Did Rod Rosenstein threaten to go after House staffers with subpoenas last January?

report by Catherine Herridge of Fox News has many conservatives furious at Rod Rosenstein for what they see as a threat to retaliate against those seeking unredacted records related to Spygate.  She writes:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to "subpoena" emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on a Republican-led House committee during a tense meeting earlier this year, according to emails reviewed by Fox News documenting the encounter and reflecting what aides described as a "personal attack."

The emails memorialized a January 2018 closed-door meeting involving senior FBI and Justice Department officials as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee.  The account claimed Rosenstein threatened to turn the tables on the committee's inquiries regarding the Russia probe. 

"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."

This is being taken as an indication of a cover-up underway.  But, fair reporter that she is, Herridge includes information that this may be a misunderstanding, a he said-she said situation:

Rosenstein's comment could be interpreted as meaning the department would "vigorously defend a contempt action" – which might be expected. ...

Representatives with both the DOJ and FBI disputed the account in the emails.

"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.  

While it is tempting for me to go all in and savage Rosenstein, his boss Sessions, and the DoJ for a cover-up, I am not 100% certain that is the case.  Read this speculative thread from Rex Imperator, who is a close analyst of the probes into the DoJ and FBI.  His theory is that a trap is underway to identify and prosecute leakers and that the fear of leaks from Congress (which is justifiable), combined with wanting to complete the trap, is why so much has been redacted.  It is a reasonable surmise.  But I do not discount that others within the DoJ are insisting on redactions purely for CYA purposes.


Rosenstein speaks to State of the Net Conference, 2018.
Credit: Edited from Internet Education Foundation.

That said, Sessions has been quietly laying the basis for indictments, which may be made public after Horowitz releases his report tomorrow.  Sessions is quietly running at least one, probably two grand juries in complete secrecy (as required by law) and working by the book for indictments related to a lot of the crap that went on.

There's a strategy, and he has his team.  He isn't asleep at all.

After the Horowitz report is published and possible secret indictments are revealed, we can make a better call on this he said-she said situation.

report by Catherine Herridge of Fox News has many conservatives furious at Rod Rosenstein for what they see as a threat to retaliate against those seeking unredacted records related to Spygate.  She writes:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein threatened to "subpoena" emails, phone records and other documents from lawmakers and staff on a Republican-led House committee during a tense meeting earlier this year, according to emails reviewed by Fox News documenting the encounter and reflecting what aides described as a "personal attack."

The emails memorialized a January 2018 closed-door meeting involving senior FBI and Justice Department officials as well as members of the House Intelligence Committee.  The account claimed Rosenstein threatened to turn the tables on the committee's inquiries regarding the Russia probe. 

"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."

This is being taken as an indication of a cover-up underway.  But, fair reporter that she is, Herridge includes information that this may be a misunderstanding, a he said-she said situation:

Rosenstein's comment could be interpreted as meaning the department would "vigorously defend a contempt action" – which might be expected. ...

Representatives with both the DOJ and FBI disputed the account in the emails.

"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.  

While it is tempting for me to go all in and savage Rosenstein, his boss Sessions, and the DoJ for a cover-up, I am not 100% certain that is the case.  Read this speculative thread from Rex Imperator, who is a close analyst of the probes into the DoJ and FBI.  His theory is that a trap is underway to identify and prosecute leakers and that the fear of leaks from Congress (which is justifiable), combined with wanting to complete the trap, is why so much has been redacted.  It is a reasonable surmise.  But I do not discount that others within the DoJ are insisting on redactions purely for CYA purposes.


Rosenstein speaks to State of the Net Conference, 2018.
Credit: Edited from Internet Education Foundation.

That said, Sessions has been quietly laying the basis for indictments, which may be made public after Horowitz releases his report tomorrow.  Sessions is quietly running at least one, probably two grand juries in complete secrecy (as required by law) and working by the book for indictments related to a lot of the crap that went on.

There's a strategy, and he has his team.  He isn't asleep at all.

After the Horowitz report is published and possible secret indictments are revealed, we can make a better call on this he said-she said situation.