Ryan: Rosenstein Hasn't Hit 'Level of High Crimes and Misdemeanors'

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 26, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters today that he doesn’t support the effort from some members of the House Freedom Caucus to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein because, for starters, “I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or with this term.”

Articles of impeachment were introduced Wednesday by Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and current Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), along with nine other members. They charged that the Justice Department official has withheld investigative information from GOPs in Congress, failed to comply with congressional subpoenas and abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

If the proposal cleared the House, it would need a two-thirds vote in the Senate for Rosenstein to lose his job. The documents were introduced just before House lawmakers are getting ready to leave for the five-week summer recess; Meadows did not use a procedural move that could have forced a vote this week.

Ryan said at his weekly press conference that “it is appropriate that we conduct oversight of the executive branch, and that we get full compliance with the executive branch on what are very legitimate document requests.”

“Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not,” he said. “…I don’t think that this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. I have a really high standard.”

Ryan added that Republicans “have been getting a lot of compliance from DoJ on the document requests,” but “we do not have full compliance.”

“And we have to get full compliance. But we’ve been making tremendous progress to that point,” he said. “The second reason why I think that is not the right way to go is because knowing the Senate procedures and the rules over there, this is about as privileged as anything gets over there. It’s one of the most privileged things that occurs in the Senate. And if this were to pass through the House, then what it would do is tie the Senate into knots.”

“What does that mean to us, practically speaking? That means it would derail or largely delay a big part of our agenda, our appropriation bills, our infrastructure bills and it would clearly, dramatically delay the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to go to the Supreme Court, which we expect to get done by Oct. 1 when the Supreme Court reconvenes.”

While it’s not “the right way to go,” Ryan said, “we do expect compliance.”

“We want to make sure that we get compliance. And we look at all the various tools that we have available, including having the kinds of dialogues we’ve been having recently in order to get compliance from DoJ,” he added.

The Speaker also argued that the deconfliction process with providing documents to Congress is essential. The Justice Department has argued that some of the documents House conservatives want to see — such as the unredacted Rosenstein memo detailing the scope of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — should not be released during an ongoing investigation because of potential harm to the probe.

“The special counsel gets involved when some documents might be in their purview and could compromise their investigation, those documents do not come,” Ryan said. “So we have a process with DoJ to make sure that we deconflict any of these matters.”

The Freedom Caucus members “know how I feel about this,” Ryan said of the impeachment effort.

“We all want to make sure that we get compliance, and different members have different beliefs on how best to go achieve those goals,” he added.