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Republicans launch bid to impeach US deputy attorney general

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Republicans have launched a bid to remove the Department of Justice official overseeing the Russia inquiry dogging Donald Trump’s presidency.

House of Representatives conservatives have filed articles of impeachment in an effort to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The measures were introduced on Wednesday evening by Representatives Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan.

They accuse him of stonewalling their inquiries, which his department denies.

Impeachment would have to be approved by a majority in the House and backed by two-thirds of the US Senate to convict Mr Rosenstein, which makes the plan a long shot.

Who is Rod Rosenstein?

Within weeks of becoming deputy attorney general in April 2017, Mr Rosenstein found himself in controversy after a memo he wrote was cited as the reason for President Trump’s decision to fire FBI chief James Comey, who was investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US elections.

Mr Rosenstein then appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the inquiry.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic officials during the 2016 vote.

Although Mr Rosenstein has said there is no evidence they “altered the vote count or changed any election result”, the announcement came just before Mr Trump’s controversial summit with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Analysis

BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

Two of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives have their press release and flurry of media coverage for introducing articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That’s probably all they will get.

The motion, as introduced, is unlikely to see any kind of a vote. House Speaker Paul Ryan, along with many other Republicans, don’t want it. They know a real push for impeachment would tear their party asunder.

Even if it does get a vote, and even if Mr Rosenstein is impeached, two-thirds of the Senate would have to support removing him after a trial in the chamber. The chances of that – which would require a significant number of Democrats in favour – are less than zero.

That doesn’t mean those who want Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to continue unimpeded should breathe easy, however. The president might claim that the impeachment resolution shows Mr Rosenstein is too embattled to continue his duties and replace him with someone who would clip the special counsel’s wings.

In April Mr Trump was reportedly itching to swing the axe on his deputy attorney general. Now, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows could be helping to sharpen the president’s blade.

What is the Mueller investigation?

President Trump’s campaign team has been accused of colluding with Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

In 2016, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had used a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media in an attempt to turn the election against Hillary Clinton.

Thirty-two people have now been indicted, including four members of Mr Trump’s campaign team and 25 Russians.

Both Mr Trump and Russia have denied the allegations, with Mr Trump repeatedly describing the investigation as a “witch hunt”.

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