US House Republicans mount a long-shot bid to impeach Deputy Attorney-General Rosenstein

Republican lawmakers have been sparring with Deputy Attorney-General Rod J. Rosenstein for months.
Republican lawmakers have been sparring with Deputy Attorney-General Rod J. Rosenstein for months. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - A group of House Republicans escalated their feud with Deputy Attorney-General Rod J. Rosenstein on Wednesday (July 25), introducing articles of impeachment in a long-shot bid to oust the official overseeing the special counsel inquiry into Russian election interference.

The move was seen as much as a political manoeuvre as an act of congressional oversight. The group of 11, led by Representatives Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Mr Jim Jordan of Ohio, would need the support of a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to impeach.

The resolution they filed does not require the entire House to vote before Congress adjourns for its summer recess on Friday.

But it could provide President Donald Trump with more ammunition to attack Mr Rosenstein, who has been in Mr Trump's cross hairs since he appointed the special counsel, Mr Robert Mueller, to investigate Russia's plot to manipulate the 2016 presidential election and whether any Trump associates were complicit.

Republican lawmakers have been sparring with Mr Rosenstein for months. They accuse the Justice Department of being less than forthcoming with documents related to several of its most sensitive investigations, including the Russia inquiry.

"It's time to find a new deputy attorney-general who is serious about accountability and transparency," Mr Meadows said in a statement on Wednesday.

While the department has largely produced the documents requested in subpoenas from the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, Republicans have complained for months that Mr Rosenstein and the department have slow-walked production of the papers and hidden information from Congress.

"At almost every opportunity, Mr Rosenstein has resisted and defied Congress' constitutional oversight," Representative Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican, said in a statement.

"His time to obstruct our investigations has expired."

The resolution zeroed in on Mr Rosenstein's decision to sign off on a request to renew a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court application to wiretap Mr Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

"His conduct in authorising the FISA surveillance at issue in the joint congressional investigation makes him a fact witness central to the ongoing investigation of potential FISA abuse," the resolution said.

The lawmakers said Mr Rosenstein's "failure to recuse himself in light of this inherent conflict" constituted a "dereliction of duty".

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the resolution.

Congressional Democrats called the resolution "a panicked and dangerous attempt to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation in an effort to protect President Trump".

"The President should not mistake this move by his congressional enablers as a pretext to take any action against Mr Rosenstein or Mr Mueller and his investigation," Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, Mr Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Mr Adam B. Schiff of California said in a statement.

"Any attempt to do so will be viewed by Congress and the American people as further proof of an effort to obstruct justice with severe consequences for Trump and his presidency."

Over the last year, the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees have sent three subpoenas to the Justice Department requesting hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, e-mails and text messages related to investigations into Mrs Hillary Clinton's use of a private e-mail server, the FBI's use of confidential informants and the Russia investigation.

Justice Department officials said on Wednesday that they had fully complied with two of those subpoenas - one related to the department's application to wiretap Mr Page, and the other pertaining to the confidential informants.

They said they had complied with seven of nine items in a broad subpoena from the Intelligence Committee, which asked for materials pertaining to Mrs Clinton and Mr Page, as well as other matters.

The Justice Department expects to deliver all of the Clinton-related materials to the committee in the next week.

Officials said they would continue to work with Congress to fulfil its request for documents related to the final item, the inspector general's investigation of the department's conduct during the 2016 election and the investigation into Mrs Clinton.

They have already produced 880,000 related to the inspector general's review.