Sheila Jackson-Lee is having a hell of a week.
She claims that she’s uncovered a sinister Republican plot to oust Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. And she claims this ouster will come “on Friday” as part of an attempt to “undermine” the Mueller probe.
Sheila’s outburst came as the House Judiciary and Oversight committees questioned Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz about his report on FBI and DOJ misconduct during the Hillary Clinton email probe.
As Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, questioned Horowitz, Sheila Lee, a Texas Democrat, repeatedly interrupted him. She asked Trey Gowdy, the Republican committee chair, for permission to make something she called a “parliamentary inquiry.”
After Trey Gowdy told Ms. Jackson Lee that she could not, in fact, just make a random parliamentary inquiry, she dropped the following baffling line: “Is it not appropriate to raise the question as to what is the germaneness of the gentleman’s line of questioning, and whether or not we’re dealing with the report of Mr. Horowtiz, or we’re dealing with the Republicans’ attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation, and as well, to fire Deputy uh-Secretary, excuse me- Attorney General Rosenstein, which they’re planning to do on Friday?”
Which, if you’ll notice, has almost nothing to do with the topic at hand. And, as questions go, that one’s more loaded than a Texas baked-potato.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans didn’t dignify this borderline insensible non-question with a response. (Aside from a wonderfully entertaining slap-down from ol’ Rowdy Gowdy.)
And they don’t have to. House Republicans don’t have any authority to “fire” Rod Rosenstein, as anybody who knows the structure of government could tell you. Jeff Sessions could fire Rosenstein, but he’s unlikely to.
However, House Republicans could, technically, impeach and convict Rod Rosenstein, and there is a fair chance that may be what Sheila Jackson-Lee was referring to.
She may also simply have been confused; she’s pushing 70 after all. And this is a woman who once complained that hurricane names are too white, and that “all racial groups should be represented” when naming these devastating natural disasters. She’s also been routinely rated the “meanest” boss on Capitol Hill by her staffers. Her staff turnover is also much higher than the norm.
But it’s true that Members of the House Freedom Caucus have already drafted impeachment articles for Rod Rosenstein. (Though they hardly represent the entirety of the House GOP; the Freedom Caucus holds roughly 30 seats. Meaningful, but hardly a law unto themselves.)
Republicans also have a pretty good reason to want Rosenstein gone. The House Judiciary Committee has asked his office for more than a million FBI and DOJ documents, relating to the Hilary email probe. They claim Rosenstein has been uncooperative and unwilling to comply with their legal requests.
Trey Gowdy has suggested that the House’s answer to Rosenstein’s truculent behavior could include “the full panoply of constitutional weapons available to the people’s house.” That means impeachment’s not off the table. Gowdy’s also indicated that Republicans are prepared to act by the end of the week.
So we’ll soon see whether Sheila Jackson-Lee is right about a Republican plan to oust Rosenstein. By Friday we’ll know for sure whether Republicans are really ready to play hardball with the DOJ, or whether Sheila Jackson-Lee is just blowing hot air again.