Ryan wants GOP to leave Rosenstein to Trump

Ryan wants GOP to leave Rosenstein to Trump
© Anna Moneymaker

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHead of top hedge fund association to step down Romney knocks Trump over McCain criticism Paul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation MORE (R-Wis.) says Congress should defer to the Trump administration when it comes to the fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain Rosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks MORE, breaking with House conservatives and setting up a potentially ugly internal GOP showdown weeks before the midterm elections.

"The president obviously should have political appointees he has faith and confidence in. [Rosenstein] is meeting with the president tomorrow, so we should not step in the way of that,” Ryan told reporters on Wednesday. “We should let the president work it out with Rod Rosenstein. I hope they have a good productive conversation, and I hope that’s helpful.”

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Ryan suggested that it’s up to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteTop Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview It’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling MORE (R-Va.) whether to invite Rosenstein to testify about last week’s bombshell New York Times report, which claimed that the deputy attorney general proposed secretly recording Trump after his controversial decision to fire former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump says public can see Mueller report Anderson Cooper blasts Trump over McCain attacks: 'He's punching a person who is dead' Clyburn: Trump and family 'greatest threats to democracy' in lifetime MORE.

The Speaker’s comments come in contrast to leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who are calling on Rosenstein to testify in front of Congress or else resign or be impeached, regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s high-stakes meeting at the White House.

That meeting comes after a chaotic Monday, when a flurry of erroneous news reports emerged saying Rosenstein had either resigned or been sacked.

“To suggest that everything is OK tomorrow based on a resignation or potential firing, usurps the authority we have here in Congress,” Meadows told reporters Wednesday.

Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests MORE (R-Calif.) and Goodlatte met with Freedom Caucus leaders Wednesday afternoon, where the conservative lawmakers were expected to urge GOP leaders to invite Rosenstein to testify. It’s unclear whether the group will try to force an impeachment vote if they don’t get their way.

Lawmakers emerging from the meeting in Ryan’s office suite were tight-lipped about what was discussed and whether there were any agreements — or threats — made.

"There's a meeting in the Speaker's office today that I think will be very instructive on that outcome," conservative Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTrump: I told Republicans to vote for 'transparency' in releasing Mueller report House votes for Mueller report to be made public Matt Gaetz jabs Don Lemon while talking to Chris Cuomo on CNN MORE (R-Fla.) told The Hill before the meeting. "Those of us who would like to see Rosenstein in the witness chair are going to have the ability to make our argument. And hopefully we'll prevail on the Speaker to allow that to occur."

The conservative caucus met Tuesday night, where the group of roughly 30 hard-liners took an official position that Rosenstein should testify or else resign. Meadows, who introduced articles of impeachment in July, has taken the message even further, threatening to impeach Rosenstein if he refuses to testify.

“We are pushing very hard to make sure that he comes in under oath to Congress and let the American people judge for themselves,” Meadows said Monday night on Fox News. “I can tell you that if he does not, there are a number of us that are standing by really with impeachment documents that say we cannot have this kind of activity continue at [the Department of Justice].”

Goodlatte has so far shown no indication that he plans to invite Rosenstein to testify. Instead, the panel announced Tuesday night that it is preparing to subpoena the Justice Department for memos written by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Graham says he'll probe Rosenstein's 25th Amendment remarks The damning proof of innocence that FBI likely withheld in Russian probe MORE.

The memos were the basis for The New York Times’s report last week and have long been sought by conservatives.

Freedom Caucus members have not been satisfied by Goodlatte’s subpoena move, and doubt that the Justice Department would actually hand over the memos.

“He should have subpoenaed back 60 days ago when we asked for them,” Meadows said. “We believe that Rod Rosenstein needs to come before Congress. So anything that undercuts that is a disappointment.”

The Freedom Caucus — or any member of Congress — could file impeachment articles as a “privileged resolution,” which would force every member to take a recorded vote on whether to oust Rosenstein. The resolution would have needed to be filed by Wednesday in order to ensure a floor vote by Friday, when the House is expected to break for recess until after the November elections.
 
The resolution could still be filed later in the week, but then a floor vote likely wouldn't come until after the midterm elections.
 
Ryan is eager to tamp down the impeachment threats, which would force vulnerable GOP members to take a position on an uncomfortable and potentially toxic issue ahead of the midterm elections. House GOP leaders are focused on passing a number of messaging bills and policy wins that are scheduled for the floor this week.

McCarthy, Ryan’s top lieutenant and heir apparent, also said Congress should wait to see what happens after Thursday’s meeting.

“I think the president should have that meeting,” McCarthy said. “I think the president has a right to meet with him — to listen to what his opinion is and let the process of answering those questions and that should be the first thing that happens.”

But House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP lawmakers: House leaders already jockeying for leadership contests House Republicans find silver lining in minority MORE (R-La.), who is waiting in the wings should McCarthy fail to win the Speakership, was more forthcoming.

“I've been real concerned about the direction that Rosenstein is taking. Even joking about the 25th Amendment challenge to the president, there's no place for that and he ought to resign,” Scalise told The Hill on Tuesday.

“But ultimately ... we have a lot of things going on this week,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have been urging Trump not to fire Rosenstein — offering a split-screen view of the dueling priorities of Senate and House Republicans heading into the November elections.

“If there's any attempt to fire or force out Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, that would be a huge red line and very problematic,” moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told CNN.

“I like Rosenstein personally,” added Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If Trump fires Rosenstein, “it would cause a furor that I don't think we need right now.”

Updated at 5:56 p.m.

Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this story.