Paul Ryan: No, I don't support impeaching Rod Rosenstein

House conservatives trying to mainstream impeachment vis-a-vis Rosenstein just as Mueller’s getting ready to report on obstruction *and* Democrats are moving towards retaking the House is eight-dimensional Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Ed already explained adeptly this morning why this is a stunt. For starters, there’s no need to take the nuclear option of impeachment if all you want to do is punish Rosenstein for withholding documents. You could sue him; you could censure him; you could give him the full Eric Holder treatment by holding him in contempt. Speeding past those alternatives towards impeachment exposes this for the PR ploy that it is, a bit of virtue-signaling by the Freedom Caucus to Trump’s base to broadcast just how much they hate Trump’s chief inquisitor on Russiagate. Document production is window dressing for what this is really about.

In any case, the impeachment resolution is going nowhere. On the off-off-off-chance that it was brought to the House floor and drew 218 Republican votes, it’d be dead on arrival in the Senate. There aren’t 67 votes there to terminate Rosenstein, particularly not right before a midterm. The last thing Senate Republicans want right now is a radioactive vote that would tie them even closer to Trump on Russiagate, not knowing when Mueller’s likely to issue his final reports or what those reports will say. Imagine they impeached and removed Rosenstein, triggering precisely the sort of toxic political backlash that has scared Trump away from firing Rosenstein thus far, and then Mueller turned around a week later and accused Trump of obstruction. Do you think that scenario would improve or damage the GOP’s chances in November? (Some centrist Republicans in the House think the impeachment resolution is a de facto invitation from House conservatives to Trump to finally fire Rosenstein, in which case we may get to see something like that scenario play out after all.)

Ryan makes a good point below himself in noting the procedural implications here. If the House voted to impeach, the debate over whether to remove Rosenstein would risk jamming up the Senate for weeks. Democrats would milk it for everything it’s worth — “congressional Republicans are now aiding and abetting the president’s obstruction of the Mueller investigation!” — and suddenly all 50 Republicans would be faced with a painful vote over whether to piss off the base by siding with Rosenstein or risk political contamination from Russiagate by trying to remove him. What this would do to the Kavanaugh nomination, which McConnell is hoping to have settled by early October, no one knows. It wouldn’t surprise me if McConnell found some way to avoid bringing the House’s impeachment resolution to the floor in the first place. I think he’d rather fall on that political grenade and absorb the heat from Trumpers for refusing to allow a vote on Rosenstein than let his caucus get bogged down in it and having the Kavanaugh nomination potentially derail.

So. If the impeachment resolution is almost certainly dead in the House and most definitely dead in the Senate, why are Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan messing around with it? We’re left to wonder. Oh, by the way:

House Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan will formally announce his campaign for speaker of the House Thursday at noon, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

TheDCNF confirmed the announcement with two sources with direct knowledge of Jordan’s plans. Thursday’s announcement would be the first time Jordan directly said whether or not he is running.

Jordan has received an onslaught of support from conservative groups and his colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus to run for speaker.

Literally one day after the Freedom Caucus introduces the resolution, one of their own is suddenly in the Speaker race. Go figure.

In fairness to Meadows, he’s not so enamored of this stunt (yet) that he’s willing to let it cause real headaches for the rest of the Republican caucus. He could have forced the House to vote on Rosenstein’s impeachment this week, on the eve of the August recess, by filing his resolution as a privileged resolution. He chose not to, whether because he suspects it would lose badly if the House voted immediately (likely true) or as a favor to Ryan and centrist GOPers in not forcing them to cast a no vote that would certainly annoy Republican voters in their home districts with the midterms just three months away. Besides, for the Freedom Caucus’s purposes, what does it matter if the resolution is voted on or not? The point is to show Trump fans that they’re every bit as pissed off at Rosenstein as MAGA Nation is. Filing the resolution achieves that. Who cares what happens to it now? I’m just glad House conservatives have found a cause that energizes them, now that all of the hot talk about smaller government during the tea-party era has been proven to be a fraud.

Update: No sooner did I finish the post above than news breaks:

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) says he is tabling his efforts to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after having several meetings with Republican leadership, stating that he would instead pursue contempt if the Justice Department (DOJ) does not turn over documents Congress is seeking.

While the impeachment option remains on the table, Meadows told reporters Tuesday he now hopes it will be a contempt process rather than impeachment.

Like I said, there’s no reason to actually hold the impeachment vote. Merely filing the resolution served Meadows’s purpose. And now, by scaling down to a contempt focus, he spares centrist Republicans from having to take a no-win position on impeaching Rosenstein.