Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Thursday he opposes efforts by House Freedom Caucus Republicans to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“It is appropriate that we conduct oversight of the executive branch and that we get full compliance,” Ryan said during his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill. “Do I support impeaching of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not. I do not for a number of reasons.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced the articles of impeachment which holds Rosenstein responsible for stonewalling a congressional investigation. Three House committees are investigating decisions Department of Justice (DOJ) officials made during two major FBI investigations related to the election of 2016.
Ryan believes lawmakers shouldn’t be cavalier with impeachment. He also questioned whether Rosenstein’s lack of compliance with congressional requests equals the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard specified by the Constitution. Ryan claimed as well that DOJ has been complying more effectively in recent weeks to such requests.
“For many reasons, I don’t think that’s the right way to go,” Ryan said. “But we do expect compliance and we want to make sure we get compliance and we look at all the various tools we have available, including having the types of dialogues we’ve had recently in order to get compliance from DOJ.”
Ryan also fears that an impeachment process could tie up the Senate, which could hinder his agenda. Judge Brett Kavanaugh could also be negatively impacted with his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court having to get Senate approval.
“My deputy, Rod Rosenstein, is highly capable. I have the highest confidence in him,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters in response to the impeachment announcement.
The articles of impeachment claim DOJ intentionally withheld embarrassing documents and information, knowingly hid material investigative information, abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, and failed to comply with congressional subpoenas.
Meadows now leads the House Freedom Caucus which he co-founded alongside Jordan. The caucus often finds itself at odds with Ryan and other establishment Republicans. Meadows and Jordan introduced the articles of impeachment and were joined by nine other GOP lawmakers.
The House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee launched a joint investigation last year into the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server for official business while she was secretary of state and what led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump or his associates colluded with Russian interests during the 2016 campaign.
The DOJ inspector general (IG), Michael Horowitz, released a 500-plus page investigative report on the email investigation in June. The report cited the text messages were unprofessional and damaged the FBI’s credibility, but said IG investigators found no evidence the extreme anti-Trump bias influenced the bureau’s decisions.