No matter how fervently President Donald Trump shouts on Twitter and to all who will listen about how supposedly gravely out of line that House Democrats’ impeachment investigation really is, impeachment investigators just keep accumulating victories. Now, a federal judge has ruled that the Department of Justice must hand over all grand jury material from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to the House Judiciary Committee, which is participating in the impeachment probe. Normally, such material stays private unless needed for a judicial investigation, and D.C.-area Judge Beryl Howell ruled bluntly that the impeachment inquiry qualifies.
Responding directly to Republican arguments that the impeachment inquiry as-is wasn’t valid enough to warrant the material, Howell ruled:
‘Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry… These contentions are, at worst, red herrings and, at best, incorrect… The Federalist Papers, the text of the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent all make clear — impeachment trials are judicial in nature and constitute judicial proceedings.’
Howell also noted that if she went with the Trump administration’s argument that grand jury regulations excluded impeachment investigations, presidents would be essentially free from oversight as long as they brought the potentially relevant evidence before a grand jury. Of course, the Trump team would likely breathe a sigh of relief to be free from oversight, but that’s not going to happen.
As she troublingly noted:
‘[U[nder 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.’
Subsequently, Howell has ordered that the Justice Department provide not just any material in Mueller’s final report that was redacted because of restrictions on grand jury proceedings, but also any underlying transcripts and/or exhibits that correspond to those redacted portions. All of this is supposed to happen before October 30 — although the Justice Department seems likely to appeal the decision, considering precedent. Trump has bluntly insisted that he will not be complying with any aspect of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, which makes him turning around and complaining about being supposedly left out all the more outlandish. He had his chance. He doesn’t get to just push around the justice system because he feels like it.
Democrats can use the grand jury material to further develop the case that they are building against Trump before preparing formal articles of impeachment to take to the full House, where, considering the Democratic majority, impeachment seems likely to be approved.
They got their probe going after revelations about Trump seeking to get Ukraine to produce dirt on the Bidens in exchange for things like already approved but held up military aid and a summit in D.C. with the White House. They have already heard from a significant number of witnesses who have provided condemning behind-the-scenes information about the scheme. For instance, just this week, acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor described how the Trump team sought to tie “everything” Ukraine wanted to that Biden dirt.