In yet another phase of the painful post-mortem of the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and decision to investigate the 2016 Trump campaign, a fiery and contentious hearing took place on Capitol Hill Thursday, June 28. It is difficult to recall a congressional hearing this emotional or confrontational. FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein faced a committee led by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).
Much of the hearing covered ground already broken in media reports and previous hearings. Several points of contention were re-litigated, such as the infamous text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and how much their personal political bias may have affected both the Clinton investigation and the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. While Republicans repeated their concerns about this clearly evident bias on the part of the FBI personnel involved in steering both investigations, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) aggressively questioned Rosenstein on the DOJ’s failure to produce the documents requested by Congress.
Trey Gowdy and Jim Jordon Pull No Punches
Jordon did not pull any punches, and Rosenstein became very defensive in his denials of slow-walking the handing over of documents. It is also worth noting that, as this very hearing was underway, the House voted to impose a one-week deadline on the DOJ to hand over outstanding requested documents. Should this deadline not be met by the Deputy Attorney General, he may face a contempt of Congress vote or even impeachment.
Rosenstein became visibly uncomfortable in the face of pointed questions and a certain amount of very direct criticism by a succession of Republican representatives. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) blasted him over the special counsel investigation. “We’re two years into this investigation,” Gowdy said, addressing both Rosenstein and Wray. “We’re a year and a half into the presidency. We’re over a year in the special counsel.” After pointing out that Strzok had talked of impeaching President Trump only three days after Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel and berating his Democratic colleagues for refusing to grant Trump the presumption of innocence, the congressman made an impassioned plea – or, perhaps, a demand:
“Russia attacked this country – they should be the target – but Russia isn’t being hurt by this investigation, right now; we are. This country is being hurt by it. We are being divided. We’ve seen the bias…we need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn Grand Jury. If you have evidence that this president acted inappropriately, present it to the American People…Whatever you’ve got, finish it the hell up because this country is being torn apart.”
On numerous occasions, Democrats on the committee broke with protocol to interrupt Republican members, claiming “point of order.” Chairman Goodlatte was having none of it and quickly dismissed their objections, but it is very clear that, increasingly, Democrats are attempting to obstruct congressional oversight of the FBI and DOJ in the matter of these investigations.
It appears that, for the opposition party, Trump is the only government official who should be subjected to oversight and investigation, while also being the only government official not afforded the opportunity to defend himself. Fair-minded observers, regardless of political persuasion, must surely now be asking themselves how far the DOJ can push its evasion of congressional oversight before someone is called to account. Those observers should also be questioning how much longer a sitting president is going to be investigated for a crime no-one can even define, let alone prove.