By Dr. Stephen Schwalbe
Faculty Member, Public Administration, American Military University
“Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein?” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) asked rhetorically during a recent press briefing at the Capitol. “No, I do not,” he stated.
Nevertheless, 11 members of the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), leaders of the very conservative Freedom Caucus within the House Republican Party, filed articles of impeachment against Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Impeachment Articles Claim Rosenstein Failed to Comply with Congressional Subpoena
The articles of impeachment claim Rosenstein should be removed from office because he failed to comply with a congressional subpoena. The subpoena ordered Rosenstein to produce all documents pertaining to the FBI and Justice Department’s conduct during the 2016 presidential race.
Impeachment in the House is analogous to an indictment by a grand jury. Past impeachment proceedings have charged government officials with alleged crimes committed while in office, although in this case no actual crime has been committed.
At the federal level, Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the Constitution grants the House “the sole power of impeachment.” Section 3, Clause 6 grants the Senate “the sole Power to try all Impeachments.”
In considering articles of impeachment, the House is obligated to base its charges on the standards specified in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution: “Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Regarding the Freedom Caucus’s case, it would appear the charges fall into the misdemeanor category.
Full House Vote to Impeach Rosenstein Unlikely
Even with both chambers of Congress in Republican hands, it is unlikely that the House of Representatives would vote to impeach Rosenstein.
The real issue here is that once impeachment proceedings start within the House, it can become a normal course of business if it continues for any length of time, making it easier to consider future impeachment proceedings. With Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and her liberal followers calling for the impeachment of President Trump, the last thing Ryan probably wants to see is the Republican Party setting the impeachment bar fairly low for future potential impeachment cases, especially if the Democrats retake control of the House following the mid-term elections in November.
About the Author
Dr. Stephen Schwalbe is an associate professor at American Military University. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia College. Stephen received a Ph. D. in Public Administration and Public Policy from Auburn University in 2006.