IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The rapid rise and fall of a misguided Republican impeachment stunt

On Wednesday, 11 House Republicans filed articles of impeachment against the deputy attorney general who oversees the Russia investigation. That didn't go well.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at a news conference
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at a news conference with other law enforcement officials at the Justice Department to...

Eleven far-right House Republicans launched a pretty bold move on Wednesday, filing articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- a man who, among other things, effectively serves as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's boss, overseeing the investigation into the Russia scandal.

Given this role, the right has made Rosenstein a frequent target, especially among Donald Trump's allies, but accusing him of high crimes was a bizarre escalation in the broader offensive.

In all likelihood, the deputy attorney general didn't lose any sleep over the effort. After all, if his congressional opponents tried to remove him from office, they'd need a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, and by all appearances, they have neither. Yesterday, as Slate  explained, the campaign quickly changed direction.

Even typically doormat-like lame-duck Speaker Paul Ryan was critical of the move, calling it a "cavalier" use of the impeachment process, and on Thursday, Ryan and other party leaders brokered an agreement with [North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan] that will keep their proposal, at least for now, from coming up for a vote that would force members in tight re-election races to choose between alienating the GOP base and alienating Trump-skeptical swing voters.Specifically, Meadows and Jordan agreed not to file their bill as a "privileged" resolution, which would mean it had to be voted on within two days. In exchange, party leaders will support their demands that Rosenstein and the [Department of Justice] turn over particular documents related to the Russia-Trump investigation. If Rosenstein doesn't comply, a vote will be held on whether to find him in contempt of Congress:

This wasn't much of a sacrifice for the ringleaders behind the scheme: if Meadows and Jordan thought their impeachment measure had a realistic chance of passing, they would've taken more aggressive steps to get it onto the floor. But the fact was that their measure had an underwhelming total of 11 co-sponsors -- which meant finding 218 votes was improbable.

The trouble, however, is the fact that they pushed impeachment in the first place.

At its root, a small group of Trump allies pulled a stunt intended to undermine an ongoing federal investigation they disapprove of, and discredit a deputy attorney general who isn't playing a partisan game to some Republicans' satisfaction.

It's hardly a stretch to think the impeachment efforts itself, were it to advance at all, could've also served as a pretense for Trump to fire Rosenstein.

All of which suggests the 11 members responsible for creating this mess -- Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) -- ought to be remembered for their recklessness.