On July 25, 11 House Freedom Caucus members, led by HFC chair Mark Meadows (R-NC), filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. However, the very next day, Meadows appeared to back off of the idea of impeachment, telling reporters it was the HFC “desire” to use a “contempt vote” instead.
I just filed a resolution with @Jim_Jordan and several colleagues to impeach Rod Rosenstein. The DOJ has continued to hide information from Congress and repeatedly obstructed oversight–even defying multiple Congressional subpoenas.
We have had enough.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) July 25, 2018
Though the impeachment resolution had support from House Republicans like Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), other Republicans have voiced their opposition to the idea of impeaching Rosenstein, both before and after the resolution was filed.
Gowdy also says he is not going to support House Freedom Caucus efforts to impeach Rosenstein. “Impeach him for what?”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 15, 2018
.@RepublicanStudy Chairman Mark Walker tells me he is opposed to the Freedom Caucus leaders’ push to impeach Rod Rosenstein, says he would vote NO if it were brought to the floor today
— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) July 26, 2018
Reckless publicity stunt. No different from Dems who filed articles of impeachment against the President some months ago. What a sad, pathetic game of “how low can you go?” https://t.co/bWEpDZn3j8
— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) July 26, 2018
Current House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke out against the idea during his weekly press conference on Thursday.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or this term [impeachment],” Ryan said. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors” (emphasis mine).
And Attorney General (and Rosenstein’s boss) Jeff Sessions also defended Rosenstein on Thursday.
“My deputy Rod Rosenstein is highly capable. I have the highest confidence in him,” Sessions said. “What I would like Congress to do is focus on some of the legal challenges that are out there. … We need to get them focused and we are pleading with them to do so.”
Just one day after filing the resolution, Meadows appeared to back down from the idea of impeaching Rosenstein, who was nominated by President Trump in February 2017.
“I think the very first order of business would be moving the House to a contempt vote,” Meadows said Thursday. “I think it is our desire to have more of a contempt process, which obviously has to have a partner with the Speaker, and I think hopefully they will at least acknowledge we’ve made some reasonable concessions to give DOJ and FBI.”
Impeachment is a consequential instrument; it is not a trivial action and should not be treated as such for partisan gain. It is dangerous to normalize the idea of impeachment as a political weapon or to lessen its gravitas by frivolously threatening it or treating it as a partisan tool. Politicians (and activists) from both parties should stop treating the process of impeachment as if it were simply another way to rally their base.
And, The Weekly Standard notes, the use of impeachment is wholly unnecessary in this circumstance:
Impeachment, moreover, is not an appropriate remedy for Rosenstein’s alleged transgression of insufficient transparency. He, after all, works for the president, who is ultimately responsible for the information the Justice Department gives to Congress and who can order Rosenstein to disclose more on threat of removal. Congress is overstepping its authority in micromanaging the executive branch by seeking to impeach an official for refusing to turn over information that the president has not ordered him to turn over.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.