Under fire from Republicans, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, warding off repeated questions from GOP lawmakers who charge that Mueller has assembled a group of senior officials who were pro-Hillary Clinton and anti-Donald Trump.
“Have you seen ‘good cause’ to fire Special Counsel Mueller?” Rosenstein was asked early in a lengthy hearing before the House Judiciary Committee.
“No,” Rosenstein answered, as he stuck to that observation throughout the hearing, leaving GOP lawmakers aggravated.
“This is unbelievable,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who chastised Rosenstein just like the Ohio Republican demanded more information last week from the FBI Director, taking aim at several top FBI officials, whose private texts showed them with little respect for President Trump.
“How with a straight face that this group of Democrat partisans are unbiased, and will give President Trump a fair shake?” asked Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH).
“I’m not aware of any impropriety,” Rosenstein said when asked about the Mueller probe, as he said he was confident that Mueller was not running a tainted investigation.
But Republicans weren’t backing off.
It was all part of the latest GOP push to undermine confidence in the the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling into the 2016 elections, and any links to President Trump’s campaign, which saw new momentum with the release of text messages from 2016 between certain senior Justice Department officials, texts which were sent before Mueller had been appointed to review the Russia question.
The texts detailed a series of verbal put downs of Mr. Trump during the campaign, using flowery language that some GOP lawmakers refused to read out loud at Wednesday’s hearing.
Some of the G-rated texts referred to Mr. Trump as “awful,” an “idiot,” and a “loathesome human being.”
“We recognize that we have employees with political opinions,” Rosenstein said at one point. “And it’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions.
Democrats played damage control for the Mueller investigation by leading Rosenstein through some more friendly questions about the Russia probe.
“Your testimony today is that you believe Bob Mueller is a person of high integrity?” asked Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
“Yes,” Rosenstein responded.
“You believe that investigation is being conducted fairly,” Swalwell asked.
“Yes,” said Rosenstein.
But Democrats also came after Rosenstein at times, as the Deputy Attorney General was repeatedly pressed to tell whether he had been called on the telephone by the President, and told to investigate certain people or issues – Rosenstein fended off those questions as well.
“You’re being very artful in jumping around and evading,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) told Rosenstein at one point, prompting Rosenstein to disagree.
“Are you afraid of President Trump firing you?” Johnson asked.
“No, I’m not,” Rosenstein said, flashing a big grin at the witness table.