Rosenstein: Justice Dept won't be 'extorted'

CNN Analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Josh Campbell discuss.

Posted: May 2, 2018 12:49 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 12:49 PM

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein beat back questions about threats to the rule of law and defended the Justice Department's independence in a wide-ranging question and answer session Tuesday in Washington.

The sit-down at the Newseum -- where Rosenstein also gave revealing responses to questions lobbed by the media and the public about his detractors on Capitol Hill, the investigation into President Donald Trump's election campaign, and the press -- was a moment of unusual candor for the man charged with overseeing the special counsel probe.

"I don't think there's any threat to rule of law in America today," Rosenstein said, citing the country's culture and constitutional rights, when quizzed by the event's moderator, law professor Ronald Collins.

RELATED: Rod Rosenstein: Justice Department is 'not going to be extorted'

Asked by Collins how he manages conflicts between the rule of law and a President who has mused about meddling with his own Justice Department, Rosenstein pushed back.

"There are no such conflicts," Rosenstein said. "The Justice Department is independent of inappropriate political considerations. I think it's important to recognize it's not independent of the executive branch -- the department has a responsibility to be in accord with the priorities of the administration, and that's what elections are for."

Despite his typically administrative and low-profile position, Rosenstein, a Republican, has found himself the target of ire from the President and conservative groups.

Following the FBI raid last month on Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen, multiple sources told CNN the President was considering firing Rosenstein. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that a group of House Republicans had drafted articles of impeachment for the deputy attorney general, a "last resort" document, one of its authors said, that could imperil special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Tuesday, Rosenstein saved his harshest fire for his critics in Congress, portraying the Republicans who leaked the draft document to the Post as cowards.

"I just don't have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and that they leak in that way," Rosenstein said.

"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," he said.

Soon afterward, the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, called Rosenstein's comment "a lot of rhetoric with little facts."

"If he believes being asked to do his job is 'extortion,' then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new Deputy Attorney General—preferably one who is interested in transparency," Meadows said in a statement.

The day after The New York Times reported on a list of questions the special counsel team wants to ask Trump, Rosenstein declined to discuss the investigation but did weigh in on a central question that has lingered as it unfolds: whether a sitting president can be indicted.

"I'm not going to answer this in the context of any current matters so you shouldn't draw any inference about it, but the Department of Justice has in the past, when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting President cannot be indicted," Rosenstein said.

He also engaged in a bit of media criticism at the event, which was put on by a First Amendment-booster group to mark Law Day, a holiday that celebrates the role of law in American society.

He called the headline of a BuzzFeed report that said he'd ordered a revision of a Justice Department manual that included eliminating sections on press freedoms a "very cute talking point" but "completely misleading."

On news stories about him that he says are false, he said, "I don't think most reporters are trying to mislead people, I think the problem is that they are hostage to their sources and who's leaking. I'm not leaking."

Still, he appeared to maintain good spirits through the nearly hourlong grilling.

Asked by a former lawyer in the audience why the 2016 election couldn't be "rescinded" if the Mueller probe found any illegal action by the Trump campaign, Rosenstein plucked a sticky-noted copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket.

"'Cause of this," he said, grinning.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
Adams300936
Ripley298445
Putnam296850
Huntington291659
Jasper289034
White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
Decatur247683
Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
Wells236051
LaGrange228862
Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
Orange159534
Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
Vermillion149134
Franklin148333
Tipton132332
Parke13078
Pike116926
Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
Newton90921
Brown88035
Benton86610
Crawford7999
Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Angola
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 15°
Huntington
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 10°
Feels Like: 19°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Lima
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 15°
Light Snow Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events