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Rod Rosenstein: “The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted”


Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man supervising special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, has spent months silently absorbing attacks from the White House and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday afternoon, Rosenstein broke that silence — and came out firing at the critics who have been calling for his job.

“There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time,” Rosenstein said at a “Rule of Law” Day event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. “I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

Rosenstein was referring specifically to the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans who recently drafted articles of impeachment targeting him. The caucus’s members, who have been harshly critical of the Mueller investigation, argue that Rosenstein should lose his job because he’s purportedly withholding documents about the Russia probe and other allegedly corrupt FBI misdeeds.

The deputy attorney general clearly sees this as an attempt to threaten the Russia investigation itself, and harshly denounced the Republican attacks on him and his integrity.

“Any kind of threats, that anybody makes, are not going to affect how we do our job,” he said.

Watch Rosenstein’s full answer, in response to a question from CNN’s Laura Jarrett, below:

This confrontational stance toward members of Congress is unusual for Rosenstein, and really for any high-ranking Justice official, period.

To speak of “threats” in both private and public; to assert that members of Congress are trying to “extort” federal law enforcement — well, that’s quite an allegation. It’s a testament to the degree to which the Justice Department’s independence and integrity has been maligned and attacked during the Trump era, and to the desperate measures its leadership seems willing to adopt to protect what’s left.