October 24, 2018 / 12:31 AM / a month ago

Congress postpones questioning U.S. Justice official on Trump, Russia probe

FILE PHOTO: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference to announce efforts to reduce transnational crime, at the U.S. District Attorney's office, in Washington, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. congressional committees postponed a closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein set for Wednesday where he had been expected to face tough questions about whether he discussed secretly recording Donald Trump and potentially removing the president from office.

Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy, chairmen of the House of Representatives Judiciary and Oversight committees, said on Tuesday they postponed Rosenstein’s interview because the amount of time allotted for the session was too short.

Rosenstein’s appearance before the panels will be rescheduled and could become a public hearing rather than a closed-door interview, Goodlatte and Gowdy said in a statement.

The committees had also been expected to question Rosenstein about his role in an ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Russia denies meddling in the election and Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt.”

As a Trump subordinate and supervisor of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is running the investigation that has clouded Trump’s presidency, Rosenstein occupies one of Washington’s most precarious jobs.

Rosenstein would have been the most high-profile Justice Department official to date to undergo questioning by the two House oversight committees as part of an inquiry that started last year.

The probe focuses largely on the Justice Department’s actions ahead of the 2016 election, including whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation misstepped or showed political bias when it applied for a surveillance warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The New York Times reported in September that in 2017 Rosenstein discussed secretly tape-recording Trump and recruiting Cabinet members to invoke a constitutional amendment to remove him from office. Rosenstein has called the report inaccurate and said he “never pursued or authorized recording” the president.

The article triggered some speculation that Trump was prepared to oust Rosenstein. However, earlier this month, Trump declared he had a “good talk” with Rosenstein and that he had no plans to fire him.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Eric Beech; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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