Washington (AFP) – Top US justice officials pushed back strongly Thursday against accusations by Republican lawmakers that they have hidden information from Congress, and said they would not bow to presidential pressure to end the Russia probe.
FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also knocked back accusations by President Donald Trump and his allies that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was biased against the commander in chief.
In an hours-long hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, which included provocative clashes between Republican lawmakers and Rosenstein, he and Wray assured Congress that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appropriately conducting the investigation into Russian interference in the US election, and possible Trump team coordination with Moscow.
“I do not believe Special Counsel Mueller is on any kind of witch hunt,” Wray told lawmakers.
Asked if political pressure could derail the investigation, Wray was firm.
“I am committed to doing this job by the books in all respects, and there is no amount of political pressure that is going to dissuade me from that, by either side,” he told the panel.
Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller to conduct the Russia probe, has overseen it since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year.
Rosenstein also rejected accusations by lawmakers that the Department of Justice was “hiding information” by not handing over long-sought documents about Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Russia investigation.
“Why are you keeping information from Congress?” snapped congressman Jim Jordan, who also openly questioned the believability of Rosenstein’s testimony.
“Your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong,” Rosenstein told Jordan, pointing his finger at the lawmaker.
“You should believe me because I’m telling the truth and I’m under oath.”
Trump has heaped pressure on Mueller to end the probe. Early Thursday in a tweet he asked when Mueller was “going to list his Conflicts of Interest?”
Rosenstein told lawmakers he was “not aware of any disqualifying conflict of interest” by Mueller.
But Trump has ramped up efforts to discredit the wider probe into possible collusion between his campaign team and Moscow, even as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort this month became the first former Trump campaign aide to be jailed in the investigation.
Republican allies in Congress have also grown weary, and the frustration showed at Thursday’s hearing.
“We need to see the evidence. If you have evidence of wrongdoing by any member of the Trump campaign, present it to the damn grand jury,” fumed congressman Trey Gowdy.
“Whatever you got, finish it the hell up, because this country is being torn apart.”
In the middle of the hearing, the House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution calling on the Justice Department to hand over sensitive documents to Congress.