The House approved a Republican-backed resolution demanding that the Justice Department turn over all remaining documents sought by congressional committees on the investigation into Russian election interference and President Donald Trump’s campaign.
The measure adopted on a party-line vote of 226-183 calls for full compliance by July 6, but it doesn’t say what would happen if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the department fail to meet that date. Some Republicans have talked of citing Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the continuing Russia probe, for censure or contempt of Congress or even impeaching him.
Republican Representative Mark Meadows, a sponsor of the resolution, H. Res 970, said on the House floor that “when we get these documents we believe that it will do away with this whole fiasco of what they call the Russian collusion investigation because there wasn’t any!”
He was responding to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said, “I have never seen anything that has stooped so low on the part of Republicans as what they are doing today.” She said Rosenstein’s “role in preserving the integrity” of the justice system has only become more vital.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Rosenstein said the FBI is “making unprecedented disclosures” to Congress, “granting access to hundreds of thousands of pages of investigative information, and thousands of pages of classified documents.”
Rosenstein said the department has hundreds of officials working to meet the demands of lawmakers and a resolution from House Republicans won’t make a difference. “Whether you vote or not, is not going to affect it," he said.
In a combative exchange with Republican Representative Jim Jordan, Rosenstein said he isn’t hiding anything from lawmakers. He also challenged Jordan to put those making allegations against him and the department under oath.
“I’m telling the truth -- and I’m under oath," Rosenstein said.
Republicans have said anti-Trump bias within the FBI in 2016 led to the decision not to recommend prosecution of of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while spurring the investigation of whether anyone close to Trump colluded with Russian interference in that year’s presidential campaign.
The Russia probe is now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Rosenstein. Removing Rosenstein would give Trump the opportunity to name a replacement who could rein in or end Mueller’s probe.
House Republicans have demanded that Rosenstein produce documents related to the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, despite Democratic complaints that they are trying to disrupt an ongoing investigation into the Republican president.
On the House floor, Meadows said, “This is our last attempt to give them the benefit of the doubt” that “they have nothing to hide.”
But some Republicans expressed concern about the implicit threats against Rosenstein and other officials.
“Am I correct to understand there is an ‘or else’?" Representative Rob Woodall asked during a hearing on the resolution Tuesday night. He said Congress risks looking “feckless” with its demands if lawmakers aren’t ready to follow up with some action should the demanded documents not be produced.
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