House Judiciary demands disclosure of grand jury materials

Panel says delay would cause ’severe harm’ as information is essential to impeachment investigation

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., center, will hold his first impeachment hearing next week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., center, will hold his first impeachment hearing next week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 29, 2019 at 3:42pm

The House Judiciary Committee told a judge Tuesday that a delay in receiving grand jury materials from former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation would cause “severe harm” to the committee and the public because the information is essential to the House’s ongoing impeachment investigation.

The filing was among a flurry of court activity that started when Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday ordered the Justice Department to give the information to the committee. She gave them until Wednesday to do so.

Justice Department lawyers had asked Howell for a delay while they appeal her order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Howell ordered the Judiciary Committee to respond by Tuesday and is expected to order soon.

[Judge backs House Judiciary in ruling on Mueller materials]

The committee argued in the filing that “withholding disclosure would cause severe harm to the Committee and the public by depriving the House of information essential to its ongoing impeachment investigation.”

And the committee wrote that the Justice Department has not offered any basis to assume that the lawmakers would change or disregard procedures for handling the grand jury material.

The Justice Department had argued that the information shouldn’t be turned over yet, in part because the House could, with a simple majority vote, decide to publicize the grand jury materials.

But Howell noted a discrepancy in court filings when it comes to the Judiciary Committee’s position on the timing of the release and ordered the committee to clarify by Tuesday afternoon.

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The Justice Department, in a filing with the D.C. Circuit, said the committee consented to a seven-day administrative stay on the order to turn over the materials. Howell asked why her order should not be delayed for the same period, until Nov. 6.

In the Friday ruling, Howell ruled that the information could be released to lawmakers under an exception to grand jury secrecy related to ongoing judicial proceedings. The Justice Department opposed the release of the information.

The committee argued that the material is still key to an impeachment probe that focuses on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine this year, in part because the Mueller report mentions Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s interactions with the country.