Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives supportive of President Donald Trump launched an all-out attack Thursday on two of his key law enforcement officials handling the continuing criminal investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia in 2016.
In a House Judiciary Committee hearing, the lawmakers accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of hiding thousands of pages of documents on the origins of the two-year investigation into Russian interference in the election that was aimed at helping Trump win the White House over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
They also attacked Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray for what he acknowledged was the bias against Trump of a handful of FBI agents working on the investigation and an earlier probe of Clinton's handling of classified material on a private email server while she was secretary of state.
The hearing came as the Republican majority in the full House, ignoring the opposition of Democrats, pushed through a nonbinding resolution rebuking Rosenstein for not fully complying with a subpoena to turn over all the documents and ordered him to do so by July 6.
Rosenstein told the judiciary panel that thousands of the documents have already been handed to the committee and that 100 Justice Department staff members are working around the clock sifting through thousands more pages of material to comply with the lawmakers' demands.
Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller and has overseen his work for the last 13 months conducting the Russia investigation and whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey, a former FBI director who was handling the Russia probe before Mueller took over.
One Republican lawmaker, Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, never asked Rosenstein a question in the hearing, but delivered a scathing five-minute monologue on the Mueller investigation.
"If you've got evidence [of Trump wrongdoing], finish it the hell up because this country is being torn apart," Gowdy demanded of Rosenstein.
Gowdy and other Republican lawmakers condemned Peter Strzok, an FBI agent working on the probe, for telling his lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, in an email exchange that "we'll stop" Trump from becoming president.
Gowdy, a one-time prosecutor, said it was "more bias manifested by an agent" than he had ever seen.
Rosenstein acknowledged that Strzok's comments were "highly inappropriate."
"It's more than that," retorted another Republican lawmaker, Congressman Ron DeSantis of Florida.
Strzok, who was recently escorted out of the FBI while the agency further examines his conduct, spent 11 hours answering lawmakers' questions behind closed doors Wednesday, telling them the exchange with Page was a private comment and did not impact his impartiality in working on both the Clinton email probe and later the Mueller investigation. Mueller dismissed Strzok from his investigative staff months ago when his anti-Trump emails first surfaced.
A Justice Department watchdog recently concluded there was no political bias in the Clinton email probe, but that FBI agents and Comey had not adhered to agency rules in the way they conducted the probe and other aspects of their work.
DeSantis told Rosenstein he ought to remove himself from oversight of the Mueller investigation because he played a role in the initial White House justification for Trump's firing of Comey in May 2017.
"I can assure you that if it were appropriate for me to recuse, I'd be more than happy to do so," Rosenstein replied.
The House Republican support for Trump came as the U.S. leader unleashed a new barrage of dismissive Twitter comments targeting Mueller's probe, calling it "a disgraceful situation!" He noted that Russia continues to deny interfering in the investigation.