Secret recording shows Nunes saying Rosenstein impeachment would delay Supreme Court pick

Hard-line conservative Republicans in the House recently hit a roadblock in their effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when Speaker Paul Ryan opposed the move. But one of those conservatives, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., gave a different explanation to donors recently when asked why the impeachment effort had stalled.

He said it's because an impeachment would delay the Senate's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, made the statement in an audio recording surreptitiously made by a member of a progressive group who attended a Republican fundraiser on July 30 in Spokane, Washington. The recording was obtained by the Rachel Maddow Show and was played on MSNBC on Wednesday night.

Watch "The Rachel Maddow Show" at 9 p.m. on MSNBC for more on the Nunes recording

Asked about the impeachment plans, Nunes told a questioner that "it's a bit complicated" because "we only have so many months left."

"So if we actually vote to impeach, OK, what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up," he said on the recording. "Well, and you have to decide what you want right now because the Senate only has so much time."

He continued: "Do you want them to drop everything and not confirm the Supreme Court justice, the new Supreme Court justice?"

"The Senate would have to drop everything they're doing ... and start with impeachment on Rosenstein. And then take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed," Nunes said. "So it's not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It's a matter of, it's a matter of timing."

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes
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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes
U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefs reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) walks out to brief reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefs reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefs reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speak with the media about the ongoing Russia investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-CA) questions FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers during a hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
US Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) (R),Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (2nd R) and Hubbard family members look on as US President George W. Bush (3rd R) signs the Hubbard Act in the Oval Office in the White House in Washington, August 29, 2008. The Hubbard Act protects the benefits of soldiers who leave the armed forces because they are the sole survivors in a family where other members have been killed in duty, and is named after the Hubbard family who lost two of their three sons in the war in Iraq. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)
Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, walks through Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 24, 2017. Paul Manafort, former chairman of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, is willing to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in last years U.S. election, Nunes said today. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes speaks to journalists about upcoming investigation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Friday March 24, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Conservative lawmakers have accused Rosenstein of trying to stymie congressional oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of alleged interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The audio of the Spokane fundraiser was obtained by the Maddow show from a member of the "Fuse Washington" progressive group who paid the $250 entry fee to attend the dinner. The event was a fundraiser for Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. A spokesperson for her campaign had no comment on the recording and Nunes' office didn't return calls for comment.

On the evening of July 25, House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-S.C., Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and nine co-sponsors introduced a resolution to impeach Rosenstein. It does not have the support of the House Republican leadership.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., commented a day after the resolution was introduced: "Do I support impeachment of Rosenstein? No, I do not."

He also said at the time that if an impeachment resolution were to pass the House, it would "tie the Senate into knots," and could delay the confirmation of Kavanaugh.

According to the audio obtained by the show, Nunes said that "I've said publicly Rosenstein deserves to be impeached," but he also said, "the question is the timing of it right before the election."

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Rod Rosenstein through the years
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Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein speaks during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. Rosenstein and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 10: Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty, center, speaks during a news conference with Alice Fisher, head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, left, and U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, during a news conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 2006. McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force, an effort aimed at the detection, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with increased contracting activity for national security programs. (Photo by Carol T. Powers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
SLUG: me/hornsby DATE: August 22, 2006 CREDIT: Ricky Carioti / TWP. United States Federal Courthouse in Greenbelt, Md. Federal prosecutors announce the indictment of former Prince George's County school superintendent Andre Hornsby. United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, center, flanked by Francis Turner, left, of the United States Department of the Treasury and Assistant United States Attorney Michael Pauze announce the 16-count indictment of former Prince George's County Schools Superintendent Andre Hornsby during a press conference at federal court in Greenbelt on Tuesday. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein talks about the sentencing of Thomas Bromwell Sr. and Mary Patricia Bromwell following their appearance in federal court in Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, November 16, 2007. (Photo by Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun/MCT via Getty Images)
GREENBELT, MD JUNE 30:United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein talked with reporters after the Guilty plea of Prince Georges County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson the U.S. District Court on June 30, 2011 in Greenbelt, MD. To Rosenstein's left is Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeannine A. Hammett of the Internal Revenue Service and to his right is Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 24: Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, on Friday, October 24, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. Rosenstein said Carl Lackl was scheduled to be a witness to the Larry Haynes murder but was killed when Patrick Byers plotted his murder from his jail cell. (Photo by Michel du Cille/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, sits during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 7, 2017. The confirmation hearing for Rosenstein began with Republicans and Democrats squaring off over who should lead probes into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential contacts between Moscow and Trumps campaign team. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 07: Deputy U.S. Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein arrives before the Senate Judiciary Committee for testimony March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. During the hearing, Democratic senators pressed Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor in an ongoing federal inquiry into Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Rod Rosenstein, nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, arrives to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
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Conservative lawmakers have accused the Justice Department of trying both to tar President Donald Trump with the Russia investigation and to downplay the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

The Senate has only a few months to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court if they want to do it before the November midterms.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from any probe of Russian election interference. Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May of 2017 to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 and other matters after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

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