House speaker Paul Ryan opposes Rod Rosenstein impeachment

Deputy attorney general accused of keeping Congress in the dark on Russia investigation

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanours.” File photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanours.” File photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

 

US House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan has said he opposes a call for the deputy attorney general of the United States to be impeached, after a group of Republican lawmakers filed impeachment proceedings against Rod Rosenstein.

A group of 11 influential Republicans – all members of the “Freedom Caucus”, a group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives – filed the impeachment proceedings on Wednesday.

Mr Rosenstein is in charge of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, after attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself last year. But he has faced pressure from Republicans to provide documents related to the investigation and the FBI to Congress in recent months.

Confirming the launch of impeachment proceedings, South Carolina Republican Mark Meadows said the Department of Justice was keeping information from Congress.

“Rod Rosenstein has been in charge of the Department of Justice as the agency has made every effort to obstruct legitimate attempts of congressional oversight,” he said. “It’s time to find a new deputy attorney general who is serious about accountability and transparency.”

Forcing a vote

Although it filed the impeachment proceedings, the 11-strong group stopped short of forcing a vote on the issue in the House, which means that the impeachment proceedings are unlikely to move forward.

Mr Ryan, as speaker the most senior Republican in the House, said he did not support the process. “Do I support impeachment of Rosenstein? No, I do not,” he said at his weekly press conference.

“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or term,” he said, referring to impeachment. “I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanours.”

Mr Rosenstein has been under pressure to provide information to Congress about alleged misconduct by some officials in the FBI who sent anti-Trump text messages before the election. Similarly, some Republican lawmakers want more information about the warrant that was used to secure permission to wiretap former Trump adviser Carter Page, arguing that it was based in part on a disputed dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Separately, Donald Trump warned Turkey on Thursday that it could face large US sanctions over the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson.

Failed coup

Mr Brunson (50) is an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, who has spent more than 20 years living in Turkey. He is one of 20 Americans charged by the Erdogan regime after the country’s failed coup in 2016, and is facing charges of treason and espionage. He was moved to house arrest this week after spending two years in a Turkish jail.

In a tweet on Thursday, the US president warned that the United States “will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being”. He continued: “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”

The prospect of US sanctions sent the Turkish lira plunging on Thursday.

Mr Trump’s intervention came a day after secretary of state Mike Pompeo welcomed the pastor’s move from prison to house arrest as “long overdue”. But he added: “We have seen no credible evidence against Mr Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner.”