On Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the conduct of the nation’s top law enforcement agencies during the 2016 election year. While Republicans drilled the two men with questions, Democrats appeared to either praise Rosenstein and Wray for their government service or suggest that the hearing should instead focus on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. 

“Stand your ground,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) told Rosenstein. The progressive Democrat characterized the day’s hearing into the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server at the Department of State as “ridiculous and stupid.” Lieu said during the televised hearing, “It is ridiculous and stupid we are having an emergency hearing into an investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016." Referring to his colleagues, Lieu said “But since Republicans control the agenda, let’s at least try to have this stupid hearing be based on the facts." One of the facts, he said, is that the report released last week by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz  concluded that "no personal views of any FBI or DOJ employee affected the integrity of the investigation."

Lieu said that other matters before Congress merit more attention. "It is now June 2018 and thousands of kids have been ripped away from their parents by the Trump administration’s child separation policy," the California Democrat said. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking Democrat on the panel, also slammed Republicans for focusing on Clinton instead of the housing of illegal immigrant minors, election interference and supposed conflicts of interest in the Trump administration. Other Democrats echoed similar sentiments during their remarks throughout the five hours of the hearing.

When questioned by outgoing Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) whether either considers himself a member of the Democratic Party, both Wray and Rosenstein were dismissive. "I’m trying to do this job apolitically," Wray told Gutiérrez. "I do not consider myself an angry Democrat. You can be quite confident of that." Gutiérrez asked, "Are you a Democrat?" Wray replied, "No, I am not." Turing to Rosenstein, Gutiérrez ask him whether he is a Democrat. 

"I’m not a Democrat and I’m not angry," Rosenstein said. Both he and Wray are registered Republicans. 

 

Republicans cross-examine

Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader in the House Freedom Caucus and possible candidate to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), accused Rosenstein of “hiding information” from Congress. In a virulent denial, Rosenstein replied, "Now Mr. Jordan, I am the deputy attorney general of the United States. Okay?" Snapping back at Jordan, Rosenstein said, "I am not the person doing the redacting. I am responsible for responding to your concerns, as I am … So your statement that I am personally keeping information from you, trying to conceal information —"

"You’re the boss, Mr. Rosenstein," Jordan interrupted.

"That’s correct, and my job is to make sure we respond to your requests. And we have, sir. Again, I appreciate your concerns—" Rosenstein said.

"Again, I think the House of Representatives is going to say otherwise," Jordan replied. 

Rosenstein rebutted, saying "But your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong."

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), for his part, criticized DOJ for prolonging its investigation into supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and also demanded that Rosenstein bring his investigation to a close. As FBI director Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein faced the panel, Gowdy demanded that they immediately present any evidence of wrongdoing by members of the Trump campaign and bring their probe to an end. “We’ve seen the bias, we need to see the evidence,” said Gowdy, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight. “If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American people….Whatever you got, finish it the hell up. Right now this country is being torn apart.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) also had a tense exchange with Rosenstein when he alleged that the senior FBI official had signed a document to authorize “spying” on the Trump campaign. “I dispute your characterization about what that (surveillance warrant application) is about, sir,” Rosenstein said. “If the inspector general finds that I did something wrong, then I will respect that judgment but I think it’s highly, highly unlikely, sir.”

In his testimony, Rosenstein expressed concern about the issues raised by IG Horowitz’s report, which include text messages by several FBI employees that disparaged President Trump. Rosenstein said, “We need to correct errors, hold wrongdoers accountable and deter future violations.”  

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked FBI Director Wray whether or not he would investigate former FBI Director James Comey to determine whether he leaked a DOJ inspector general report to a news outlet in advance of its release. Several media outlets reported on portions of the report before its formal release. Issa has accused Comey of violating a nondisclosure agreement he signed in order to receive an advanced copy of the report,  and suggested that Comey leaked it.

“He violated the nondisclosure agreement in that he contacted a news source more than four hours beforehand, because it was published four hours before it was released, probably 24 to 48 hours in advance, will you agree to look into whether or not he violated that [agreement]?”

Wray would not comment on whether he would open such a probe.

“So you’re not going to say whether he’s above the law for what he did?” Issa asked. 

“I do not think there’s anyone on this planet who is above the law,” Wray replied.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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