(CN) – The Conservative Republican who spearheaded the effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Thursday he is tabling his efforts after having several meetings with Republican leadership.
The announcement by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, an ally of President Donald Trump, came after House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others, stepped forward to defend Rosenstein.
Meadows said rather than pursue impeachment at this time, he will instead consider having Rosenstein held in contempt if the Justice Department does not turn over documents Congress is seeking related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Earlier on Thursday, House Speaker Ryan pushed back forcefully at a drive by House conservatives to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, the Wisconsin Republican said he believes the Justice Department has largely complied with a GOP demand for documents regarding the FBI’s Russia investigation.
“I don’t think we should be cavalier with this process or this term. I don’t think this rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors,” Ryan said.
The speaker went on to say he is encouraged by progress on the document production.
Ryan made his comments a day after Meadows and a group of his House Republican colleagues sharply escalated their months-long clash with the Justice Department by filing articles of impeachment against Rosenstein.
Their move, Wednesday evening, came after months of criticism aimed at the department from President Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also defended his top deputy Thursday saying he has the “highest confidence” in Rosenstein and described him as “highly capable” when asked about the impeachment effort.
Speaking in Boston, Sessions suggested lawmakers should instead focus on “legal challenges,” such as reforming the nation’s immigration system.
“There are loopholes on our laws that are being exploited,” he said. “Our enforcement officers’ jobs are far more difficult than they need to be. Common sense legislation can make a big difference. That’s where I’d like to see them focus their efforts.”
Trump has repeatedly called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” a position supported by many GOP lawmakers. Rosenstein oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation because Sessions has recused himself.