A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., voiced skepticism Monday over the Justice Department’s claim it can defy Congress’ request for secret material from the Mueller report.
Two of the three judges who heard arguments at the hearing Monday seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House for its impeachment inquiry to be turned over.
The lower court ruled last month that the House was legally involved in a judicial process that exempts Congress from grand-jury secrecy rules, but the Justice Department says the material should be off-limits because impeachment trials are not “judicial proceedings” and are thus not exempt from grand-jury secrecy rules.
CNN legal analyst Ross Garber, who is an expert on impeachment, agreed with the Justice Department, writing in a tweet that “there’s a good chance this decision gets reversed on appeal or by Supreme Court. Depends on whether a Senate impeachment trial is a ‘judicial proceeding’ under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure."
However, the lower court judge, in addition to rejecting those claims by the Justice Department, also said the DOJ’s argument that the House had not exhausted other means of obtaining the information was farcical, because “the reality is that DOJ and the White House have been openly stonewalling the House’s efforts to get information by subpoena and by agreement, and the White House has flatly stated that the administration will not cooperate with congressional requests for information,” The Washington Post reported
This legal wrangling predates the current formal impeachment inquiry that is focused on Trump’s effort to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden for political gain and not due to national security concerns.
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