Conservative Lawmakers File Impeachment Articles Against Rod Rosenstein
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For months, members of the conservative Freedom Caucus have threatened to file articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This is the man overseeing the Mueller investigation. Last night, they made good on that threat. Republicans Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan are leading the charge. They say Rosenstein and the Justice Department have failed to comply with congressional document demands. Here's Congressman Jim Jordan on Fox.
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JIM JORDAN: We're tired of the Justice Department giving us the finger and not giving us the information we're entitled to to do our constitutional duty. More importantly, the American people are sick of it. That's why we filed the resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: In just a moment...
MARTIN: All right, we're joined now by NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Hey, Kelsey.
KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, there.
MARTIN: Strong words...
MARTIN: ...From the congressman there. So remind us. What documents are at issue?
SNELL: Well, they say that they want text messages and other classified pieces of information that are related to both Rosenstein's investigation of the Hillary Clinton email scandal - remember that back from 2015, 2016 - and they want information about Robert Mueller's investigation into collusion with Russia. Now this - they are asking for a lot of documents. And they are kind of putting in rolling requests for new information. And they claim that the Justice Department has been slow-walking this process for about nine months.
MARTIN: Although the Justice Department says we've been more collaborative...
MARTIN: ...Than ever on this.
SNELL: They even had a meeting yesterday, and I caught up with Mark Meadows afterwards. And he says that he's just reached a boiling point where he's frustrated that the Justice Department has a lot of excuses. Justice Department, on the other hand, says they have done everything they can to keep up.
MARTIN: So can you walk us through what this impeachment process would actually look like if this goes forward?
SNELL: Yeah. Meadows made the choice, in this situation, not to do something that would've sped things along and forced them to vote within two days. Instead, he put these impeachment articles out there, and they get sent to the committee of jurisdiction. And they could languish there for months or possibly never get a vote on the floor. But he left open the possibility that he could refile in this more expedited way and force votes in the House, possibly in September.
MARTIN: So what is the point of doing this, especially because Congress is about to go on recess, right?
SNELL: Right. So this is kind of an escalation of this ongoing argument is sending a message, in part to House Speaker Paul Ryan, that they're serious about trying to do this. But it's also sending a message to voters and the Justice Department that members of the Freedom Caucus, which are roughly 40 people who are very conservative, who have very strong feelings about being very close to the president - they're making a loyalty pledge here. They're letting the president know that they're on his side. They're letting voters know that they're on the president's side. And they are really putting down the marker that this is something they want to go after.
MARTIN: Do we know if the Justice Department or Rosenstein himself has had anything to say about this?
SNELL: We've checked in with them this morning and overnight, and they have not had any comment. But like I said, they - the members of the Freedom Caucus and members of House Speaker Paul Ryan's staff met with people from the Justice Department about these document requests. And Meadows has been saying all along that he would maybe back down from this or look for other ways to pressure the Justice Department if those document requests were met - though he did tell me yesterday that he has a less than 5 percent expectation that that will happen.
MARTIN: OK. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Thanks, Kelsey.
SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.