Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended his Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein this morning after a group of 11 Republican Representatives filed articles of impeachment against him yesterday.
Rosenstein is supervising the special counsel’s investigation into the role Russia played in the 2016 Presidential election and possible Trump campaign involvement after Sessions recused himself after reports that he had had meetings with the Russian ambassador. The Hill reports Sessions expressed confidence in Rosenstein, before pointing out Congress has more important things to do instead of impeaching the Deputy AG.
“My deputy, Rod Rosenstein, is highly capable,” Sessions said at an event in Boston when asked to address the impeachment efforts. “I have the highest confidence in him. You probably know that not only did he go to the Wharton School of Business, but he graduated from Harvard right here in this area.”
“What I would like Congress to do is to focus on some of the legal challenges that are out there. we need congress is to deal with the immigration question,” Sessions told reporters.
“There are loopholes in our laws that are being exploited. We need to get them focused and we are pleading with them to do so. Our job and our enforcement off jobs are far more difficult than they need to be. Common sense legislation can make a big difference. That’s where I would like to see them focus their time,” Sessions said.
The articles of impeachment introduced by Representatives Meadows and Jordan accuse Rosenstein of withholding documents from Congress and having a conflict of interest in the special counsel’s investigation, the AP reports.
The five articles charge Rosenstein of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for failing to produce information to the committees, even though the department has already provided lawmakers with more than 800,000 documents, and of signing off on what some Republicans say was improper surveillance of a Trump adviser.
The resolution also goes directly after Rosenstein for his role in the ongoing Mueller investigation, criticizing him for refusing to produce a memo that outlines the scope of that investigation and questioning whether the investigation was started on legitimate grounds. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign was in any way involved.
It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for lawmakers to demand documents that are part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Paul Ryan stated this morning that he doesn’t support the move to impeach Rosenstein, NBC reports.
“Do I support impeachment of Rosenstein? No, I do not,” Ryan, R-Wis., said at his weekly press conference as the House voted one last time before leaving Capitol Hill for a month-long recess.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or term,” he said of impeachment, adding, “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors,” which he called a “really high standard.”
Trey Gowdy also does not support impeaching Rosenstein, according to NBC.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee indicated Thursday that he doesn’t back the impeachment effort. “I am supportive of our desire to gain of getting the documents. Impeachment is a punishment. So, I want the documents,” he said. “My position for the most part has been I don’t like drama but I want the documents. It hasn’t changed.”
The other issue with impeachment, added Gowdy, is that it’s unlikely to succeed: “If you see the votes and the jury, let me know, I don’t see the votes.”
After threatening to force a vote last night, NBC reports that Meadows backed off ahead of the month-long August recess starting this afternoon.
Meadows told reporters Thursday morning that he won’t bring up the articles of impeachment for now in a privileged fashion, which would have forced a more immediate vote. The House is leaving Washington for its month-long August recess at noon Thursday and won’t return to Capitol Hill until after Labor Day.
“Technically I could still file it today, I am not doing that,” Meadows said. “We were able to make some other concessions and agreements that will hopefully will compel DOJ and FBI to deliver the documents.”
NBC reports that Democrats immediately condemned the impeachment threat, with ranking Democrats releasing a joint statement.
“It is a panicked and dangerous attempt to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation in an effort to protect President Trump as the walls are closing in around him and his associates,” the ranking Democrats on the Judiciary, Oversight and Intelligence committees said in a joint statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee said on Twitter the articles of impeachment show the lengths Republicans will go to protect President Trump.
These articles of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein were filed in bad faith and show extraordinary lengths to which House Republicans will go to protect Trump. History will record these Members as willing accomplices in the most serious threat to the rule of law in a generation. https://t.co/nZvyytfgKk
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 26, 2018
In the investigation the president has often called a “witch hunt”, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has charged 3 Russian organizations and 32 individuals. Of those 32, four were directly associated with the Trump campaign. Mike Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos have all pleaded guilty and Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Trump, is scheduled to go to trial on July 31.