House Seeks Mueller Grand Jury Papers in Impeachment Inquiry

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(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats say secret grand jury information gathered by Robert Mueller is needed for their presidential impeachment inquiry and may show Donald Trump lied to the special counsel.

In a court filing Monday, the House Judiciary Committee urged a judge to release the grand jury materials, citing redacted text in Mueller’s report that referred to Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort saying Trump asked to be kept updated about WikiLeaks’ plans.

The materials “have direct bearing on whether the president was untruthful and further obstructed the special counsel’s investigation,” the committee said in the filing in Washington. In Trump’s written responses to Mueller’s questions, the president denied being aware of any communications between his campaign and WikiLeaks, which published thousands of hacked Democratic emails.

The materials may also help in the House investigation of Trump’s solicitation of “Ukrainian interference in the 2020 election,” the committee said in the filing, referring to last week’s release of a rough transcript of a July phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

House Seeks Mueller Grand Jury Papers in Impeachment Inquiry

Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing by former vice president Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. When he made the request, about $400 million of U.S. military aid to Ukraine approved by Congress was on hold by his order. The release of the transcript triggered the impeachment proceedings.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday’s filing.

The Justice Department has argued that an impeachment hearing doesn’t qualify as a “judicial proceeding” that would allow for the release of grand jury materials. That’s an “unprecedented” stand, lawyers for the committee responded, saying not even Richard Nixon objected to the disclosure of grand jury material to the House for an impeachment inquiry.

“DOJ ignores the critical importance of gaining a full understanding of the events described in Volume I of the Mueller Report -- events that the president may have been motivated to cover up when he engaged in the misconduct described in Volume II,” according to the filing.

Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election included 10 possible instances of obstruction of justice by Trump. The lawsuit seeking the materials, filed in July, marked the first time Democrats made an official move toward opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Trump has called the Mueller probe and the Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings “witch hunts.”

The Justice Department said in an earlier filing that the Judiciary Committee was making the demand for Mueller’s grand jury information “without offering any particular reason to believe that the grand jury material will further its investigation.” The agency also said in July that it was too early in the process to justify releasing the materials, though that argument was made before the impeachment proceedings began.

“What may come of this investigation -- if anything -- remains unknown and unpredictable,“ the Justice Department said in July.

The case is In Re Application of the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, for an order authorizing the release of certain grand jury materials, 19-gj-00048, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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