Lawmakers begin 5-week congressional recess without forcing vote to impeach deputy attorney general

The House of Representatives wrapped up legislative business today without considering articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, punting the potential showdown until September and affording the Department of Justice five more weeks to comply with a congressional subpoena.

After nine months of incomplete compliance with oversight requests related to the Russia and Hillary Clinton email investigations, Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, introduced an impeachment resolution on Wednesday night with 10 conservative colleagues.

Meadows declined to force a vote on the resolution Thursday after he says he struck a deal with Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to postpone his next move until after the recess.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Mark Meadows listens to testimony during a joint hearing with the House Judiciary and the House Oversight and Government Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2018.

While House Speaker Paul Ryan says he disagrees Meadows and other frustrated conservatives who introduced the resolution, he has supported their efforts to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

“Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not,” Ryan, R-Wis., said, warning lawmakers not to be “cavalier” with impeachment while further expressing doubt that the GOP’s showdown with the Department of Justice rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

“I have a really high standard,” Ryan explained. “We do not have full compliance and we have to get full compliance, but we’ve been making tremendous progress to that point.”

Rosenstein, the No. 2-ranked official at the department, oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling of the 2016 presidential election after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year.

PHOTO: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in Robert Muellers Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018.Leah Millis/Reuters
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announces grand jury indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the GOP’s move “an attack on the Mueller investigation.”

“What they’re making is a statement: President Trump is above the law. Period. It’s a sad thing,” Pelosi, D-Calif., bemoaned in a news conference at the Capitol. “Just when you think you have seen it all, Republicans have no shame that they would go to a place where they would undermine our judicial system.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top-ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Republicans filed the resolution to give President Trump pretext to fire Rosenstein.

PHOTO: Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia,Feb. 1, 2018.Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia,Feb. 1, 2018.

“There is absolutely no basis to impeach Rod Rosenstein. It’s an absurd idea,” Schiff, D-Calif., said. “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.”

Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes called the impeachment effort “insane.”

“It’s an uptick in their fabulously irresponsible effort to damage the critical institutions of this country in favor of defending the president,” Himes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. “I’ve read every single word of the FISA applications including the redacted stuff, and there is nothing in there to substantiate these wildly irresponsible charges that a couple of the Republicans are making.”

Nevertheless, Republicans are heading home as the five-week recess begins without taking a vote on the resolution. If the department does not comply during the legislative break, Republicans may move to hold Rosenstein in contempt instead of voting to impeach him.

“Rosenstein needs to turn the documents over, and we are simply, the Freedom Caucus, tired of waiting, so we’re not waiting anymore,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, said. “Our message to the Justice Department: either produce the documents or take the consequences.”

“I hope that they lay down a gauntlet and show these folks that we’re not just going to accept this,” Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., told ABC News. “They need to be held accountable. That’s part of our job – is to hold them accountable.”