Congress just filed articles of impeachment! It’s happening! Our long national nightmare could soon be … oh wait, never mind, they’re going after the wrong guy. On Wednesday evening, 11 Trump allies in the House, led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, moved to remove Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from office. The impeachment filing marks the first step in a potential, but very remote impeachment process and represents a performative escalation in the ongoing battle by Trumpites to derail the Mueller investigation under the guise of congressional oversight of the Department of Justice.
Meadows, who leads the Tea Party’s ultra-conservative legislative arm, the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement that Rosenstein is “intentionally withholding embarrassing documents” and the move to impeach is “the result of nearly nine months of unsuccessful congressional attempts to force the Department of Justice to comply with oversight requests.” The two congressmen leading the impeachment drive have tried to insinuate themselves into the Russia investigation by calling for broad document requests that have not been part of a good faith effort at oversight.
“The lawmakers issued subpoenas seeking such information as the secret surveillance warrants investigators obtained to monitor Mr. Page; thousands of pages related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Clinton email investigation; and sensitive information about a confidential informant in the Russia probe,” the Wall Street Journal notes. “Mr. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray have declined to provide certain information about informants and other individuals, which could jeopardize ongoing investigations and endanger lives, officials said.” The DOJ says it worked with members of Congress to limit the scope of their requests to make more information available and created secure reading rooms at the DOJ where lawmakers could review sensitive material.
It hasn’t been enough for the 11 angry Republicans because the point is not to get to the bottom of anything in particular; the point is muddy the water, create confusion, and false equivalencies that might serve the president. The point is there is no point to what they’re asking for. There is also no good faith point to their move for impeachment of Rosenstein, who also happens to be a Republican, and appears to have operated admirably in turbulent times. Earlier this month, Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy told CBS News he didn’t support impeaching Rosenstein. “For what? Impeach him for what?” he said during an interview. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also indicated he’s against the idea.
It’s not just the faux oversight that’s been conducted in bad faith, the move to impeach is ethically bankrupt in equal measure. To impeach Rosenstein for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which would mark the first time an executive branch official was impeached in more than 140 years ago, a majority of the House, which Republicans control, would need to approve the measure. That alone will be an impossibly tall order. To then actually remove Rosenstein from office, two-thirds of the Senate would need to vote to do so. The chance of that happening is close to zero. So why the articles of impeachment? It’s hard to say exactly what the game plan is for Trump’s congressional minions, but it’s like an alley-oop for the president who will use it to make the case that everyone’s guilty, so he can’t possibly be.