DOJ, House Weigh In On How Impeachment Affects Mueller Grand Jury Doc Case

UNITED STATES - JULY 24: Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is sworn in before testifying during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in ... UNITED STATES - JULY 24: Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is sworn in before testifying during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election" on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) MORE LESS
December 23, 2019 4:20 p.m.

The House Judiciary Committee said Monday that evidence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials could yield new articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

The possibility was floated in the case seeking disclosure of those materials, and the suggestion came hours after the committee made a similar claim in its lawsuit seeking enforcement of its subpoena of ex-White House Counsel Don McGahn.

The legal issues in the two cases are different, but they are proceeding on parallel timetables, with oral arguments in both cases scheduled in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit early next month. The appellate court panels presiding over each case both ordered extra briefing on the effect of the House’s impeachment proceedings, where the House last week adopted articles of impeachment that did not directly address the conduct laid out in Mueller’s report.

In its brief on Monday, the Justice Department argued that the impeachment vote undermined a key reason that a lower court judge cited in ordering that the Mueller grand jury materials be disclosed.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the federal court in D.C., ruled that the House’s grand jury materials request fell within grand jury secrecy law’s exemption for judicial proceedings, because the House was at the time seeking the materials as part of an impeachment proceeding.

The DOJ has argued that an impeachment is not akin to a judicial proceeding as outlined in grand jury secrecy law.

“But if the Court prefers, it could simply vacate the district court’s order and remand with instructions for the court to assess whether, given the articles of impeachment approved by the House, the Committee can articulate any ongoing particularized need for grand jury information in and underlying the Mueller Report,” the DOJ said Monday.

The DOJ argued Monday that the House’s move to impeach Trump on articles focused on the Ukraine conduct, rather than on Trump’s behavior in the Mueller probe, meant there was no longer a need to expedite the case. The Department made a similar argument in the McGahn case.

The House meanwhile said the recent vote made a decision in the grand jury case, if anything, more urgent.

“[T]he grand-jury materials the Committee seeks would be critical in a Senate trial and in the Committee’s ongoing impeachment investigations to determine whether additional Presidential misconduct warrants action by the Committee,” the House committee said.

It also connected the Mueller grand jury materials to the current Ukraine scandal in two key ways.

“Specifically, one redacted passage in the Mueller Report regarding Paul Manafort relates to the false theory that Ukraine rather than Russia was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election,” the filing said. “That is the same false theory that President Trump pressured the government of Ukraine to investigate — including by withholding vital military aid and an Oval Office meeting — and that President Trump believed would help him in the 2020 election.”

Secondly, another Mueller report passage “bears on a supposed ‘peace plan’ promoted by Russian interests regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”

“That is the same conflict from which President Trump later withheld military aid — again as part of his effort to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election,” the House Judiciary Committee said.

Read the Justice Department filing and the House Judiciary Committee filing in the grand jury materials case below:

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