Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is not backing down in the face of attacks from Trump's congressional allies.
With congressional Republicans threatening to impeach him, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fired back at GOP lawmakers on Tuesday, defiantly stating that "the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted."
Rosenstein made the comments during an appearance at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to celebrate Law Day.
Asked about threats from members of Congress, including a draft of "articles of impeachment" against him prepared by Trump's congressional allies, Rosenstein made it clear that he wouldn't be intimidated by Republicans' thinly veiled effort to disrupt the Russia probe.
"I can tell you that there have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted," Rosenstein said.
"We’re going to do what’s required by the rule of law," he added. "Any threats that people make are not going to affect how we do our job."
Rosenstein did not go into detail about the threats he was addressing, but as the DOJ's top official overseeing the Russia probe, he has become the focus of intense criticism from congressional Republicans seeking to shield Trump from scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Rosenstein has also drawn the ire of Trump, who blames him for launching the special counsel investigation.
In a recent rage-tweet, Trump lashed out directly at Rosenstein, suggesting that he was "conflicted" because he lawfully reauthorized an ongoing surveillance warrant of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Strangely, Trump also referred to Rosenstein — a Republican who was appointed to become a U.S. attorney by George W. Bush and then handpicked by Trump to serve as the No. 2 official at the DOJ — as a "Democrat loyalist."
"Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama," Trump tweeted. "Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy."
CNN reported last month that the White House was preparing a smear campaign aimed at undermining Rosenstein’s credibility. As part of that effort, Trump reportedly planned to use his allies in Congress and right-wing media as attack dogs to go after Rosenstein, hoping to build a case for firing him without it looking like he’s interfering in the Russia probe.
Republicans appear to be going along with the plan. Led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the right-wing House Freedom Caucus recently drafted a document that could be used to remove Rosenstein from office. It was leaked to The Washington Post on Monday.
During the question-and-answer session on Tuesday, Rosenstein took a swipe at the GOP lawmakers who prepared the document, saying, "They can’t even resist leaking their own drafts."
Rosenstein also hit back at Republicans for suggesting that he is doing something improper by not turning over certain internal DOJ documents concerning aspects of the Russia investigation and the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. He said the department isn’t going to just open the doors and let Congress "rummage through" files, noting that doing so might result in a violation of DOJ policies or laws.
"I saw that draft," he said, referring to the GOP's so-called impeachment articles against him. "It really does illustrate ... a really important distinction between the way we operate in the Department of Justice: If we’re going to accuse somebody of wrongdoing, we have to have admissible evidence and credible witnesses. We need to be prepared to prove our case in court and we have to affix our signature to the charging document. We have people who are accountable."
Rosenstein got in one more jab, adding, "I just don’t have anything to say about documents like that, that nobody has the courage to put their name on."
This is just the latest gesture of confidence from an emboldened Rosenstein, who appears to be growing more defiant as the attacks from Trump and his allies ramp up. Instead of backing down, Rosenstein is responding to Republicans' threats by daring them to continue.
There's likely a reason for Rosenstein's confidence — and it's almost certainly not good news for Trump.