Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was meeting with them on Oct. 24 for a transcribed interview along with Ranking Members Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
As noted in the press release, the interview will be conducted in a secure setting so “all relevant questions can be asked and answered without regard to classification.”
Additionally, the interview will be under oath. The transcript will then be reviewed by the Intelligence Community “to avoid the public dissemination of classified or otherwise protected information.” Upon completion of the clearance process, the transcript will be publicly available.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the special counsel probe by Robert Mueller appears to be winding down.
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue findings on core aspects of his Russia probe soon after the November midterm elections as he faces intensifying pressure to produce more indictments or shut down his investigation,” Bloomberg reported citing two U.S. officials, adding that “Rosenstein has made it clear that he wants Mueller to wrap up the investigation as expeditiously as possible.”
Four of Mueller’s prosecutors have left the special counsel’s office in recent months.
Additionally, the DOJ Inspector General has been involved in an ongoing investigation of FISA abuse since March 28. That investigation is likely nearing the final stages and a report could be released in the next couple of months.
The interview arrangement is tailored to curtail any leaks. Rosenstein, who is not under any requirement to attend the interview, has as much information on these two investigations as anyone in the DOJ.
Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo interviewed Goodlatte regarding his pending interview with Rosenstein on October 21, 2018.
Goodlatte specified the parameters for the Rosenstein interview at the outset:
“There is no limitation on the scope of these questions. That’s why it will be limited to the people who will be in the room and that it will be in a classified setting. We’ll have a court reporter present who has a security clearance. And we’ll have a transcript of that interview and then we will turn that over to the Intelligence Community to make sure that there are no things that cannot be released to the public. When we have that we’ll make it public. In the meantime, other members of Congress will also be able to see the interview in its classified format.”
Goodlatte said he wants to know about details regarding reports of Rosenstein discussing wearing a wire at the White House.
The alleged comments by Rosenstein occurred at a meeting where then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe was “pushing for the Justice Department to open an investigation into the president.” McCabe was the source of the accusations, and the allegations came at a critical juncture.
On Sept. 17, 2018, President Trump issued a declassification order for the Page FISA along with other related documents. Three days later, he reversed that order and pushed the declassification process back onto Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Rosenstein was a deciding factor in the reversal process.
The same day the news broke regarding President Trump’s reversal decision, the New York Times ran its story about Rosenstein allegedly having offered to record conversations with the President.
In his interview with Bartiromo, Goodlatte seemed to indicate skepticism regarding the rumors.
“We have all of this based upon a newspaper report,” he said. “We have third party testimony that we’ve heard in our investigation. We know he’s met with President Trump. President Trump has been satisfied and said that he wants him to continue on as his number two at the Department of Justice. But the Congress has oversight responsibilities, so we’re gonna ask him about those questions, along with many other things.”
Bartiromo questioned the format of the interview, noting that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) have said they were blocked by Rosenstein from attending the interview. Goodlatte pushed back.
“No, they’re not blocked at all. In fact, Chairman Gowdy and I have made it very clear to the other members of our task force that we will ask any questions that they put forward to us. This in fact was a proposal that Chairman Gowdy and I put forward in order to get a full, transparent discussion in a closed room where you have the opportunity to ask any question that needs to be asked … have it in a classified setting and not be concerned about leaks.”
Bartiromo pushed forward, asking, “did Rod Rosenstein set up the idea that it could only be you and Gowdy and two Democrats in the room. That was his idea, that he only wanted…”
Goodlatte interjected and immediately corrected Bartiromo, “no, no. That was our proposal.”
Goodlatte then shifted back to the discussion regarding the comments allegedly made by Rosenstein on wearing a wire. “We have not talked to anybody who was in the room yet. We have heard from people who were outside the room, who have talked to people who were in the room, and we want to talk to Mr. Rosenstein about the information we have garnered from those folks.”
Goodlatte noted that Rosenstein “came into this matter at the later end, but he was involved with the approval of the third renewal of the FISA application.”
During his June 28 Congressional testimony, Rosenstein made some specific comments regarding the FISA signing:
“We sit down with a team of attorneys from the Department of Justice. All of whom review that and provide a briefing for us for what’s in it. And I’ve reviewed that one in some detail, and I can tell you the information about that doesn’t match with my understanding of the one that I signed.”
Rosenstein’s comments imply that the FISA he was formally briefed on is different from the FISA materials put before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees by the DOJ.
Goodlatte then made an admission on something that’s been long suspected, but not confirmed: “We have an awful lot of witnesses that we are able to talk to, as well as people in the Department of Justice and the FBI, who have provided us information as whistle-blowers … we’re putting together a lot of useful information.”
Goodlatte then turned his focus towards the multiple ongoing investigations, noting, “After the election, we’re going to proceed with an interim report of our findings … you also have a Senate Judiciary Committee perfectly capable of conducting these investigations and you have an Inspector General, who has been looking into the FISA Warrant Abuse allegations.”
Goodlatte, who is retiring, reminded Bartiromo that both he and Gowdy retain their chairmanship until Jan. 3, 2019, indicating that Goodlatte believes he will have time to release his investigation regardless of any midterm election outcome.
Goodlatte again pointed out the importance of holding a classified transcribed interview, noting that Rosenstein refused to answer certain questions in public hearings “with regard to the FISA warrant.”
“This will be an important opportunity, in the appropriate setting, to ask all of those questions regarding the conduct of an investigation that began long before he became involved,” Goodlatte said. “But he certainly was at the crux of it at the moment that James Comey was fired and this discussion took place about whether or not a wire would be worn.”
Following recent interviews of individuals such as former FBI Counsel James Baker and DOJ official Bruce Ohr, there have been well-intentioned disclosures to the media regarding the substance of those meetings. While this can be satisfying to those of us in the public forum, these disclosures have a chilling effect on future testimony.
Goodlatte likely structured this interview with those disclosures in mind. Equally likely, given the proximity of the finalization of the Mueller probe and the Inspector General’s investigation into FISA abuse, is a status update on these matters from Rosenstein. It’s, therefore, crucial that Goodlatte and Gowdy provide a fully secure environment in order to allow for a complete and confidential briefing from Rosenstein.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.