WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has agreed to speak with House Republicans about his reported comments discussing wearing a wire to talk to President Donald Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office, according to sources familiar with the matter.
House Republican leaders struck an agreement with House Freedom Caucus leaders for Rosenstein to appear to explain his comments, staving off a potential bid to try to force an impeachment vote against the deputy attorney general.
Politico first reported the plan to call Rosenstein in for a closed meeting.
The meeting with Rosenstein will not be a formal hearing with a transcribed interview, but a background meeting, according to a Justice Department official.
Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who has been one of Rosenstein’s most vocal congressional critics, told CNN Friday that an agreement was struck after Freedom Caucus leaders met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte earlier in the week.
Jordan said Goodlatte was prepared to subpoena Rosenstein if necessary, although it appears he will now voluntarily meet with lawmakers.
“Leadership has agreed to call Rod Rosenstein before Congress, for a closed-door hearing with our panel investigating, so he can explain his alleged comments on ‘wiring’ POTUS–as well as other inconsistent statements,” tweeted Rep. Mark Meadows, who had been threatening the impeachment vote. “If Mr. Rosenstein fails to show up, we will subpoena him.”
Jordan said the meeting with Rosenstein would be open to lawmakers in both parties on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, which are investigating the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton and Russia investigations.
On Monday, Rosenstein momentarily appeared to be on his way out of the Justice Department, but now he appears to be staying put for the time being, as Trump delayed a planned meeting with his deputy attorney general on Thursday.
But Rosenstein, who supervises special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, has long been in the crosshairs of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress who have fought with the Justice Department for months over documents related to the FBI’s Clinton and Trump-Russia investigations.
Reports from The New York Times, CNN and others that Rosenstein had discussed a wire and the 25th Amendment added fuel to the Rosenstein criticisms, although Trump’s allies in Congress stopped short of calling for Rosenstein’s firing. Rosenstein said he never pursued recording the President and denied any suggestion he advocated for Trump’s removal, and one source in the room for the wiretapping comment dismissed it as sarcasm.
Goodlatte did not subpoena Rosenstein for his testimony this week as Meadows and Jordan had demanded, but he did issue a subpoena for the memos from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that documented Rosenstein’s comments.
Ryan said Wednesday that the President should work out the issue with Rosenstein and Congress shouldn’t “step in the way of that.”
A spokeswoman for Goodlatte did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan referred questions to the Judiciary Committee.