Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein initiated a “very personal and very hostile” attack on House Republican lawmakers and staffers in May after they requested records about the FBI’s investigative strategy in the Russia case, according to a congressional email documenting the meeting, as well as two additional sources.
The congressional email reviewed by Fox News documented a May 10 meeting at the Justice Department. The meeting reportedly included Rosenstein; his deputy Ed O’Callaghan; senior law enforcement and intelligence officials; House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.; and committee staffers.
On April 24, congressional investigators had sent a classified letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, on April 30, a subpoena for records about alleged surveillance abuse. Rosenstein signed the final surveillance warrant for Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2016.
“Before the door even closed, we could hear DAG Rosenstein scream at Chairman Nunes, the substance of which we would be briefed on afterwards. The summary is that DAG Rosenstein launched into personal attacks against Nunes, and myself, calling me out by name,” Kash Patel, the intelligence committee’s national security adviser, wrote. “Demonstrating childish behavior, and a pattern in doing so, the DAG, without facts to support his claims and relying on false media reporting, personally attacked a staffer, myself and our committee.”
A source familiar with the closed-door meeting backed up the email account. “Yes, the attacks were very personal and very hostile. Chairman Gowdy tried to calm everyone down and focus on the issues at hand,” the source told Fox News. “Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein initiated the confrontation and was much more upset than Chairman Nunes.”
A second source who also declined to speak on the record, citing the sensitivity of the incident, supported the account.
However, a Justice Department spokesperson disputed the characterization, saying, “This is not an accurate portrayal of the May 10 meeting as the deputy attorney general, deputy FBI director, and deputy DNI director can attest.”
Spokespeople from the oversight and intelligence committees declined comment.
The claims amount to the latest account calling into question Rosenstein’s professional conduct while overseeing the inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. The New York Times reported last Friday that he had considered secretly recording President Trump in May 2017 and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office after Director James Comey’s firing from the FBI. Rosenstein called the Times claims “inaccurate,” and a source who was in the room told Fox News the comment was “sarcastic.”
Rosenstein, on the heels of that report, is scheduled to meet Thursday with Trump to discuss the allegations, though at a news conference on Wednesday, the president said the timing could slide to avoid conflicting with a Senate judiciary hearing on alleged sexual misconduct by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Sources said earlier this week that Rosenstein expected to be fired when he attended a Monday meeting at the White House, but Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later said that Trump and Rosenstein spoke by phone and agreed to “sit down and have that further, longer and more extended conversation in person.”
Earlier this year, Fox News reported that Rosenstein threatened to “subpoena” emails and other documents from lawmakers and staff on the House intelligence committee during a tense January meeting over the Russia investigation, according to emails documenting the encounter. In that incident as well, aides described a “personal attack.”
Those emails, also memorialized for the House general counsel by Patel, described a closed-door meeting involving senior FBI and Justice Department officials, as well as many of the same House members. The account claimed Rosenstein threatened to turn the tables on the committee’s inquiries regarding the Russia probe.
When the Fox News story was published in June, a DOJ official said the department and bureau officials in the room were “all quite clear that the characterization of events laid out here is false,” adding that Rosenstein was responding to a threat of contempt.
“The deputy attorney general was making the point — after being threatened with contempt — that as an American citizen charged with the offense of contempt of Congress, he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false,” the official said.
“That is why he put them on notice to retain relevant emails and text messages, and he hopes they did so. (We have no process to obtain such records without congressional approval.)”
But during late June congressional testimony, Rosenstein said the incident never happened.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked: “Mr. Rosenstein, did you threaten staffers on the House Intelligence Committee? Media reports indicate you did.”
“Media reports are mistaken,” Rosenstein responded.
Jordan countered by asking whether he’d threatened to subpoena their calls and emails, as alleged.
“No, sir, and there is no way to subpoena phone calls,” Rosenstein said.