Rod Rosenstein’s fate hangs in the balance ahead of his Thursday meeting with President Trump.
But some congressional Republicans don’t want to wait until then to get answers from the deputy attorney general about reports that he discussed secretly recording the President and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
Members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus are calling for Rosenstein to testify under oath about those reports this week, or risk impeachment.
Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said Monday that he and a “number” of colleagues were prepared to take the drastic step of forcing an impeachment vote.
“We are pushing very hard to make sure that he comes in under oath to Congress and let the American people judge for themselves,” Meadows said on Fox News. “I can tell you that if he does not, there are a number of us that are standing by really with impeachment documents. That said, we cannot have this kind of activity continue at DOJ.”
Also on Fox, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said Rosenstein needs “to be in the witness chair this week in the House Judiciary Committee,” to provide “answers under oath.”
Meadows and Gaetz are among the House Republicans who introduced articles of impeachment against Rosenstein this summer. They noted that they could use procedural moves to force colleagues to vote on the measure this week.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), another Freedom Caucus member, did not mention impeachment in a Monday tweet. But he said that “regardless of what happens to Mr. Rosenstein,” he needs to testify before the committee about his comments regarding the President.
“You can’t have the head of the Justice Department (even if it’s sarcasm) talking to subordinates about recording the Commander in Chief. He needs to answer our questions,” Jordan wrote.
Any request for Rosenstein’s testimony would need to be approved by the chairmen of the appropriate committees. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment on Tuesday.
But there is likely little appetite among House Republican leaders to take action regarding Rosenstein ahead of his scheduled meeting with the President on Thursday. Congressional Republicans are consumed with the sexual assault allegations threatening Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
They’re also in a rush to head back to their home states for a final push on the campaign trail before the November midterms.
Rosenstein, for his part, is eager to avoid another tense face-to-face battle with his GOP critics on the Hill, according to a Monday New York Times report. People close to Rosenstein told the newspaper that he became convinced that he should resign shortly after the reports first surfaced last Friday because he was “concerned about testifying to Congress.”
Rosenstein could of course still be compelled to testify if he left his position. FBI Director James Comey and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates are among the U.S. officials who were called to do so after Trump gave them the boot.
But the Times’ Michael Schmidt said on Twitter that “at that point [Rosenstein] can be candid but stakes are lower.”