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Effort to oust official overseeing investigation of 2016 Russian election meddling fizzles after opposition from House leaders
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Four Southern U.S. House members are part of a group of 11 Republicans who introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — only to back down after the plan ran into opposition from House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders.
Now, instead, the group will seek to hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress if the Justice Department does not fully comply with requests for documents about the Russia probe.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina was one of the primary sponsors of the impeachment resolution filed July 25, along with Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Three other Southern members — Jody Hice of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee — signed on as co-sponsors.
However, the impeachment resolution was tabled the next day, after Meadows and Jordan met with House GOP leaders, including Ryan, who had said he did not support Rosenstein’s impeachment and would not bring it forward for a vote.
The congressmen who pushed the impeachment are all members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of about three dozen of the most conservative House Republicans that emerged in 2015 out of the Tea Party movement.
Members of the caucus have been among President Donald Trump’s strongest defenders in Congress — and among the harshest critics of Mueller’s investigation of possible coordination between Russian agents and Trump’s campaign, which the president has dismissed as a “witch hunt.”
The impeachment articles fault Rosenstein for not producing documents subpoenaed by a House committee and for approving a warrant request for surveillance of Carter Page, who was a national security adviser to the 2016 Trump campaign.
In a joint statement with Jordan and the other co-sponsors, Meadows said Rosenstein — who has been overseeing the Mueller probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after acknowledging contacts with the Russian ambassador — “has made every effort to obstruct legitimate attempts of Congressional oversight.”
“The stonewalling over this last year has been just as bad or worse than under the Obama administration,” he said. “It’s time to find a new Deputy Attorney General who is serious about accountability and transparency.”
Meadows represents North Carolina’s 11th District, which takes in the state’s far western panhandle.
Hice, who represents the 10th District in east-central Georgia, decried “a culture of stonewalling and misdirection” that he said has “permeated the highest levels” of the Justice Department and the FBI.
Gaetz, who represents the 1st District that in the western Florida Panhandle, said the request to put Page under surveillance was “likely improper” and that Rosenstein’s actions have “weakened Americans’ faith in the intelligence community and in seeing justice served.”
DesJarlais accused Rosenstein of refusing to produce documents “because they implicate top Department of Justice and FBI officials, including himself.”
“His own role in fraudulent warrants and wiretapping the President’s campaign is a major conflict of interest that renders him unfit to oversee the Special Counsel or DOJ,” said DesJarlias, who represents the 4th District in south-central Tennessee.
Rosenstein and the Justice Department have not commented on the impeachment articles.
While Ryan and other GOP leaders were cool to the idea of impeaching Rosenstein, the effort did get support from the highest-ranking Southerner in the House GOP caucus — Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who told Fox News that “putting impeachment on the table is one more tool” to get the Justice Department to provide documents.
Scalise, who represents the 1st District in suburban New Orleans, is reportedly considering a bid to succeed Ryan as speaker after he retires in January — a contest in which members of the Freedom Caucus will play a key role.
But another Southern Republican — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida — had harsh words for the impeachment effort, taking to Twitter to denounce it as a “reckless publicity stunt.”
“No different from Dems who filed articles of impeachment against the President some months ago. What a sad, pathetic game of ‘how low can you go?'” Curbelo said.
Curbelo, who represents a South Florida district Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, is considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the 2018 cycle.
Paul’s neighbor, a medical doctor, has been charged with assault, as motive remains unclear
BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was “blindsided” and shoved to the ground while mowing the grass outside of his Kentucky home, and his neighbor has been arrested on assault charges, according to the senator’s office and Kentucky State Police.
Paul, who was not seriously injured after the November 3 incident, later sent out a tweet saying he and his wife “appreciate the overwhelming support after Friday’s unfortunate event. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.”
He did not elaborate on any possible motive for the attack, nor did he discuss his relationship with Rene Boucher, 59, who is charged with fourth-degree assault in the case.
The attack took place on the afternoon of November 3 outside Paul’s home in a gated community near Bowling Green, where both he and Boucher have adjoining homes. State troopers called to the scene arrested Boucher, who “intentionally” assaulted Paul, according to police.
Boucher has worked as an anesthesiologist in Bowling Green. Prior to election to the Senate in 2010, Paul was an ophthalmologist in the western Kentucky city of 60,000.
State police told local media that the two men were acquaintances, although no additional details were provided. Given that Paul is a member of Congress, the FBI has also been contacted, state police said.
Boucher was later released from the Warren County Detention Center after posting bond. He has a court date on November 9.
The attack on Paul comes amid increased security concerns among members of Congress in the wake of contentious town hall meetings this year and the June shootings of four people during a Republican softball team practice in suburban Washington. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was critically injured in that attack.
Oklahoma Republican calls Trump’s wiretap charge against Obama “reckless”
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Donald Trump may have carried U.S. Rep. Tom Cole’s district by 38 points in November, but the Oklahoma Republican is mincing no words in calling for Trump to apologize to former President Barack Obama over claims that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.
Speaking to reporters in the Capitol March 17, Cole said there is “no indication” that Trump’s allegation against Obama is true.
“It’s not a charge I would ever have made. And frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, then I think … President Obama is owed an apology,” said Cole.
“If (Obama) didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”
In a March 4 tweet, Trump claimed that Obama has his “wires tapped” in Trump Tower, his New York home. He followed that up with additional tweets comparing Obama’s conduct to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974.
Trump has so far offered no evidence to back that claim, but he has not retracted it. Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties have said the claim is unsubstantiated. Obama administration officials have also said the claim has no merit.
While other Republican leaders have distanced themselves from Trump’s wiretapping claim, none of them have gone as far as Cole in calling for an apology.
Cole has a place in the GOP leadership as a deputy whip to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. From 2006 to 2008, he served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s House campaign arm.
Cole, from Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th District, which stretches from the southern Oklahoma City suburbs south to the Texas border. He has held the seat since 2003.
A college history professor before entering politics, Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, is one of only two Native Americans currently serving in Congress. The other is U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a Republican who represents Oklahoma’s 2nd District.
In the 2016 election, Trump carried 66 percent of the vote in the 4th District, to just 28 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Duke calls Scalise a “sellout” for apologizing for 2002 speech to racist group
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
“This guy is a sellout,” Duke told Baton Rouge radio host Jim Engster January 28. “Why in the world would he apologize?”
Duke said Scalise was “basically condemning the people of his district who voted overwhelmingly for me to be their U.S. senator and voted (me) to be their governor.” He also said Scalise should resign from Congress because “he has betrayed his people.”
Scalise represents Louisiana’s 1st District in Congress, which includes suburban New Orleans and parts of Jefferson Parish that Duke represented in the Louisiana House form 1989 to 1992.
Scalise’s purported 2002 appearance before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization at a hotel in Metairie was first reported by liberal blogger Lamar White, Jr., who attributed the allegation to Stormfront, a white supremacist Web site.
Scalise had initially said he did not remember speaking to the group and had no records indicating whether he had. However, he later conceded that he had spoken to the group but described his appearance as a “mistake.”
Scalise said the address to EURO was one of a number of speeches he gave to groups in opposition to a ballot initiative that shifted Louisiana’s tax base from sales to income taxes, and he did not endorse its racist ideology.
Despite blistering criticism from Democrats, the House Republican leadership stood behind Scalise, and he remained whip, the No. 3 position in the House.
Duke, 64, a former Nazi and KKK member, remade himself as less confrontational, far-right Republican in the 1980s and won a seat in the Louisiana House in 1989. In 1991, he ran for governor, advancing to a runoff before being defeated by Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards. In 1996, he polled nearly 12 percent of the vote in a U.S. Senate race but failed to make the runoff.
In late 2002 — after Scalise’s purported appearance in front of his group — Duke pleaded guilty to tax and mail fraud and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
As a convicted felon, Duke is barred from seeking state office. But federal law does not bar convicted felons from running for Congress
Louisiana Republican says appearance was part of a campaign against a tax referendum
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is expressing regret over a 2002 appearance before a group founded by white supremacist David Duke, saying he rejects the group’s “hateful bigotry.”
“It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold,” Scalise said in a statement released December 30. “I am very disappointed anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”
Scalise’s purported appearance before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization at a hotel in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, was first reported by liberal blogger Lamar White, Jr., who attributed the allegation to Stormfront, a white supremacist Web site.
Scalise, 49, who represents a suburban New Orleans district in the House, was a state legislator at the time. He said the address to EURO was one of a number of speeches he gave to groups in opposition to a ballot initiative that shifted Louisiana’s tax base from sales to income taxes.
Scalise had initially said he did not remember speaking to the group and had no records indicating whether he had. However, in his latest statement, he conceded that he had spoken to the group.
The revelation of Scalise’s speech, coming just a week before Congress comes back into session, drew fire from Democrats, who called on the House GOP leadership to condemn the man they elected whip just last August.
While Boehner said Scalise made “an error in judgment,” the speaker said Scalise “was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate.”
“He has my full confidence as out whip,” Boehner said.
Democrats blasted Scalise’s original explanation, insisting that he must have known the group was affiliated with Duke, who served in the Louisiana legislature and ran for governor in 1991.
“There were media reports running up to the event that made it crystal clear who was going to be the highlight — David Duke,” said Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, in a statement. “If someone in Louisiana didn’t know about David Duke’s beliefs in 2002, they must have been hiding under a very large rock somewhere.”
Duke, 64, a former Nazi and KKK member, remade himself as less confrontational, far-right Republican in the 1980s and won a seat in the Louisiana House in 1989, representing Jefferson Parish, which Scalise also represents.
In the 1991 race for governor, he advanced to a runoff, where he was defeated by Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards. In late 2002 — after Scalise’s purported appearance in front of his group — Duke pleaded guilty to tax and mail fraud and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Scalise is the only Southern member in the House GOP leadership
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana has been elected as House majority whip, making him the sole Southerner in the House GOP hierarchy.
The final vote total wasn’t announced, but Scalise won a majority among the 233 House Republicans on the first ballot. He will take office August 1 as the No. 3 Republican in the House.
“I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh new voice to our leadership table and joining with this team to help confront the challenges that people all across this country are facing,” Scalise said after the vote.
“We’ve got solid conservative solutions that are going to solve the problems facing our country.”
Scalise’s ascension was made possible by the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia in his June 10 GOP primary race.
Cantor resigned as majority leader, and the current majority whip, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, claimed Cantor’s spot, opening up the whip’s post for Scalise.
Despite the fact that nearly half of the 233 members of the House Republican caucus represent Southern states, Scalise is the only Southerner in the party’s leadership. Cantor had also been the only Southern leader.
Southerner members also hold nine of the 21 committee chairmanships in the House.
Scalise was elected to the House in 2008. He was previously a state legislator in Louisiana.