Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Chairman Goodlatte: Good morning. Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, for appearing for the first time in front of this Committee. There is much to discuss today, and we look forward to your testimony and answers to our questions.
As Chairman of the Committee with primary oversight of DOJ and the FBI, I have always supported DOJ and FBI in performing their valuable missions to keep our nation safe and to hold individuals accountable for criminal conduct. Yet I and many on this Committee now find ourselves in the very difficult position of questioning the actions of both prior and current Department and FBI leadership.
You have a unique role at DOJ, in that you appointed Special Counsel Mueller and have a supervisory role over his investigation. It is therefore very appropriate for you to appear before this Committee to answer questions related to the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation, as well as its current efficacy in light of various events calling into question its impartiality.
Reports on the political predisposition, and potential bias, of certain career agents and Department lawyers on Special Counsel Mueller’s team are deeply troubling to all citizens who expect a system of blind and equal justice. DOJ investigations must not be tainted by individuals imposing their own political prejudices. We are now beginning to better understand the magnitude of this insider bias on Mr. Mueller’s team.
First, we have FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page exchanging communications showing extreme bias against President Trump, a fact that would be bad enough if it weren’t for the fact that these two individuals were employed as part of the Mueller “dream team” investigating the very person for whom they were showing disdain. And calling it mere “disdain” is generous. According to the documents produced last night to this Committee, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page referred to the President as “an utter idiot,” “a loathsome human,” and “awful,” while continually praising Hillary Clinton and the Obamas. These text messages prove what we all suspected: high-ranking FBI officials involved in the Clinton investigation were personally invested in the outcome of the election, and clearly let their strong political opinions cloud their professional judgment. And this was only an “initial disclosure,” containing heavy redactions.
Second, former embattled FBI General Counsel and current Mueller prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, expressed his “awe” of a former DOJ official for shunning the President and failing to faithfully execute the law. However, we are the ones now in “awe” that someone like Mr. Weissmann remains on an investigative team that looks more and more partisan.
Third, we have learned that a top Mueller prosecutor, Jeannie Rhee, in addition to other actions that would normally justify recusal, served as an attorney for the Clinton Foundation. Aren’t DOJ attorneys advised to avoid even the “appearance of impropriety?” A former Clinton employee is now investigating President Trump. This seems to be the very definition of “appearance of impropriety.”
Fourth, we just recently learned that another top DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, has been reassigned because of his and his wife’s connections with the infamous “dossier” and the company from whom the opposition research document originated.
We hope to hear your assessment of the foregoing conflicts, whether individuals are being held accountable, and whether you still have confidence in the judgement of the Special Counsel you named and supervise.
Regarding the Clinton email scandal, you, along with Attorney General Sessions, have to date declined to appoint a second special counsel to investigate the improprieties that continue to surface related to the handling of the Clinton email investigation and other events surrounding the 2016 election. These are some of the important issues on which we will focus our energy and questions today. We want to understand your participation and the Department’s involvement in addressing both investigations.
Mr. Deputy Attorney General, DOJ’s reputation as an impartial arbiter of justice has been called into question. This taint of politicization should concern all Americans who have pride in the fairness of our nation’s justice system. While we continue to call on you to appoint a second special counsel, as you are aware, we have also opened our own joint investigation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to review FBI and DOJ’s handling of the Clinton email investigation. I want to thank you and Attorney General Sessions for recently committing to provide us relevant documents to enable robust Congressional oversight of this matter.
I implore you to continue to work with us on these and other important matters facing our nation.
One of those matters involves a critical program for our national security – FISA Section 702. This Committee passed, on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis, the USA Liberty Act, which maintains the integrity of the program while protecting cherished civil liberties. This overwhelming vote occurred despite the Department’s lobbying efforts against our bill. The USA Liberty Act was characterized as “bad for the program,” “highly problematic,” “unworkable,” and a proposal that would “effectively dismantle the Section 702 program.”
However, the reality is that this Committee’s legislation struck a balance that promotes national security and civil liberties. I hope to hear from you why DOJ felt it necessary to oppose a bill that would reauthorize 702 and instill confidence in the American people that their privacy and civil liberties are respected by a Government whose duty it is to protect them.
The Department of Justice must reacquire the trust of the American people, and I hope to hear from you today that you have an action plan to do so.
Thank you again, Mr. Deputy Attorney General, for appearing today. I now yield to Mr. Nadler for his comments.