Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s claim that the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot be “extorted” by Congress for subpoenaed documents that lawmakers have a constitutional right is “a fireable offense,” former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph diGenova said Tuesday on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”
Rosenstein addressed reports that GOP lawmakers were drafting articles of impeachment against him and issuing “threats” after he refused to comply with their subpoenas for documents in DOJ investigations of allegations of collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interests.
The congressional subpoenas Rosenstein is resisting also concern DOJ’s probe of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and email address to conduct official U.S. diplomatic business.
“There are people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time,” Rosenstein said Tuesday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. “And I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”
DiGenova said that Rosenstein revealed “his ignorance of the Constitution” by using the word “extorted” in such a fashion.
“Congress has demanded access to documents that it’s entitled to under the Constitution pursuant to its oversight function,” diGenova said. “His refusal and obstructionism to turn over those documents has led to the confrontation, which is why they are considering his impeachment.”
“If he thinks that’s extortion, I suggest that he resign from office because he’s clearly a legal incompetent,” diGenova continued. “He can resist Congress, but he cannot refuse to turn over documents that Congress has a right to see.”
DiGenova insisted that Rosenstein’s use of the word “extorted” was “an absolute outrage on the part of a constitutional officer who is the deputy attorney general of the United States.”
“That is unbecoming and it’s a fireable offense. He is not going to be fired because the president shouldn’t do it,” diGenova said. “When the deputy attorney general of the United States uses the word extortion for Congress seeking documents it’s entitled to under oversight, that is outrageous. Grow up, Rod.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who is a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, responded to Rosenstein’s comments on Twitter, saying, “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.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham also asked diGenova and Solomon Wisenberg, the former deputy special counsel for Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater-Lewinsky investigation of President Bill Clinton, to respond to the leaked questions that special counsel Robert Mueller reportedly wants to ask Trump as part of his probe into allegations of Russian collusion.
The dozens of questions, which were leaked to The New York Times, concerned four main topics: Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s recusal on the Russia collusion issue and Trump campaign officials’ contact with Russian interests.
Wisenberg said that one of the “particularly outrageous” or “humorous” questions included in the list concerned why Trump continues to criticize Comey and fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, both of whom helped lead the investigation into Russian collusion.
“I mean, give me a break. You need to ask that? That’s rather obvious,” Wisenberg said. “These questions show a couple of things. The Mueller people are outraged and livid at the president’s criticisms of them and they have a very dangerously broad view of obstruction of justice.”
With evidence of collusion with the Russians evading investigators, many of Trump’s critics have turned their attention toward impeaching Trump on the grounds of obstruction of justice through his firing of Comey in May 2017.
“I think what’s important is that these clearly are the types of questions that have been discussed between the president’s team and Mr. Mueller,” diGenova said. “And the question is, what do these questions say? They say that the investigation is now lurching into territory protected by the constitutional privileges of the president of the United States.”
DiGenova noted that Trump has an “unfettered, un-reviewable authority to fire under the Constitution.” Nevertheless, some of Mueller’s questions concern Trump’s thought process behind firing Comey.
“The question should not be answered under any set of circumstances,” diGenova emphasized. “These questions are sophomoric.”
The Washington Post and The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Mueller informed Trump’s legal team that he might subpoena Trump to appear before a grand jury if the president refuses to grant Mueller’s request for an interview.
“If President Trump decides not to answer, not to sit in for an interview and answer these questions — and these are very broad questions that definitely raise issues above executive privilege and separation of powers — if he declines to answer and Mueller issues a subpoena, you know, it’s not just a question of does Trump invoke the 5th Amendment or go to the grand jury. He’s going to go and litigate this issue,” Wisenberg said.
If Mueller threatened to subpoena Trump or accept written answers to the questions, and if Trump refuses to grant the interview request, then the nation is “headed to a constitutional crisis because the president’s not going to answer these questions under any set of circumstances,” diGenova warned.