House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s words are coming back to haunt Democrats seeking grand jury material gathered during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Ever since Mueller ended his investigation by finding there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats have tried to get their hands on grand jury files that have been kept secret in accordance with federal guidelines.
The Democrats’ latest gambit has been to claim that, because they are conducting what some Democrats have labeled an “impeachment inquiry” that could end up with impeachment charges filed against President Donald Trump, they should get the grand jury files.
The Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee has insisted that its investigation fits into a loophole regarding grand jury secrecy — that its “impeachment investigation” is the prelude to a “judicial proceeding,” Politico reported. In this case, the judicial proceeding would be a Senate trial.
Not so fast, the Department of Justice argued in a court filing submitted Friday as part of the administration’s opposition to the request.
“Most prominently, the Speaker of the House has been emphatic that the investigation is not a true impeachment proceeding,” the filing said.
Pelosi has pushed back against the rush to impeachment from the progressive wing of her party, saying that it should only be considered once the House has discovered material that could justify the step.
Speaker Pelosi: “I do think that impeachment is a very divisive place to go in our country. And what we can get the facts to the American people through our investigation, it may take us to a place that is unavoidable in terms of impeachment — or not. But we’re not at that place” pic.twitter.com/oupFdoG9LN
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 23, 2019
She’s also not helping the cause with her public appearances. Last week, Pelosi cut short a Capitol Hill news conference because reporters kept asking impeachment questions she did not want to answer.
The filing also cited comments from Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
“And the House Majority Leader had even explained that branding the Committee’s proceeding as ‘impeachment’ is a simply a device to enhance the Committee’s legal arguments in this and other courts,” the filing said.
The filing also used comments from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York in an effort to deny Democrats their way.
“As the Committee’s chairman has stressed—and as the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader both reiterated this week — the purpose of its investigation is to assess numerous possible remedial measures, including censure, articles of impeachment, legislation, Constitutional amendments, and more,” it stated.
“What may come of this investigation—if anything—remains unknown and unpredictable.”
The filing said that the House’s actions “are not ‘judicial proceedings’ under the plain and ordinary meaning of that term,” and that the material should remain out of the Democrats’ hands.
The filing also said that given what House members have already been able to learn, they don’t need the material they say they want.
“The Committee thus presents no evidence that the requested grand jury information would be of any help to its current inquiry, particularly in light of the Attorney General’s decisions to both make most of the Report public and provide the Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member with access to all redacted portions of the Report other than the minimal redactions comprising the grand jury information. The Committee’s mere desire to know what lies behind those redactions is not the sort of particularized need the Committee must establish to overcome the presumption of grand jury secrecy,” the filing stated.
The filing also argued that Democrats have provided no grounds for having the veil of secrecy lifted off the grand jury material from the Mueller report.
“In attempting to explain why it requires the additional 0.1% of information, the Committee relies entirely on speculation,” the filing stated.
“The Committee speculates first about why this material is so critical that disclosure is necessary to prevent an ‘injustice’ in some hypothetical future impeachment proceeding, and then it speculates further by advancing vague, overbroad requests for grand jury material that the Committee imagines might exist within the Department’s files without having been included in the [Mueller] Report. The Committee’s failure to provide a tailored request accompanied by a concrete explanation for why this material is necessary is particularly striking given the extensive investigations Congress has already conducted into Russian inference with the 2016 election, gathering information to which the Committee already has access.”
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