Steel yourselves. A cry for impeachment is coming — for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation.
According to an explosive report in the New York Times, Rosenstein last year proposed the idea of recruiting Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment — a complex process to remove Donald Trump from power. Rosenstein also reportedly discussed wearing a wire to record his interactions with President Trump.
Rosenstein’s ideas were never implemented. The Times story suggests he had targeted John Kelly — then the Homeland Security secretary now the president’s chief of staff — to coordinate the 25th amendment solution. Rosenstein reportedly also talked of wearing a wire or recording the president using his cell phone during an erratic period when Trump was weighing whom he’d appoint as the country’s new FBI director. (Ironically, Rosenstein had participated in the ouster of the previous FBI director, James Comey, penning a memo that Trump touted at Comey’s firing.)
In a statement to the Times, Rosenstein denied seeking to remove Trump from office, calling the story both “inaccurate and factually incorrect.” Rosenstein added: “Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment” — which requires a majority of the Cabinet and the vice president to declare that the “president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
A source at the Justice Department suggested that any discussion by Rosenstein of wearing a wire was made sarcastically.
Rosenstein has long been in the crosshairs of Trump loyalists. Since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017, Rosenstein has overseen Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry and defended it, admirably, from political interference.
Impeaching Rosenstein has emerged as an objective of top House reactionaries like Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who were willing to pursue Rosenstein’s removal over a trifle — his slow production of documents to the House about the Russia investigation.
Impeachment has also been on the lips of Rep. Devin Nunes, a member of the Trump presidential transition team who serves as chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee. Nunes was recently caught on tape telling donors that the effort to impeach Rosenstein would have to wait until after the midterm elections, because the Senate needed to focus on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
Nunes told GOP backers: “So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up.” At the time, he counseled conservatives to have patience. “You have to decide what you want right now, because the Senate only has so much time. Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice?”
With Kavanaugh on the rocks, potentially un-confirmable due to allegations of sexual assault, the Senate just may have time to take up Rosenstein’s impeachment. That is, if Trump doesn’t fire him first.