A number of House Republicans have grown incredibly frustrated with what they view as stonewalling the handing over of requested documents from the Department of Justice, particularly by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Eleven of those House Republicans just followed through on a threat to file impeachment charges against Rosenstein for his alleged failure to comply, but Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano “profoundly disagrees” with such an effort by his friends in the House of Representatives.
The articles of impeachment filed Wednesday against Rosenstein accuse him of intentionally withholding requested documents and information from Congress, failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas, and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts, among other things.
But in an interview with the co-hosts of Fox & Friends, Napolitano explained that he thought the impeachment effort against Rosenstein was “symbolic,” as well as “wrong and baseless” and doomed to fail, according to Fox News.
Narrow Basis For Impeachment
Napolitano began his interview by noting that he holds great respect for the “House Freedom Caucus” members behind the push to punish Rosenstein, but though he commiserated with their frustration, he nevertheless “profoundly disagrees” with the effort to impeach him.
The judge explained that the Constitution deliberately set a “narrow basis” for the punishment of impeachment, lest the drastic measure be utilized too often or on a whim, and noted that it only applied to wrongdoings such as “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” such as the obstruction of justice charge former President Bill Clinton faced for lying under oath.
“Improperly signing off on a FISA warrant, staying in a position of a conflict of interest — where you could be a witness in a case yet you’re managing a case — those are good arguments for ethical violations,” Napolitano said, “but not for impeachable offenses.”
Napolitano said the impeachment effort against Rosenstein might succeed in forcing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “cough up” the requested documents they’d been withholding, but he expressed concern over the cost that would be paid to obtain such a victory.
“[The DOJ is] going to cough them up because of threats like this, which are in my opinion wrong and baseless, but embarrassing for everybody involved,” the judge said. “The DOJ has a legitimate lawful basis for keeping certain documents secret in a pending investigation. I want this Mueller thing over as soon as possible. But it is still pending. And you can’t — you’d be interfering with it if you forced the public revelation of some of those documents.”
The Contemptible Eric Holder
Judge Napolitano went on to explain that the effort to impeach Rosenstein will likely to fail, due to the prior failure six years ago to hold former Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for similar failures to comply with Congressional demands.
“Eric Holder…six years ago, when he was held in contempt by a Republican Congress — he was the attorney general — for refusing to surrender documents on Fast and Furious, he was held in contempt,” Napolitano said.
“Nothing happened,” he continued. “You could hear a pin drop. [Congress has] to take the contempt across the street to a federal court and prosecute the contempt… If they don’t do that then nothing happens.
“Nothing ever happens. This will almost be a red badge of courage for Rosenstein that he endured this, defending the integrity, in his view, of the Department of Justice,” Napolitano concluded as a warning to his friends in the House that their effort to oust Rosenstein could very well backfire on them.
The frustration felt by Congress at the DOJ’s slow pace of compliance with their investigatory and oversight requests is shared by millions of Americans, but in Napolitano’s eyes, impeaching the deputy attorney general may not be the proper remedy for the intolerable situation — and it may even end up making the Republicans look bad, while Rosenstein makes it out unscathed.