The House of Representatives will file a petition to access the grand jury materials collected during the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) announced on Friday.
The filing will go to D.C. chief judge Beryl Howell this afternoon, Nadler said.
Nadler framed the move as a significant step in the prelude toward a potential impeachment inquiry into President Trump. During a press conference announcing the petition, Nadler suggested the panel is reviewing whether to open an impeachment inquiry.
“Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions,” Nadler intoned.
President Trump’s Justice Department has denied the House access to the underlying grand jury material from the Mueller report. After Ken Starr’s report, Congress received the information within weeks.
During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee applied to the chief judge at the time, who authorized the release of material from the Watergate grand jury, which had been empaneled by special prosecutor Leon Jaworski. In that case, the House Judiciary Committee had already opened an impeachment inquiry into President Richard Nixon.
Grand jury material is strictly protected under federal law from disclosure in order to protect the reputations of witnesses, uncharged third-parties, and the integrity of investigative proceedings.
But federal courts can permit disclosure of the material in limited circumstances.
Nadler said that his Committee had a responsibility to ensure accountability in the executive branch.
“We take that responsibility seriously, no one can be above the law, even President Trump,” he said.
Nadler was flanked by nine members of Congress at the Friday press conference announcing the move. All members present, except for Nadler, have called for the House to open an impeachment inquiry.
Recent reporting from the Hill has also suggested that Nadler supports opening such an inquiry, but has held his tongue amid opposition to impeachment from Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
“We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed,” Pelosi said at a Friday press conference before Nadler spoke, in response to a question about impeachment. “Not one day sooner.”