Mueller grand jury evidence is still in the mix
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department told a federal judge that a House committee investigating President Donald Trump is not entitled to grand jury evidence from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, saying it has failed to explain which specific testimony it needs access to or how it would help its investigation into potential obstruction by the president.
“There is this generalized notion that this is an important matter because of impeachment and, therefore, ( the committee) should have access to everything,” Elizabeth Shapiro, an attorney in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said during a two- hour hearing in federal court Tuesday. “It also needs to be particularized, and they shouldn’t get a pass on that because of impeachment.”
U. S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell heard arguments on whether the House Judiciary Committee should receive the underlying grand jury evidence behind Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The panel subpoenaed the evidence as part of a sweeping impeachment investigation of Trump, who has called the inquiry a partisan witch hunt. The Judiciary Committee is focusing on potential obstruction of justice, as described in 10 episodes in the Mueller report. But Attorney General William Barr redacted grand jury evidence from the report and argued against disclosing it under the subpoena.
Shapiro said there first needs to be a “degree of formality” in the form of a full House vote on an impeachment inquiry before treading into dangerous territory of “penetrating grand jury evidence.” House Democrats have argued that a full House vote isn’t necessary to move forward with an impeachment inquiry.
Six committees have been conducting investigations of Trump since Democrats regained control of the chamber in January. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., announced Sept. 24 that all of the inquiries now fall under the umbrella of a formal impeachment investigation and that no floor vote is necessary. But Republicans have argued that only the full House can authorize an impeachment inquiry.
New York Democrat Jerry Nadler has been leading the charge.