Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Thursday rejected Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy's call to abruptly end special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Gowdy, who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, made the remarks to Rosenstein during a hearing on the Justice Department inspector general's report into the federal probe of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The report found numerous examples of agent misconduct.
But Gowdy focused on the special counsel, which he said was being used by congressional Democrats as a fundraising tool. He admonished Rosenstein: "Whatever you got, finish it the hell up, because this country is being torn apart."
Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel's probe, responded that he has "heard suggestions that we should just close the investigation. I think the best thing we can do is finish it appropriately and reach a conclusion."
Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray are testifying . The Republican majority has grilled the two men about the special counsel's investigation, the inspector general's report and a a host of related issues, including suspicions that a "spy" had been planted in President Donald Trump's campaign and the conduct surrounding a surveillance warrant acquired against a Trump campaign aide.
The testimony gave the first opportunity to hear public comments on that report from Rosenstein, who wrote a letter to Trump in May 2017 recommending FBI Director James Comey be fired because of his handling of the Clinton investigation.
In his opening statement before the committee, Rosenstein said the IG report “found that some federal employees deviated from important principles.”
Neither Rosenstein nor Wray challenged Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s conclusions in his opener. Rosenstein instead expressed the need for his agency “to correct errors, hold wrongdoers accountable and deter future violations.”
Rosenstein also oversees special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, which has come under fire from conservatives in the wake of Horowitz's report — especially from Trump, who has used its criticisms of James Comey and the FBI as evidence of political bias within federal law enforcement agencies.
Trump has homed in on the text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and another FBI official with whom he was having an affair, Lisa Page, that appeared to show hostility against Trump and support for Clinton. The inspector general's report revealed new messages from Strzok, with one assuring Page before the 2016 election that "we'll stop" Trump from winning.
Asked about that text message, Rosenstein said it was “highly inappropriate."
Strzok, one of the bureau's top counterintelligence officials, briefly worked on Mueller's investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2017. He was removed from the special counsel's probe after Mueller was made aware of his texts.
Wray's and Rosenstein's testimony on Thursday arrives a day after Strzok spoke to lawmakers from both parties in a closed-door hearing.
The two law enforcement officials will also be asked about the findings from a joint House investigation on the email probe, which is being conducted by the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.
Republicans have sparred with Rosenstein over access to thousands of documents related to the various federal investigations. Rosenstein has accommodated some requests but has resisted others, leading to an expected House vote on Thursday on a resolution demanding that the DOJ hand over many requested documents by July 6.