- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2018

A day after filing articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows said he would pursue less serious contempt charges, slightly lowering the temperature in a clash with the Department of Justice over access conservative lawmakers are demanding to records on the probes into Russian election-meddling and Hillary Clinton’s secret emails.

The push by the conservative House caucus to target Mr. Rosenstein, the man directly overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, faced resistance from many quarters, with GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mr. Rosenstein’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, coming out strongly against the idea.

“I have the highest confidence in him,” Mr. Sessions said in remarks Thursday in Boston. “What I would like Congress to do is focus on some of the legal challenges that are out there. …We need to get them focused and we are pleading with them to do so.”

Mr. Ryan warned that an impeachment resolution could “tie the Senate into knots” and derail the confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or term [impeachment],” the Wisconsin Republican said during his weekly press conference, which occurred just before lawmakers left Capitol Hill for a month-long recess. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, took aim at Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, who co-sponsored the impeachment articles, accusing him of backing the move as a way to distract from news reports over what he knows about a sexual abuse scandal dating back more than two decades ago.

“Well, I don’t know,” she told reporters Thursday, “but what I’ve heard is Jim Jordan wants to just take attention away from the scrutiny that he is under in Ohio, that could be part of it.”

Midway through the day, Mr. Meadows softened his stance on the impeachment, stating that contempt charges may be sufficient if the Justice Department fails to provide the documents Congress seeks.

Those documents include 400 pages of a largely un-redacted application the FBI used to obtain a secret foreign-surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page during the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Trump’s supporters say the documents reveal that the Obama administration Justice Department manipulated the nation’s surveillance apparatus to spy on Mr. Page. Democrats counter that Republicans are twisting issues of national security to suit their agenda and protect the president.

Mr. Meadows explained his change of mind stemmed from “very good conversations with the leadership team [and] with [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte] on a path forward.”

The North Carolina Republican said impeachment remained an option, saying DOJ and FBI officials have “one last chance” to comply before Congress returns for its August recess.

House conservatives on Thursday lined up behind Mr. Meadows, and got support from Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

“Frankly it’s mind-boggling that [the Justice Department] won’t comply,” Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican, said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

The issue appeared to factor in the upcoming fight for the House speakership, with Mr. Ryan set to retire next year. While Mr. Scalise, who is seen as a major contender, endorsed the impeachment push, the other top candidate, House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, did not respond to questions on the issue.

Meanwhile Mr. Jordan, who co-sponsored the move, announced he would like to be the next House speaker.

Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump’s campaign who said he was subpoenaed in the Mueller investigation, accused Mr. Rosenstein of failing to comply with lawmakers’ requests.

“He is exemplifying the problem with unelected career bureaucrats who think the rules don’t apply to them,” Mr. Nunberg said in an interview.

Mr. Nunberg also blamed Republican leadership in both the House and Senate for failing to support the Freedom Caucus’ efforts.

“Where is the Senate on this? Where is Mitch McConnell?” he said. “I’d like to see Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy call for the documents.”

While the DOJ had no comment on Thursday’s developments, officials there did offer to show the media documents signed by Mr. Rosenstein, which were part of the application to monitor Mr. Page.

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