The Justice Department said Friday that a request to a federal court from House Democrats seeking access to secret grand jury material underlying special counsel Robert Mueller’s report should be turned down because the lawmakers have “come nowhere close to demonstrating a particularized need” for the information.
House Democrats first filed suit in July, days after Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill, asking the court to order the release of grand jury information connected to the Mueller report to the House Judiciary Committee. The Democrats argue they need the information to consider whether to move toward impeachment proceedings.
Specifically, the lawmakers are seeking the unredacted Mueller report, as well as transcripts of grand jury testimony related to President Donald Trump’s knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and links between members of his campaign and Russians. Lawmakers also want any grand jury testimony related to Trump’s knowledge of any potential “criminal acts” by him or his associates.
In the filing, the the Justice Department called lawmakers’ request an “extraordinary order” that is overly broad.
“The Committee’s failure to provide a tailored request accompanied by a concrete explanation for why this material is necessary is particularly striking given the extensive investigations Congress has already conducted into Russian inference with the 2016 election, gathering information to which the Committee already has access,” the Justice Department wrote.
The Justice Department argued that the committee’s application for materials relies on authorization related to a “judicial proceeding.” The department argues that impeachment proceedings in Congress “including hypothetical removal proceedings in the Senate – are not ‘judicial proceedings’ under the plain and ordinary meaning of that term.”
When House Democrats first filed the lawsuit, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York and other committee Democrats said that the legal challenge was a new step that signals the committee is actively considering whether to introduce articles of impeachment.
In the filing the Justice Department seizes on the ongoing debate among House Democrats over how to describe their impeachment inquiry, citing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s denial that the House is engaged in an impeachment proceeding.
It also cites comments by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who earlier this week suggested that the ongoing effort in the House Judiciary Committee regarding the scope of the impeachment inquiry was an exercise to expedite litigation.