Attorney General Jeff Sessions, House leadership defend Rod Rosenstein against impeachment threat

Republicans seek to impeach US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he does not support an effort by a group of 11 conservative lawmakers to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official who oversees the special counsel's Trump-Russia investigation.

The House conservatives - led by Meadows, Judiciary Committee member Jordan and Nunes - haven't let up on their complaints that Rosenstein and the Justice Department have hidden documents and text messages, engaged in abuse of federal warrants and routinely defied congressional subpoenas. Minutes later, House Republicans voted to sanction the Department of Justice over GOP document requests.

"It's time to find a new deputy attorney general who is serious about accountability and transparency", Meadows said. "I don't think this rises to high crimes and misdemeanors; that's a very high standard".

Lawmakers will soon leave Washington for a recess, meaning no vote would be imminent - if the resolution made its way through procedural hurdles to a vote. Republican congressmember and Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows says he will instead seek to charge Rosenstein with contempt of Congress if he doesn't turn over documents Meadows is seeking.

The effort of some House conservatives to impeach the deputy attorney general sputtered within Congress on Thursday, but the political story will likely rage on.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that among other things, Mueller is scrutinizing Trump's twitter feed - particularly those that seem to threaten Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey - as potential evidence of obstruction of justice.

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The comments by House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan reflect the continuing unease among US lawmakers even within Mr. Whitman ended by encouraging Republican voices to stand up to Trump because of the power they have to influence action.

Their move late Wednesday came after months of criticism aimed at the department - and the Russian Federation investigation in particular - from President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress. Trump has fumed about Mueller's probe and has repeatedly called it a "witch hunt", a refrain echoed by some of the lawmakers.

Democrats have criticized the Republican efforts to pressure the Justice Department, saying they are attempts to undermine Mueller's investigation. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to discredit the Justice Department, and, by extension, the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. The Department of Justice has declined to comment. "The president has been clear that he wants the DOJ to be transparent and co-operate with Congress", spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters. They could try to build support for a House vote when lawmakers return after Labor Day, although the attitude of Ryan or other leaders might not be different then.

Meadows and Jordan have always been critical of Rosenstein and the Justice Department, saying the department has failed to comply with Congress' demands for unredacted records about the Russian Federation investigation.

Meadows said the five-week delay would give the department "one last chance" to deliver. "Those who joined in the filing of these articles of impeachment are locking hands with the president as he tears down these institutions and undermines the rule of law". Gowdy said after the meeting that he was pleased with the department's efforts. In response to the measure, Democrats Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., issued a statement calling it a "direct attack" on Robert Mueller's investigation.

For his part, Mr. Rosenstein has thumbed his nose at the lawmakers.

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