In what progressive advocacy groups and House Democrats immediately decried as a "shameless political ploy" aimed at shielding President Donald Trump from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia probe, Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and nine other congressional Republicans late Wednesday filed articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
"It is a panicked and dangerous attempt to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation in an effort to protect President Trump as the walls are closing in around him and his associates."
"This resolution to impeach Rosenstein is a direct attack on the special counsel's investigation—full stop," Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) declared in a joint statement Wednesday night. "It is a panicked and dangerous attempt to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation in an effort to protect President Trump as the walls are closing in around him and his associates."
Scoffing at the House Republicans' insistence that their effort to remove Rosenstein—who oversees the Mueller investigation—is a "principled attempt" to hold the Justice Department accountable, the Democrats note that the GOP has "refused to conduct oversight of any aspect of the Trump administration."
House Republicans somehow located their oversight powers for Rod Rosenstein, but for the rest of the executive branch (Trump) it’s all sad tweets and reporter runarounds.
Vote them out. Vote them all out. https://t.co/Dji3WZIWPX
— Swing Left (@swingleft) July 26, 2018
"The president should not mistake this move by his congressional enablers as a pretext to take any action against Mr. Rosenstein or Mr. Mueller and his investigation," the three House Democrats concluded. "Any attempt to do so will be viewed by Congress and the American people as further proof of an effort to obstruct justice with severe consequences for Trump and his presidency."
While the Republicans' impeachment articles against Rosenstein—which accuse him of "knowingly hiding" information from Congress—are unlikely to succeed, they represent a significant escalation of the GOP's attack on Mueller's investigation, which President Donald Trump continues to denounce as a "witch hunt."
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As Katie Benner of the New York Times notes, the House GOP impeachment ploy "could provide President Trump with more ammunition to attack Mr. Rosenstein, who has been in Mr. Trump's cross hairs since he appointed the special counsel."
Advocacy groups have made clear that attacks on Rosenstein should be viewed as direct attacks on Mueller's investigation, which earlier this month produced indictments of a dozen Russian military officers for alleged hacking. If Trump ultimately decides to fire Rosenstein, says MoveOn.org's Ben Wikler, "that absolutely triggers" nationwide protests.
"We will be in a constitutional crisis if the president fires Rosenstein, the same as if he fires Bob Mueller," Norm Eisen, chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), concluded in a recent statement.
In the event of Rosenstein or Mueller's firing, rapid-response demonstrations are expected to take place in over 800 cities across the United States.