DOJ Says Impeachment Vote Undermines House Democrats Need for Mueller Grand Jury Materials

December 24, 2019 Updated: December 24, 2019
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The Justice Department (DOJ) has argued that the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee no longer needs grand jury materials from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

In a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Monday, DOJ lawyers argued that the House’s purpose for seeking the grand jury material was to help them decide on whether impeach the president, adding that the district court judge had allowed the release of the material because she accepted the committee’s argument that they had a “particularized need” to review the material to decide on whether to impeach the president based on the Russia probe.

Since the two articles of impeachment were approved last week with a focus on conduct related to Ukraine rather than on the Russia probe, the House Democrats no longer needed the material, the lawyers argued.

“Neither article of impeachment adopted by the House, however, alleges high crimes or misdemeanors stemming from the events described in the Mueller Report,” the DOJ lawyers wrote. “To the contrary, the second article, in alleging obstruction of the impeachment inquiry, expressly recites that the House’s ‘impeachment inquiry focused on President Trump’s corrupt solicitation of the Government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 United States Presidential election.'”

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, appointed by President Barack Obama, ruled in October that the DOJ must turn over grand jury material referenced in or underlying Mueller’s report. Howell, in her 75-page opinion, ruled that the House’s request for the grand jury material fell under one of the grand jury secrecy law exemptions. This prompted the Justice Department to appeal the decision.

The House Committee also filed a brief to the court on Monday, arguing that they retain a “substantial and urgent interest” in obtaining the documents. They argued that the grand jury material would be needed to help the House decide on how to present the articles of impeachment and evidence in the Senate trial.

They also argued that the impeachment vote did not cease the committee’s investigation into the president’s conduct and said that they would recommend more articles of impeachment if they find enough evidence for them.

“If this material reveals new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles adopted by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly—including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” the House Committee lawyers wrote.

This comes on the same day the DOJ and House Committee filed briefs in another federal appeals court case over a subpoena demanding former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

In that case, the DOJ and House Committee lawyers made similar arguments, saying that the articles of impeachment do not moot the case.

DOJ lawyers, in that case, argued that the court should overturn a lower court’s decision to compel McGahn to testify before the committee because it wouldn’t be proper for the court to become involved in the interbranch legal fight.

Meanwhile, the House legal team argued that McGahn’s testimony is still relevant despite the House having voted on two articles of impeachment because it could help the committee decide whether to recommend further impeachment charges if new evidence was found.

Oral arguments have been set for Jan. 3, 2020, for both cases.

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