To do … what, exactly? After days of contentious back-and-forth between House Republican leadership and conservatives angry at Rod Rosenstein, Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows announced a deal earlier today to call the deputy Attorney General to answer for comments reported by the New York Times a week ago. If Rosenstein does not come to the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee willingly, Meadows says that committee chair Rep.Bob Goodlatte will subpoena him:
Leadership has agreed to call Rod Rosenstein before Congress, for a closed door hearing with our panel investigating, so he can explain his alleged comments on "wiring" POTUS–as well as other inconsistent statements.
If Mr. Rosenstein fails to show up, we will subpoena him.
— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) September 28, 2018
Republican leadership has struck a deal with Rep. Mark Meadows and other House conservatives to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein before Congress to testify behind closed doors about his alleged proposal that the Justice Department secretly record President Donald Trump and invoke the 25th Amendment to oust him from the Oval Office.
Certainly, Judiciary and Oversight has a constitutional duty to ensure that the Department of Justice operates properly, but … it’s tough to see what this particular issue has to do with Congress other than in the most academic sense. The offended party here would be Rosenstein’s boss at the White House, who has all the authority he needs to deal with those comments, if in fact they’re accurate. Trump himself seemed less concerned with them this week, stating that he’d rather keep Rosenstein around and will be talking with him soon, but not immediately; the White House says the meeting will take place next week. It hardly seems as though Trump considers it a high priority.
When asked about that, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jordan shrugged it off:
“That’s a White House decision on what his status is,” Jordan said of Rosenstein, who reportedly verbally offered White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly his resignation earlier this week because he believed Trump was prepared to fire him.
“In my humble opinion, you can’t have the guy who’s running the Justice Department talking about recording the commander in chief, even if it’s done in a joking, sarcastic manner,” Jordan said. “If [Rosenstein did say such things] and the president is satisfied that it’s still OK, and keeps him, that’s fine — that’s the White House’s call. But we should be able to ask questions about what took place in that meeting.”
Clearly, they’re able to ask questions. But why bother, if it doesn’t bother Trump enough to fire Rosenstein over them? It’s tough to see what the point is, unless it’s to attempt to gain leverage over Rosenstein to push back against the special counsel investigation. However, they could do that directly, with the same oversight authority they’re invoking here.
That’s why Paul Ryan initially opposed the House from getting involved in this fight, saying on Wednesday that “we shouldn’t step in the way” of Trump. Perhaps Ryan just decided that it’s not worth the internal division to step in the way of a colossal waste of time, either.