Speaker Paul D. Ryan split from more conservative elements of his conference by continuing to back Rod Rosenstein, even though some of President Donald Trump’s allies in the House have begun drafting articles of impeachment for the deputy attorney general.
The speaker’s position has not changed since January, a spokeswoman said responding to further murmurs of impeachment. Earlier this year, Ryan said Rosenstein is “doing a fine job” and there is “no reason” for Trump to fire him.
The deputy attorney general oversees the investigation headed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election — and President Donald Trump’s potential obstruction of justice — because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe.
The cadre of House conservatives calling for Rosenstein’s head have accused him of withholding from Congress documents regarding the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation and its past inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of State.
The threat of impeachment is unlikely to amount to any real action, experts have said.
Rosenstein told a packed audience at an event at the Newseum in Washington on Tuesday that the DOJ “is not going to be extorted.”
He said the threat of impeachment from House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and a few others was just one of countless moves by conservatives in Washington to intimidate the DOJ and the special counsel on Russia.
Meadows delivered a sharp response to Rosenstein later Tuesday.
“If he believes being asked to do his job is ‘extortion,’ then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new deputy attorney general — preferably one who is interested in transparency,” the North Carolina Republican said.
While House hard-liners call for Rosenstein’s impeachment, some Senate Republicans took pre-emptive steps last week to protect those under his chain of command, namely Mueller.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Thursday by a 14-7 vote designed to safeguard the special counsel from being arbitrarily fired by Trump.
Tillis and Graham both emphasized that the bill is for the future, not just Mueller’s probe.
“It’s about a system for today, tomorrow and forever that makes sure nobody, even the president, is above scrutiny,” Graham said. “When we put someone in this spot, they’re in a political hot spot, that’s the nature of the special counsel, and I think we’d be well served as a nation to have a check and balance on that situation.”
Watch: Senators Support Mueller Protection Bill for Different Reasons
Todd Ruger contributed to this report.