For a while now I have been suggesting that the initial step Trump will likely take in an attempt to shut down the Mueller investigation is to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosesnstein, who is the Justice Department official overseeing the probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
House Republicans like Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the intelligence committee, have been hounding Rosenstein to release documents related to the investigation and threatening to impeach him if they are not produced. In each instance, the deputy attorney general has found a way to eventually comply.
None of that seems to matter to the members of the House Freedom Caucus (HFC).
Conservative House allies of President Trump have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the ongoing special counsel probe, setting up a possible GOP showdown over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Trump confidant — finalized the draft in recent days.
In terms of the content of the articles of impeachment they’ve written up, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
The draft criticizes Rosenstein’s disclosure of materials related to a classified surveillance warrant application and subsequent renewals targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Conservatives have alleged the Justice Department acted inappropriately because the department relied on information in its warrant applications that was funded by Clinton’s presidential campaign. The warrants were approved by multiple judges.
The conservatives’ outline, which is divided into eight parts, focuses on Rosenstein and surveillance matters in the first three articles. The document asserts that the veteran Justice Department official “engaged in a pattern of conduct incompatible with the trust and confidence placed in him” in his dealings with Congress and “failed to enforce multiple laws” in the warrant process.
The draft also states that Rosenstein “knowingly provided misleading statements” during congressional testimony about steps the federal government took to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In terms of that last one, I’d be willing to bet a lot of money that Rosenstein’s “misleading statements” consist of nothing more than things he said that Trump’s enablers disagree with. The rest is the same old nonsense about the surveillance warrant against Carter Page, which was approved by multiple judges.
Beyond the fact that these charges are ridiculous, HFC members know that nothing will come of their efforts. Articles of impeachment must pass the House Judiciary Committee and then come up for a floor vote. To be implemented, they must pass the Senate with a two-thirds majority. That clearly isn’t going to happen.
So why are they wasting their time? Keep in mind that just two weeks ago Representatives Meadows and Jordan, leaders of the House Freedom Caucus, met with Rosenstein and threatened to impeach him if he didn’t release the Comey memos to Congress. Immediately after that meeting, Meadows spoke personally with Trump, but declined to provide any information about their conversation. In other words, their activities are clearly being coordinated with the president. A public release of articles of impeachment against Rosenstein will probably be the cover Trump uses to fire the deputy attorney general when things get too hot for him to handle.
As Rachel Maddow documented so thoroughly, any attempt to fire Mueller (or Rosenstein) will not end this investigation, and certainly not the one that is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. But knowing Trump’s pattern of being impulsive and his penchant for taking no prisoners in a fight for his life, I expect that this impeachment document is simply there waiting in the wings until the president decides to pull the plug and unleash his ire—regardless of whether or not it will be effective. The fact that there are Republican members of Congress who are willing to do his bidding in all of that should make them go down in infamy as enablers of a constitutional crisis.