House Democrats just won a landmark decision to unseal the secret Mueller Report grand jury materials in a ruling from the Washington, D.C. federal district court today. (complete opinion below)
Federal judge Beryl Howell gave Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a double victory in upholding her power to begin a formal impeachment inquiry without a symbolic vote and ruled that the investigation into the president gives ample reason to turn over otherwise secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee.
Howell wrote that one of her tipping points for Congress demonstrating their need for the Mueller materials is their need to decide if they want to impeach Donald Trump.
The federal judge ordered all of the unredacted Mueller Report to be released with underlying evidence by October 30th, 2019, which is next Wednesday. The Times reports:
Judge Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that law enforcement officials’ need to keep the information secret from Congress was “minimal” and easily outweighed by lawmakers’ need for it.
Typically, Congress has no right to view secret evidence gathered by a grand jury. But in 1974, the courts permitted the committee weighing whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon to see such materials — and, Judge Howell ruled, the House is now engaged in the same process focused on Mr. Trump.
Legal experts believe that Trump will appeal the 75-page verdict up to the federal DC Court of Appeals.
And it will be an uphill climb since the judge cited that the court’s existing precedent on when to reveal grand jury materials.
Thread on why today’s big district court order on Mueller grand jury files is likely to be affirmed on appeal: https://t.co/VTDSoNqbqQ
— Jed Shugerman (@jedshug) October 25, 2019
Of course, we have already seen the influence of Trump and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) judge appointment spree – including unqualified lawyers – in other rulings in the DC circuit, like this “wackadoodle” dissent in this month’s ruling on a subpoena to deliver the President’s taxes to Congress.
However, even that Trump-appointed, wackadoodle dissenting judge ruled that an impeachment inquiry would permit Congress to access pretty much whatever records it needs to do the job.
Today’s ruling backs up that we are officially in an impeachment inquiry despite Trump’s weak protestations and lawyer’s letters.
Judge Howell also ruled firmly against Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who joined the suit and argued that the House had to pass a formal resolution of an impeachment inquiry to be in an impeachment inquiry.
Citing the Constitution, the judge wrote that the court has no power to impose any method of operation upon the House when exercising its “sole power of impeachment.”
She furthermore explained that an impeachment trial in the Senate is most definitely a judicial procedure, citing Alexander Hamilton’s extensive writings about it in the Federalist Papers.
Her ruling is a confirmation that the Mueller Report was a message to Congress asking them to use its materials in an impeachment inquiry, which explains the importance of the seminal result of the former FBI Director’s probe and his refusal to exonerate President Trump. Judge Howell’s ruling began:
In March 2019, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III ended his 22-month investigation and issued a two-volume report summarizing his investigative findings and declining either to exonerate the President from having committed a crime or to decide that he did.
The Special Counsel explained that bringing federal criminal charges against the President would potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.
With this statement,the Special Counsel signaled his view that Congress, as the federal branch of government tasked with presidential impeachment duty under the U .S. Constitution, was the appropriate body to resume where the Special Counsel left off.
Even though the continuously expanding Ukraine scandal has grown to fill the news cycle for weeks, much of what the Special Counsel prosecuted was also related to the President’s former campaign chair’s illegal lobbying work for Ukraine.
We don’t know what else Congress will learn about Trump’s ties to Ukraine or those of his associates as a result of the Mueller grand jury materials release, but the judge ruled that there was no matter for the purposes of releasing the records if the House wants to use it to impeach the President or just for its current investigation.
Today’s ruling is a complete vindication for Speaker Pelosi and an ominous sign for all of President Trump’s frivolous legal arguments against releasing his records in half a dozen court cases.
It’s also another major step for the Trump Administration down the pathway that President Nixon trod during the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to his resignation from office.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.