Gosar, Biggs join handful of Republicans filing to impeach Rosenstein

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said he is convinced voters will demand the impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, even though House leaders have rejected the idea that he and a handful of Republicans introduced this week. (Photo by Pat Poblete/Cronkite News)

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took oversight of the special counsel’s probe into meddling in the 2016 election after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been active in the campaign, recused himself last year. (Photo by Internet Education Foundation/Creative Commons)

WASHINGTON – Two Arizona lawmakers were among the handful of Republicans who introduced articles of impeachment Wednesday against Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the Justice Department probe of possible Russian election meddling.

Republican Reps. Paul Gosar of Prescott and Andy Biggs of Gilbert co-sponsored the impeachment resolution to “restore power to the people,” according to a statement from Gosar.

“Rosenstein has engaged in an obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress,” Gosar’s statement said. “His obstruction and reckless actions have completely undermined the American people. In order to restore power to the people, we must impeach Rod Rosenstein.”

But conservatives were already walking back talk of impeachment late Thursday, according to published reports, in the face of opposition from prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or with this term,” Ryan said at a news conference, where he said he does not think Rosenstein’s actions rise to the “level of high crimes and misdemeanors” required for impeachment.

“We’ve been getting a lot of compliance from DOJ (Department of Justice) on the document requests. We do not have full compliance and we have to get full compliance but we’ve been making tremendous progress to that point,” Ryan said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that he has the “highest confidence” in Rosenstein. And Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said on Twitter that “This Senate Republican does not agree,” linking to a news article about the impeachment resolution.

Rosenstein was handed control of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the campaign of President Donald Trump after Sessions, who had been active in Trump’s campaign, recused himself from the Justice Department probe.

Critics have attacked Rosenstein’s handling of the probe, with several congressional committees demanding documents that they say have not been forthcoming, including documents for which they have issued subpoenas.

The five articles of impeachment included in the resolution charge that Rosenstein has failed to recuse himself from the investigation, even though his actions could make him a witness in subsequent cases.

They also accuse him of trying to hide information about FBI bias and mishandling of the probe, failing to provide documents about the investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server and refusing to divulge information about the probe of a Trump campaign staffer as a possible foreign agent.

The impeachment resolution came the day before the House was set to leave for its August recess. Gosar said Thursday that “we did this on the break, where people have to go back home and talk to their voters.”

“I think their constituents are going to tell them, ‘You know what, you vote for that darn thing because we’re sick and tired of what (the) Justice Department is actually doing,'” Gosar said. “This is a wise move. I think this is a smart move.”

But the resolution faces long odds. Even if it passes the House, in the face of Ryan’s opposition, it would need a two-thirds vote of the Senate before Rosenstein could be impeached.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, who is leading the impeachment fight, was backing away late Thursday after talking to Ryan, according to published reports. They said Meadows is now threatening to call for a contempt vote against Rosenstein if he does not provide requested documents to House committees by the time lawmakers return from recess in September.

But Gosar insisted that the American public is “fed up” with the lack of compliance from Rosenstein, who has “real consequences” coming his way.

“Time’s up,” Gosar said. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

– Cronkite News reporter Pat Poblete contributed to this report.