Last weekend I talked about the plan by the House GOP Freedom Caucus to bring impeachment proceedings against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Those articles of impeachment were supposed to come to the House floor as early as Monday, and were supposed to give Donald Trump the cover he needed to fire Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whom Rosenstein appointed.
But that was before Trump's disastrous performance in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, a debacle so bad that even Republicans are now starting to realize just how far gone Trump is down the "useful idiot to Russia" path, and suddenly that impeachment maneuver against Rosenstein looks like the aiding and abetting of a foreign asset that it is.
A long-simmering rift between Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump’s top Hill allies is starting to boil over as both sides fight over an effort to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The Wisconsin Republican and retiring House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) have stifled conservatives’ push in recent weeks to impeach Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian contacts with Trump's 2016 campaign.
Gowdy scoffed at the suggestion on national television Sunday. And Ryan — who has long sought to avoid such confrontations with the Justice Department — told reporters Tuesday morning that DOJ is “now coming into compliance” with congressional subpoenas as part of lawmakers’ scrutiny into alleged FBI bias against Trump.
But those comments drew a swift rebuke from conservative Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who are leading the impeachment campaign and argue that Rosenstein is slow-walking their oversight of the FBI. Meadows told reporters Tuesday morning that Ryan appeared misinformed about what Justice has and has not turned over.
"I can tell you that I guess the speaker’s staff is not fully informing him of what DOJ’s actually complying with,” Meadows said.
Meadows also noted that the House had already adopted a resolution giving the Justice Department until July 6 to turn over the remaining documents that lawmakers have requested. While Ryan has said those documents are being handed over, Meadows said that’s hogwash.
“We’re still waiting on tens of thousands… of documents that many of the people here today have been advocating for a long time,” Meadows said. “How long do we have to wait?”
The sniping follows Trump's widely criticized summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has led even loyal Republicans to question his judgment. Ryan allies and top Republicans thought the bipartisan outcry over Trump’s refusal to accept his own intelligence community's conclusions — that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — would shift attention away from their own internecine procedural gripes.
Indeed, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say it has bolstered the importance of Mueller's probe, which led to last week’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for the 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee.
But Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill are vowing to keep up the pressure on Rosenstein and are prepping an increasingly aggressive push against him for what they claim is his resistance to turning over documents connected to the FBI's Russia probe.
"All options are still on the table," said Jordan when asked about the prospect of impeaching Rosenstein. The Freedom Caucus co-founder argued that “we have caught them hiding information from us [and] redacting information that should not have been redacted.”
He added: “If that is not a sufficient reason to move forward [with impeachment], particularly when they are not in compliance with the resolution that was passed by the full House of Representatives two weeks ago, I do not know what is. … All options are still on the table.”
So the plan has run into a buzzsaw. House Freedom Caucus members still plan to push forward, but they can't without Ryan. Oh, and there's still the little matter of Jim Jordan still being in the House at all as calls for his resignation over his role in Ohio State's wrestling sexual abuse scandal when he was assistant coach for the team are getting very very loud.
As long as Ryan and Gowdy continue to block the Freedom Caucus's impeachment circus, the plan is off. It's possible that Trump could fire Rosenstein and Mueller at any time, yes, but the last several days shows us there are at least some limits to how far the GOP is willing to follow Trump off an obvious cliff.
At least, it shows that limits are self-imposed by cowardice, and that Republicans are still capable of being more afraid of voters and public sentiment than they are of Trump. Even for a split-second, that's an improvement.
But in the near-term, the reality of Trump's overwhelming approval by GOP voters will reassert itself, and the Cult of Trump will continue, and eventually, he will make his move on Mueller. After all, attacking Mueller is the main midterm strategy of the GOP.
Headed into a election that’s expected to favor Democrats, a top GOP Senate strategist says Republicans are counting on President Donald Trump’s media dominance to turn out their voters in November — and drown out opponents’ messaging.
If successful, Republicans could pick up as many as four Senate seats this November, even as the left swamps their candidates in fundraising and enthusiasm, GOP operative Josh Holmes told Beyond the Bubble on Monday.
“Everybody thinks that President Trump is some kind of drag on the Republican Party, [when] in this case, he’s just the essential ingredient,” said Holmes, who’s helped engineer his party’s Senate strategy for the past 16 years as a chief aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“What the president is doing by continuing to discuss the investigation [into allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia] and the quote-unquote ‘witch hunt,’ particularly on prime time Fox [News], is doing more to mobilize base voters than any legislative issue we’ve seen,” added Holmes.
It may be delayed for a bit by the Helsinki debacle, but it's still coming. Keeping Mueller around as a boogeyman has paid off so far for Trump and the GOP, but eventually Mueller's going to hit pay dirt, and when that happens, the real fight will begin.