Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein vowed Tuesday that the Justice Department is "not going to be extorted" after members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus drafted articles of impeachment against him.
"They can't even resist leaking their own drafts," joked Rosenstein during remarks at the Newseum in Washington D.C. before adding: "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."
"But I can tell you there are 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 went on. "We’re going to do what is 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."
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, fired back at Rosenstein on Twitter Tuesday evening.
"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," Meadows wrote.
In a simultaneously released statement, Meadows said Rosenstein had responded to the draft with "a lot of rhetoric with little facts."
The draft articles were obtained by Fox News earlier Tuesday and have been described by House Freedom Caucus members as a "last resort" if the Justice Department continues "slow walking" its response to document requests. However, sources within the caucus told Fox News there are no current plans to move forward with any impeachment effort.
The draft states that Rosenstein allegedly "engaged in a pattern of conduct incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him in that position by refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Committee on the Judiciary on March 22, 2018," connected to the congressional investigation into potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The caucus also alleges that Rosenstein "failed to enforce multiple laws" including "improper authorization of searches and electronic surveillance" under FISA, and "failed to act on behalf of the Attorney General by properly supervising the administration of FISA by failing to demonstrate probable cause to believe the targets of surveillance were a foreign power or agents of a foreign power."
The draft was referring to the multiple FISA warrants obtained to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Rosenstein signed at least one renewal of the original FISA warrant, with others signed by former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and other Justice Department officials.
McCabe, in Senate testimony, said that the controversial anti-Trump dossier was the basis for FBI and DOJ officials seeking FISA warrants.
The draft also alleges that Rosenstein “failed his oath of office” by “refusing to discipline” Justice Department personnel after “obtaining evidence of disqualifying conflicts of interest demonstrated throughout the course of the ongoing investigation regarding charging decisions in the investigation surrounding former Secretary Clinton’s private email server.”
According to the document, Rosenstein “knowingly provided misleading statements related to this supervision” of the Justice Department investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia. The draft suggests the misleading statement came during a hearing on Dec. 13, 2017, when he said “any involvement FBI attorney Bruce Ohr had in the Russian investigation was without his knowledge.”
Ohr was demoted at the Justice Department in December for concealing his meetings with Fusion GPS—the research group that hired ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele for the dossier. It was also revealed in December that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump for opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through law firm Perkins Coie.
"Despite his repeated promises to cooperate, Mr. Rosenstein’s supervision of the Department of Justice has been sorely inadequate," Meadows said late Tuesday. "Valid investigative requests from Congress have been slow-walked, stonewalled, and impeded at each step of the way under his watch. Rosenstein’s Department oversaw the redactions of high ranking Obama White House officials, high ranking FBI officials, and evidence of material conflicts of interests at the Department—just to name a few examples.
"If Mr. Rosenstein’s hesitance to produce documents and information to Congress represented an effort to save the Department of Justice from embarrassment, it is too late," Meadows added.
In his remarks Tuesday afternoon, Rosenstein unfavorably compared the House Freedom Caucus to the investigators he oversees at the Justice Department.
"The way we operate in the Department of Justice, if we’re going to accuse somebody of wrongdoing, we have to have admissible evidence and credible witnesses, we need to be prepared to prove our case in court and we have to affix our signature to the charging document," he said.
"That's the way we operate. We have people who are accountable."
Fox News' Brooke Singman, Mike Emanuel and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.