On Tuesday, May 1, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke at the Newseum in a sold-out program commemorating Law Day. Rosenstein’s focus was the rule of law and the Justice Department’s mission, but he was also pressed for comment on the department’s investigation into the Trump campaign, which has long provoked the ire of President Trump and his allies. On Monday, the day before Rosenstein appeared at the Newseum, news broke that a group of Republican lawmakers had drafted articles of impeachment against him. Asked by reporters in the Newseum audience, Rosenstein insisted that such threats would have no impact on the investigation, and that the Department of Justice would continue to “do what’s required by the rule of law.” In a comment that has since made headlines in multiple media reports, he added, “I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.”
Rosenstein also fielded a question about a recent BuzzFeed report that the Justice Department had removed language about press freedom from an internal manual. “It’s completely misleading,” he said, describing how the language removed dealt with employees’ confidentiality obligations and their interactions with the press. “Freedom of the press isn’t protected by our federal prosecutors’ manual,” he added. “It’s protected by the Constitution.”
He also said that the Justice Department would be open to talks with members of the press about policies around journalist subpoenas during leak investigations, which has been a matter of concern for press freedom advocates since the Trump administration announced its intention to crack down on government leaks.