorities are misplaced, for his unwillingness to come before Congress and allow us to conduct proper congressional oversight,” Meadows said. “It’s time that Rod Rosenstein steps down. He should do so immediately. And in doing that, I think it would serve the country well, it would serve this President well.”
Rosenstein had appeared to be stepping down last month after The New York Times, CNN and other outlets had reported that he discussed wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment. But Trump said he had no plans to fire Rosenstein after they met on Air Force One earlier this month.
After the reports first surfaced last month, Rosenstein said: “I never pursued or authorized recording the President and any suggestion that I have ever advocated for the removal of the President is absolutely false.”
Another source in the meeting where the wire remark was made told CNN it was sarcastic.
But the comments prompted Meadows and other congressional Republicans to demand Rosenstein appear on Capitol Hill to explain himself. The criticism amplified last week after former FBI General Counsel James Baker testified behind closed doors that Baker’s colleagues had approached him about the meeting in which Rosenstein discussed wearing a wire, and they believed Rosenstein was serious.
Baker, who was not in the meeting when Rosenstein made the comments, was back on Capitol Hill on Thursday to conclude his testimony. Meadows again called for Rosenstein’s resignation as he left the interview with Baker.
“You can’t help but see the testimony we’ve received over the last week or so and call into question Rod Rosenstein’s candor,” Meadows said. “Based on multiple conversations that we’ve had, it’s apparent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did intend to at one point tape the President of the United States. And that’s troubling.”
Meadows and others like Reps. Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz have pressed Goodlatte, who is retiring at the end of this term, to subpoena Rosenstein to testify. They’re unlikely to be satisfied that Rosenstein is only expected to meet with Goodlatte, House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy and the top Democrats on Judiciary and Oversight: Reps. Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings respectively.
Gaetz criticized Goodlatte on Twitter last week after a tentative interview date with Rosenstein was postponed, saying he had flown up from Florida for the occasion, and he expressed his frustration with the process again Thursday.
“It’s just a travesty we haven’t brought Rosenstein in to give answers under oath,” Gaetz said. “This is low-energy oversight.”
The uproar over Rosenstein’s latest comments were only the latest twist in a lengthy feud between Rosenstein and congressional Republicans over documents related to the FBI and the Justice Department’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations.
Meadows and Jordan in July introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein, although they have not taken a procedural move yet to force a House floor vote on the matter. Meadows has asserted that congressional leaders agreed to bring in Rosenstein for an interview with the committees in the wake of his comments.