House Freedom Caucus leaders Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan on Monday urged DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate whether Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened congressional staffers with “subpoena” earlier this year.
“This notion Mr. Rosenstein threatened to use his official investigative powers as Deputy Attorney General to retaliate against rank-and-file staff members for sending written oversight requests raises concerns he has abused his authority in the context of this investigation,” the two Republican lawmakers wrote, in a letter obtained by Fox News.
The letter comes after Rosenstein apparently threatened to “subpoena” emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on a Republican-led House committee during a meeting earlier this year, according to emails reviewed and first reported by Fox News.
The congressmen said in the letter that two witnesses can provide contemporaneous notes and sworn statements of the meeting where the alleged threats were made by Rosenstein. The deputy AG recently testified to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees and denied making any threats.
But according to the reviewed emails that memorialized a January 2018 closed-door meeting involving senior Justice Department and FBI officials, as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee, Rosenstein threatened to fire back at the committee’s relentless inquiries regarding the Russia investigation.
“The DAG [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] criticized the Committee for sending our requests in writing and was further critical of the Committee’s request to have DOJ/FBI do the same when responding,” the committee's then-senior counsel for counterterrorism Kash Patel wrote to the House Office of General Counsel.
“Going so far as to say that if the Committee likes being litigators, then ‘we [DOJ] too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall,” he added.
A second House committee staffer who was present at the meeting also backed up Patel’s account, writing: “Let me just add that watching the Deputy Attorney General launch a sustained personal attack against a congressional staffer in retaliation for vigorous oversight was astonishing and disheartening.”
“Also, having the nation’s #1 (for these matters) law enforcement officer threaten to 'subpoena your calls and emails' was downright chilling,” he continue, noting that Rosenstein’s comments could be interpreted as meaning the department would “vigorously defend a contempt action.”
But the staffer also viewed Rosenstein’s alleged threat as “a not-so-veiled threat to unleash the full prosecutorial power of the state against” the committee.
Representatives with both the DOJ and FBI disputed the account in the emails, in statements last month to Fox News.
“The FBI disagrees with a number of characterizations of the meeting as described in the excerpts of a staffer’s emails provided to us by Fox News,” the FBI said in a statement.
A DOJ official told Fox News that Rosenstein “never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation.” The official said the department and bureau officials in the room “are all quite clear that the characterization of events laid out here is false,” adding that Rosenstein was responding to a threat of contempt.