House Republicans have made no effort to conceal their efforts to disrupt and undermine public confidence in the Justice Department's investigation of the Russia scandal. While the specific details are unusual -- federal lawmakers generally don't attack federal law enforcement in such brazen ways -- the tactic is familiar: when partisans disapprove of a probe's direction, they attack the probe itself.
To that end, members of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus leaked to the Washington Post this week drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who's overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Its authors reportedly called the move a "last resort" in the event Rosenstein displeases GOP lawmakers further.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday that the Justice Department "is not going to be extorted" as some House Republicans raise the prospect of seeking his impeachment.During an appearance at the Newseum in Washington for Law Day, Rosenstein was asked about a draft of articles of impeachment prepared by Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, and other members of the House Freedom Caucus. They have pushed for the release of internal Justice Department documents concerning some aspects of the Russian meddling investigation and the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe.
It's not every day that a leader of the U.S. Justice Department suggests members of Congress are engaged in an "extortion" campaign against federal law enforcement. That said, Rosenstein's unscripted comments have the benefit of being true.
"I can tell you that there have been people who have been making threats, privately and publicly, against me for quite some time," the deputy attorney general said. "And I think they should understand by now, the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We're going to do what's required by the rule of law. And any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job. We have a responsibility. And we take an oath. That's the whole point."
Pro-Trump Republicans on Capitol Hill have somehow convinced themselves that Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe because of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal, can be intimidated into cooperation. The hope, by all appearances, is that by threatening Rosenstein, he'll either "play ball" with the far-right's wishes, or he'll resist, which in turn will make it easier to fire him -- at which point the deputy A.G. would be replaced with someone allied with the White House.
And while the dispute between the Department of Justice and House Republicans is largely over mundane issues -- GOP lawmakers apparently see surveillance of Carter Page as a hill worth dying on -- the impeachment threat was a not-so-subtle move, intended to sound like a mobster. In effect, the message to Rosenstein was, "It's a nice career you have there; it'd be a shame if something happened to it."
It's precisely why Rosenstein was correct to say federal law enforcement "is not going to be extorted," because that accurately describes the far-right GOP members' campaign against the ongoing federal investigation.