House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday rejected an effort by conservative Republicans to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying the Justice Department is mostly complying with requests for documents regarding the Russia investigation.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or this term,” he said of impeachment, according to Politico. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Ryan’s stance puts him at odds with other prominent Republicans who have argued that Rosenstein is inappropriately withholding information about special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the third-ranking Republican in the House, said earlier on Thursday that he’d support Rosenstein’s impeachment if it came to a vote, but added that hopefully the deputy AG will fulfill lawmakers’ requests before it comes to that.
“I would, I would,” Scalise said on Fox News when asked if he’d back the measure. “Right now, Rosenstein has not done his job and complying with Congress. What we are saying is here is a tool that Congress still has. Go do your job and comply so we don’t have to get to this. It’s all up to him.”
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has avoided taking a side on the issue when confronted with reporters, but he’s called for improved access to Justice Department documents in the months leading up to the impeachment effort against Rosenstein.
But other GOP lawmakers have taken a more hardened stance against their more conservative colleagues, arguing that the move is an effort to please President Donald Trump and prompt Rosenstein’s firing.
“Reckless publicity stunt,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). “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?'”
Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced the articles of impeachment against Rosenstein on Wednesday evening, but after meeting with other party leaders, they opted not to pursue an immediate vote on the issue.
Those familiar with internal conversations among GOP lawmakers say a vote on holding Rosenstein in contempt of Congress – a less severe motion against the deputy AG – is also on the table.
While Rosenstein’s impeachment stands a slim chance of passing in the House – and an even slimmer chance in the Senate – lawmakers plan to use the threat as a way to force the Justice Department to comply with information requests.