Report: Articles of impeachment drafted in the House for Rod Rosenstein

I wonder if Rosenstein’s waiting until he’s gone to start writing his tell-all or if he already has it drafted and is adding chapters as the weeks roll by.

Trump could fire him tonight and “Here I Stand: One Nerd’s Story of Resistance” might be available for download Monday morning.

Anyway, time to start the next chapter:

I’m guessing that the impeachment articles have nothing to do with Mueller or the raid on Michael Cohen. They’re probably related to Rosenstein’s stalling after Devin Nunes demanded to see the document that launched the Russia probe. Rosenstein held off on that for so long that Nunes threatened on national television a few days ago to have him impeached if he didn’t comply. But Rosenstein did ultimately comply. Trey Gowdy was invited to the DOJ to view the document Nunes had requested on behalf of House Republicans on the Intel Committee. “Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” said Nunes afterward. It may be, then, that articles of impeachment were drafted a week or two ago and are still sitting around but unlikely to be introduced now that the standoff between Nunes and Rosenstein has been resolved.

The other possible grounds for impeachment is Rosenstein’s refusal to recuse himself from the Russiagate probe like Jeff Sessions did even though he’s a witness to James Comey’s firing, a key part of the obstruction case against Trump. Reportedly that’s going to be a big part of the White House’s political attacks on Rosenstein to come, never mind that (a) Trump has never been a stickler about conflicts of interest and (b) his core criticism of Sessions is that Sessions shouldn’t have let his own conflict of interest stop him from taking charge of Russiagate. (The argument will be that Rosenstein must play by the same rules as Sessions, whether or not what Sessions did was advisable.) But there’s a wrinkle here, per CNN:

CNN has now learned that Rosenstein has consulted with the ethics adviser over the course of the investigation on whether he needs to recuse himself, and he has followed that individual’s advice — a fact which has not been previously reported and offers a more fulsome explanation for how he has continued to oversee Mueller’s work. The source did not specify the number of conversations, timing, or the details of the advice…

It “indicates that he is intent on doing things the right way,” said CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero, who served as senior associate general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and an attorney adviser at the Justice Department.

“Based on how he has overseen the special counsel to date, and the fact that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself on the advice of DOJ’s ethics advisers, I’m inclined to think that if Rosenstein was advised by career officials that he needed to recuse himself from certain matters, he would do so,” Cordero added.

You could still argue that he should recuse himself out of an abundance of caution regardless of what the ethics advisor says or, as Trump is more likely to claim, that the ethics advisor must be a Democratic stooge who’s in cahoots with Rosenstein to oversee the “deep state” conspiracy. But if it’s true that he consulted with ethics pros inside the department, that’s evidence that he’s acting in good faith in not stepping back from the probe. If/when he’s fired on conflict-of-interest grounds, he’ll be able to use that in the ensuing war for public opinion to claim that Trump fired him for illegitimate reasons.

But wait. What if there’s yet another ground for impeaching Rosenstein? House Republicans on the Intel Committee told him today that they want the Comey memos. If Rosenstein refuses to turn them over because they’re evidence in a pending investigation, what happens then?

Is that the way they push him out? Trump would love to have House Republicans do the dirty work of removing Rosenstein as it would spare him from any new obstruction accusations by firing him instead. But Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy can’t possibly want the House GOP in the middle of this, knowing what public opinion is apt to look like if the guy in charge of Russiagate is suddenly canned just as the feds seem to be closing in on POTUS via his lawyer. It could make the midterms a disaster. But if Trump starts egging them on to impeach Rosenstein and they refuse, *that* could be a disaster too insofar as Trump fans might decide to punish the House GOP by staying home in November. It’s a no-win trainwreck in the making if Nunes pushes hard on it.

In lieu of an exit question, since we’re on the subject of Russiagate, let me add to Ed’s post this morning by saying that I cannot believe Trump actually pardoned Scooter Libby. It has nothing to do with the merits of Libby’s case. What I can’t believe is how heavy-handedly he’s signaling to targets of Mueller’s investigation that if they obstruct justice and refuse to cooperate, he’ll reward them with a pardon after they’re convicted too. I think a lot of the obstruction accusations against Trump are overblown: For instance, with respect to firing Comey, he had the legal authority to do it and he made no attempt to replace Comey with a hack who might shut down the investigation. Comey’s firing has always seemed more like Trump acting rashly out of pique (surprise) than a calculated attempt to obstruct the probe. Symbolically dangling the prospect of pardons at Russiagate defendants by pardoning Libby out of the blue, though, *does* feel like a deliberate inducement to get people not to cooperate (and maybe not for the first time). He has the legal authority to issue the pardon but the message behind it is dubious.

Plus, it’s swampy as hell. There are thousands of convicts in the federal system who are following DOJ protocol for applying for pardons and who’ve been waiting for years for a response. Instead, the two guys so far who’ve had their records cleansed by POTUS are a dubious “law and order” sheriff who campaigned for him in 2016 and a Dick Cheney buddy whose pardon can be used to signal to Trump’s own cronies that they won’t serve much time for obstruction themselves. Good lord.