At a press conference on Friday, Jerold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee will be filing a petition with the court to have to underlying grand jury materials of the Mueller report released to Congress, Politico reports. The move comes two days after Robert Mueller testified in front of Congress for nearly seven hours and immediately before Congress leaves for its August recess.
The application for the grand jury material, which is subject to secrecy under federal law unless a court deems otherwise, does not seek for public release of the materials. The petition will be heard by Beryl Howell, the chief judge of DC’s federal district court.
Chairman Nadler quoted a portion of the court filing, which read, “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. To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts to consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a Constitutional power of the utmost gravity, recommendation of articles of impeachment. That duty falls in the first instance to the House Committee on the Judiciary.”
Nadler says that the redacted portions of Mueller report, of which approximately one-fifth is grand jury materials and includes interviews with top Trump associates, is “critical” for investigating President Trump’s conduct.
“We are exercising our full Article I authority. We are continuing our investigation of the president’s malfeasances and we will consider what we have to consider, including whether we should recommended articles of impeachment to the House,” Nadler said.
Nadler stated that the committee would inform the court that the materials are needed because it is considering remedies to address the president’s conduct and those remedies include articles of impeachment. Nadler pointed out that the lawsuits brought by the committee are done so with the support of Speaker Pelosi, who is, he said, “as dedicated to holding this president accountable for his crimes as any of us gathered here today.”
Per The Hill, some experts believe the Democrats are unlikely to come out on top in such a court case unless they formally open an impeachment inquiry. The law governing grand jury secrecy, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), has few exceptions. One such exception has allowed for grand jury materials to be shared with Congress during an impeachment inquiry.
While the Judiciary Committee has not formally opened an inquiry, Nadler has stated that “articles of impeachment are under consideration as part of the Committee’s investigation, although no final determination has been made.” According to Politico, the Chairman has pointed out that Congress has previously received grand jury materials during Ken Starr’s independent counsel investigation of Bill Clinton and during inquiries into Watergate.
Committee Democrats believe that the exception in the strict language of the law that states materials can be released “preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding” is in their favor. Nadler believes that ongoing investigations would count as a preliminary proceeding.
Democrats have also argued that the other exception, which allows access to grand jury materials by “any federal law enforcement, intelligence, protective, immigration, national defense, or national security official to assist the official receiving the information in the performance of that official’s duties”, would also grant them access to the secret materials.