Rod Rosenstein just responded to Republican threats to impeach him with a show of defiance

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A day after a draft of articles of impeachment against  Rod Rosenstein was leaked, the Deputy Attorney General overseeing the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation said the Justice Department is “not going to be extorted” by a group of cowardly Republican critics. 

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It appears the document was drafted by the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is strongly pro-Trump.

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“I just don’t have anything to say about documents like that that nobody has the courage to put their name on and leak it in that way,” Rosenstein told ABC News on Tuesday

The possible attempt to impeach Rosenstein relates to his role last year in approving covert surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump associate who had been put under FBI surveillance after he met with Russian spies, who tried to recruit him.

Republicans in the House have been demanding that the Justice Department provides them with all documents related to the surveillance of Carter and other matters related to the 2016 presidential election.

The draft impeachment resolution “came after weeks of disputes with Rosenstein over the Justice Department’s response to congressional requests for documents about the decisions and behavior of federal law enforcement officials working on the Russia investigation and other federal probes,” reports The Washington Post, “including the investigation into 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server.”

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who is head of the Freedom Caucus, told The Washington Post that impeaching Rosenstein would be a “last resort” if he failed to respond to their request for documents.

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At a discussion series about “The Rule of Law” held today in Washington, Rosenstein defended himself and the Justice Department, contrasting the way politicians leaked the documents with the way the Justice Department must operate.

“If we’re going to accuse somebody of wrongdoing,” said Rosenstein, “we have to have admissible evidence, credible witnesses, we need to prove our case in court, and we have to affix our signature to the charging document. That’s something that not everybody appreciates.”

Rosenstein said people – even politicians – seem to forget that to get a FISA search warrant from a federal judge, federal prosecutors need to present an affidavit and evidence, and it needs to be signed by a career federal law enforcement officer “who swears that the information in the affidavit is true and correct to the best of his knowledge and belief.”

If the information turns out to be incorrect, that officer can face consequences, perhaps even prosecution, Rosenstein added.

“So that’s the way we operate. We have people who are accountable,” he said.

Rosenstein said, “for quite some time” he has been threatened with being fired both privately and publicly.

“I think,” said Rosenstein, “they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”

It isn’t just Republicans in Congress who have attacked Rosenstein; the president has also done so repeatedly.

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Today Rosenstein, without calling out the president by name, said the Justice Department is “going to do what is required by the rule of law…and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect how we do our job.”

“We have a responsibility,” he added, and federal law enforcement officials have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution.

It is sometimes easy to forget Rosenstein is a lifelong Republican who was appointed by Republicans and most of the attacks on him are because he is doing his job the right way.

Trump has made clear he cares more about loyalty than the law, and by that he means he wants people to bend backwards to make him look good, to keep him out of trouble even when he is the cause and to look the other way at his wrong-doing, while taking  measures against those he considers his enemies. 

That is the opposite of someone like Rosenstein who lives by the rule of law, which requires every person to get a fair hearing and every issue to be investigated and adjudicated based on the facts, not emotion or loyalty demands.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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