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Labrador critical of Russia election meddling probe

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 14, 2017, 4:58 p.m.

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador questions Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (House Judiciary Committee video / Screenshot)
Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador questions Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (House Judiciary Committee video / Screenshot)

Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador had sharp questions for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Wednesday, joining other GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee in suggesting that partisan bias was behind a probe into Russian election meddling and possible connections to the Trump presidential campaign.

Labrador, who is running for governor of Idaho, was highly critical of the probe. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the investigation, defended it, and said Special Counsel Robert Mueller has managed the case “appropriately.”

“So, what was the role of the Russians when they tried to interfere with the elections in the United States?” Labrador asked Rosenstein, who responded, “Undermine American confidence in democracy.”

“I believe that no one in the United States has done more to undermine the belief in the United States democratic process than the Democrats and the press, in some cases, when they continue to report on false allegation after allegation after allegation,” Labrador retorted.

Labrador then went on to say Mueller’s charge is “overly broad,” and to question its results. He pressed Rosenstein to tell him if, among the charges brought against individuals so far in the investigation, any had been for links or coordination with the Russian government.

“Congressman, I’m not going to comment beyond what’s in the charging documents,” Rosenstein responded. “I think you can draw your own conclusion.”

Labrador then suggested that the investigation itself might have been started to influence the outcome of the election in favor of Democrats.

“We have to find out who started this investigation, we need to find out what the purpose was,” he said. “If you have an individual who actually had a desire to have an outcome in a political race, and they decided to use the Department of Justice to investigate their political opponents, I think that is one of the worst crimes that has occurred in the history of the United States when it comes to politics, do you agree with that?” he asked Rosenstein.

Rosenstein responded, “If that were what happened, congressman, it would certainly be of grave concern.”

“Well I hope that you are truly investigating this,” Labrador said, “and that we get to the bottom of this.”

Writing about committe questioning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Rosenstein told the heated committee hearing, “The special counsel’s investigation is not a witch hunt,” specifically rejecting the phrase that President Trump has used to denounce the case.

The oversight hearing was held a day after texts between two FBI employees in 2015 and 2016 emerged that were critical of both then-candidate Trump, calling him an “idiot,” and Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. Neither employee now works on the Mueller probe.

Under questioning, Rosenstein told the committee he would not fire Mueller unless the former FBI director had violated Justice Department guidelines or the law. “If there were good cause, I would act,” he said. “If there were no good cause, I would not.”