A federal judge on Friday dealt a major blow to President Donald Trump by ruling that the Justice Department must turn over former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, a groundbreaking victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether President Donald Trump should be impeached for obstructing the long-running Russia probe, Politico reports.
The development is a double victory for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a devastating defeat for Trump.
Judge Beryl Howell — the chief federal judge in Washington — ruled that the impeachment inquiry Democrats have launched is valid even though the House hasn’t taken a formal vote on it. The decision rejects arguments by DOJ and congressional Republicans that a formal vote is necessary to launch impeachment proceedings.
“Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry,” Howell determined, according to Politico, t” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Politico, dismissing GOP arguments as unsupported.
Republicans had claimed that the House Judiciary Committee cannot begin impeachment proceedings without a formal vote of the House — and that even if it could, Pelosi is not empowered to simply grant that authority to the Judiciary Committee. But Howell rejected the arguments out of hand.
In her ruling, Howell ordered the DOJ to provide by Oct. 30 “[a]ll portions of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election that were redacted pursuant to” grand jury restrictions.
The order also requires the Justice Department to provide “any underlying transcripts or exhibits referenced in the portions of the Mueller Report that were redacted” pursuant to those restrictions.
“The court’s thoughtful ruling recognizes that our impeachment inquiry fully comports with the Constitution and thoroughly rejects the spurious White House claims to the contrary,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.)
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the DOJ is “reviewing the decision.”
House Republicans have spent weeks arguing that Democrats’ ongoing impeachment process is invalid in part because Pelosi has refused to sanction the effort with a vote on the House floor. But here, too, Howell cast aside their reasoning as “fatally flawed.”
“The precedential support cited for the ‘House resolution’ test is cherry-picked and incomplete, and more significantly, this test has no textual support in the U.S. Constitution, the governing rules of the House, or [grand jury secrecy rules], as interpreted in binding decisions,” she writes.
Howell contended that the “most troubling” aspect of DOJ’s interpretation of grand jury secrecy rules is that it would make presidents almost entirely immune to accountability. DOJ already maintains that presidents can’t be indicted, Howell notes. “Yet, under DOJ’s reading of [the grand jury secrecy rules], the Executive Branch would be empowered to wall off any evidence of presidential misconduct from the House by placing that evidence before a grand jury.”
The rule, she said, must not be read to impede the House from exercising its “sole Power of Impeachment.”