July 27 (UPI) — House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected an effort by fellow House Republicans to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Thursday as they reached a new agreement with the Justice Department.
During his weekly news conference Thursday, Ryan said he believed it would be a step too far to impeach Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or with this term,” Ryan said. “I don’t think that this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Also Thursday, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. — who led the movement to impeach Rosenstein — reached a deal with Ryan’s support to give the Justice Department and the FBI “one more chance” to turn over documents to Congress or have Rosenstein face charges of contempt.
“All of that came to an agreement where we felt like not doing a privileged motion today would be most prudent … and yet brings us all together the first week in September if they do not comply,” Meadows said. “The speaker is willing to support Chairman Goodlatte in a contempt process if the agreed upon documents are not delivered.”
Ryan also told reporters the Department of Justice has been making “tremendous progress” toward full compliance on releasing the documents lawmakers subpoenaed in March.
He added the impeachment process could disrupt the legislative process and affect other Congressional objectives.
“It would derail or delay a big part of our agenda, our appropriations bills, our infrastructure bills … the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to go to the Supreme Court,” Ryan said.
Meadows, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and nine co-sponsors introduced articles of impeachment, accusing Rosenstein of withholding documents and making misleading statements to Congress to obstruct Congressional oversight into Mueller’s investigation.
The decision drew criticism from some other House Republicans including Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., who told Politico he believed the move is a “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?'” Curbelo said.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said he was “as troubled as anyone” about the difficulty obtaining documents, but still opposed the idea of impeaching Rosenstein.
“I think if we’re going to impeach though we have to have a process. I think we should have hearings and we should have a debate on the floor. I think we should convince the American people it’s the right thing to do. I’m not sure we’ve done that yet,” Stewart said.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed his support for Rosenstein during a press conference in Boston.
“My deputy, Rod Rosenstein, is highly capable. I have the highest confidence in him,” Sessions said.