For weeks, Rod Rosenstein has refused to turn over a document now known as the ‘Scope Memo’ to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. The explanation has been that the DOJ thought that turning it over to Nunes would be the same as turning it over to the White House.
That fight is behind the DOJ and Rosenstein. Technically, they won. They won’t have to turn it over to Chairman Nunes. Officially, Rosenstein and the DOJ lost because Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has demanded to see the memo. In his letter, Chairman Grassley wrote “This Committee likewise should be permitted to review the true nature and scope of the special counsel’s investigation. Like the Judiciary, Congress is a separate branch of government with its own constitutional duties that often require access to Executive Branch information. In this case, the interests relate to both legislative and oversight responsibilities.”
There’s no denying the memo from Grassley from a political standpoint. Rosenstein could win a fight with Chairman Nunes because the media had unjustifiably criticized him. That option doesn’t exist with Chairman Grassley because he’s one of the most decent, well-respected men in DC.
Grassley also appears interested in the timing of the Rosenstein memo. “The August Memorandum states that it addresses the special counsel’s authorization as of the date he was appointed. Why was this memorandum not drafted until August 2017?” Grassley asked.
Grassley has been a supporter of the Mueller investigation, the committee chairman noted. He has publicly warned President Trump against taking steps to shut down the investigation or fire Mueller. “As I have said numerous times, that investigation should be free to follow the facts wherever they lead without any improper outside interference. However, that does not mean that it is immune from oversight or that information about the scope of its authority under existing Department regulations should be withheld from Congress,” Grassley said.
Mueller would face a difficult fight vs. Sen. Grassley if Sen. Grassley pushed him on exceeding his authority. While some want to think this is a law enforcement matter, it’s a political battle, too. In a fight against Sen. Grassley, Rosenstein will lose if it comes to that.