The Department of Justice is under a rather unusual attorney general. Normally, the department operates as an independent arm of the Executive Branch. For some reason not clear to those involved, Attorney General (AG) William Barr considers himself the president’s Roy Cohn.
Cohn worked for Donald Trump at his business until he was disbarred. He was best known for assisting Senator Joseph McCarthy”s (R-WI) investigations on a manhunt for suspected communists. Barr stepped into Cohn’s shoes after Trump made life so miserable for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he resigned.
Since then, Barr has managed to throw himself between the president and investigations into his illegal behavior. Monday the House Judiciary Committee said it needed former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials. The committee believed that these materials would provide new articles of impeachment against Trump.
The committee also claimed in its lawsuit it was looking for legal enforcement of its subpoena for the former White House Counsel Don McGahn. Thus far, the number of people agreeing to subpoenas in this administration has been a dramatically small number compared to those who refused to honor them.
However, the two cases were different. Still, they are running along parallel timelines. Oral arguments will be heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit in early January.
The appellate court panels considering both cases ordered additional briefing on the impact of the House impeachment proceedings. The House adopted articles of impeachment that did not deal directly with the conduct described in the Mueller report.
The Justice Department argued in its brief that the impeachment vote, according to The Talking Points Memo:
‘[U]NDERMINED A KEY REASON THAT A LOWER COURT JUDGE CITED IN ORDERING THAT THE MUELLER GRAND JURY MATERIALS BE DISCLOSED.’
Chief Judge of the Federal U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Judge Beryl Howell, ruled that the House’s grand jury materials request did fall “within the grand jury’s secrecy law’s exemption for judicial proceedings, due to the grand jury secrecy law’s exemption for judicial proceedings, sought these materials “as part of an impeachment proceeding.’
The DOJ argued an impeachment is not similar to a judicial proceeding:
‘BUT IF THE COURT PREFERS, IT COULD SIMPLY VACATE THE DISTRICT COURT’S ORDER AND REMAND WITH INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE COURT TO ASSESS WHETHER, GIVEN THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT APPROVED BY THE HOUSE, THE COMMITTEE CAN ARTICULATE ANY ONGOING PARTICULARIZED NEED FOR GRAND JURY INFORMATION IN AND UNDERLYING THE MUELLER REPORT.’
The DOJ argued in court that the House’s impeachment was based upon two articles focused on the Ukraine incident, not the Mueller investigation. Therefore, the court had no need to expedite the case. The Department made a similar argument in the McGahn case.
The House committee indicated that the recent vote made a decision in the grand jury case even more urgent:
][T]HE GRAND-JURY MATERIALS THE COMMITTEE SEEKS WOULD BE CRITICAL IN A SENATE TRIAL AND IN THE COMMITTEE’S ONGOING IMPEACHMENT INVESTIGATIONS TO DETERMINE WHETHER ADDITIONAL PRESIDENTIAL MISCONDUCT WARRANTS ACTION BY THE COMMITTEE.’
It also connected the Mueller grand jury materials to the current Ukraine scandal in two key ways:
‘SPECIFICALLY, ONE REDACTED PASSAGE IN THE MUELLER REPORT REGARDING PAUL MANAFORT RELATES TO THE FALSE THEORY THAT UKRAINE RATHER THAN RUSSIA WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR INTERFERING IN THE 2016 ELECTION. THAT IS THE SAME FALSE THEORY THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP PRESSURED THE GOVERNMENT OF UKRAINE TO INVESTIGATE — INCLUDING BY WITHHOLDING VITAL MILITARY AID AND AN OVAL OFFICE MEETING — AND THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP BELIEVED WOULD HELP HIM IN THE 2020 ELECTION.’
Secondly, another Mueller report passage “bears on a supposed ‘peace plan’ promoted by Russian interests regarding the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
The House Judiciary Committee said:
‘THAT IS THE SAME CONFLICT FROM WHICH PRESIDENT TRUMP LATER WITHHELD MILITARY AID — AGAIN AS PART OF HIS EFFORT TO PRESSURE UKRAINE TO INTERFERE IN THE 2020 ELECTION.’
The Justice Department filing and the House Judiciary Committee filing No. 19-5388 regarding the grand jury materials can be read in its entirety by clicking on this link.
The Mueller Report Adventures: In Bite-Sizes on this Facebook page. These quick, two-minute reads interpret the report in normal English for busy people. Mueller Bite-Sizes uncovers what is essentially a compelling spy mystery. Interestingly enough, Mueller Bite-Sizes can be read in any order.