The investigation into Russian meddling has always been one concerning foreign intelligence that included people looking for crimes “both foreign and domestic,” and that has not changed with the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel, Rep. Darrell Issa said Friday.
“I don’t think anyone is happy that the Russians have had the gall to attempt to influence our election,” the California Republican told reporters as he came out of a closed-door meeting, where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was to brief House members of circumstances surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his decision to bring on Mueller.
“I do believe that there was great consensus that going after the Russians for interfering with our election is a nonpartisan or bipartisan issue,” Issa said, and it is “one that both sides need to get resolved before the next election, not just as to what they did but how to prevent it.”
The meeting was initially called to discuss Rosenstein’s role in Comey’s firing, and Issa did not provide many details about that part of the discussions.
“I think he spoke to it by asserting that the record is a paper record with a chronological set of documents,” Issa said. “What I will say — I don’t believe this is classified — the scope again of Director Mueller includes any questions about referrals related to any misconduct, any interference. There were questions well outside the Russian scope in there and repeatedly the acting director said that he would feel that his job is to make sure others have the freedom to send it where it may be.”
Issa said he does not believe Rosenstein indicated that anyone directed him to write a report that Trump’s spokespeople and Vice President Mike Pence initially cited as the reason behind Comey’s dismissal.
However, he said that as a person who has conducted several investigations, he finds it “suspicious” when a lawyer does not write a memo to keep a written record.
Issa also did not discuss in detail if Rosenstein explained why he decided to appoint a special prosecutor,and pushed back at a reporter’s use of the word “finally” in a question on the matter.
“I think the press has a tendency to look at a timeline and say ‘finally,'” Issa said. “The fact is on Feb. 25 was the first time as far as I know anyone called for the recusal of the attorney general [Jeff Sessions]. I was the one that did it, and said in fact there were ultimately under the statute need to be a special prosecutor. That’s what we have now.”
Rosenstein did say that lawmakers should let the record speak for itself concerning Comey and Mueller, said Issa, and he believes that’s what will have to happen.
“I for one thought that Comey ill-served the American people when he tried to stretch beyond all reason the Fourth Amendment to hack into your iPhones,” Issa said. “I have had a belief that he didn’t respect the Constitution, had become in love with the camera, which is normally for politicians, and that he began thinking that he was somehow larger than the FBI director . . . the Department of Justice is the FBI director’s boss, not the other way around.”
He also struck back at Trump’s contention that Mueller and others are on a “witch hunt.”
“I don’t personally believe in witches,” Issa said. “The director’s job is to go where the facts lead and he has a reputation. Now, all special prosecutors turn over a lot more rocks than anybody in the executive branch wants . . . he is going to find things beyond the scope that the narrowest interpretation of either Republicans or Democrats would want. But I think the American people deserve the scope to be as broad as necessary to regain confidence in our elected officials, in our appointed officials, in our elections.”
Issa further said he believes Mueller will conduct a fair investigation, but that doesn’t mean one side or the other will like it.
“This is about public confidence,” Issa said. “This won’t be a partisan activity even though partisans will complain one way or the other . . . the American people aren’t Republicans or Democrats, they’re the American people and they deserve the answers wherever that investigation leads.”
Issa also spoke about the possibility that Trump could name retired Sen. Joe Lieberman to head the FBi, saying he thinks that idea is “great.”
“I worked with Joe when he was my counterpart between our two committees,” Issa said. “Everyone here knows he is solid, he is probably a little bored in private life. He is a public servant. His experience and his Independence, including Independence at times from his own party, is pretty legendary. So I’m a Joe Lieberman fan and wouldn’t look at a second candidate if the president had the confidence to appoint him.”