Breaking with a group of more conservative GOP lawmakers, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that he did not support an effort unveiled last night to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, as Ryan argued that despite concerns over cooperation from the Justice Department, the dispute did not merit such a constitutional showdown.
“Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not,” Ryan said at a news conference, just before House members went home for an extended summer break which will run until after Labor Day.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process, or with this term,” said Ryan, referring to the impeachment process, which hasn’t been used against a federal official – other than a judge or President – since 1876.
“I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Ryan added.
But a small band of Republicans from the House Freedom Caucus see things much differently, as they introduced a resolution to impeach Rosenstein on Thursday night, complaining that Rosenstein – who oversees the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections – has dragged his feet on turning over documents about that investigation.
“We can’t get answers for the American people if we can’t get information from the DOJ,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
“It’s time to impeach Rod Rosenstein,” Jordan added, just hours before he announced he would try to succeed Ryan as Speaker, if Republicans can keep the House majority in the 2018 elections.
“We have had enough,” said Freedom Caucus head Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
“The DOJ has continued to hide information from Congress and repeatedly obstructed oversight–even defying multiple Congressional subpoenas,” he added.
But while critics of Rosenstein were loudly pronouncing their effort, it’s clear they don’t have the votes to get a majority of the House to join with them – and even if they did, the Senate does not have a two-thirds super majority to convict and oust Rosenstein.
In a news conference with reporters, Speaker Ryan said while there have been problems getting documents, he believes there has been a lot of compliance in recent months from the Justice Department.
“We do not have full compliance – and we have to get full compliance – but we are making tremendous progress,” Ryan added.
The issue isn’t going anywhere for now, as lawmakers go home for an extended legislative break – leaving the matter until September, or later.
You can read the full text of the Rosenstein impeachment articles at this link.