- The Washington Times
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee’s fight for grand jury materials underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report will likely stretch into the fall, according to a court filing Wednesday.

Committee attorneys and the Justice Department have jointly proposed a briefing schedule for the court action. The Justice Department will file its initial response to the committee’s demand for the materials by Sept. 13. The House panel would be required to respond by Sept. 30.

The Justice Department also sought to block the committee’s request for oral arguments, according to the court filing.

“The Department of Justice believes the matter can be decided on the papers, but defers to the court as to whether or not oral arguments would be helpful,” DOJ attorneys wrote.

On Friday, the Judiciary Committee filed a petition in D.C. federal court to obtain the grand jury material underlying Mr. Mueller’s report on Russian election meddling and whether President Trump sought to obstruct that investigation.

Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said his committee needs to the material to determine whether to impeach Mr. Trump.

“The House must have access to all relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional duty power of the utmost gravity — recommendation of articles impeachment,” Mr. Nadler told reporters last week. “That duty calls in the first instance to the House Committee on the Judiciary.”

In April, the committee subpoenaed Attorney General William P. Barr for the full, unreduced Mueller report. The Justice Department provided the committee with some of the underlying evidence and allowed lawmakers to review a less-redacted version of the Mueller report.

But the Justice Department has balked at releasing the grand jury material to the committee, saying federal law blocks its release.

The Committee moved forward with its petition two days after Mr. Mueller appeared o Capitol Hill to testify about his report. He offered no new information and lawmakers from both sides gave him poor remarks for his befuddled, confused performance.

Legal analysts have questioned the panel’s action, saying it likely won’t withstand legal scrutiny. Mr. Nadler is arguing in court papers that his committee has commenced an impeachment inquiry while publicly insisting they are not doing impeachment.

The distinction is important because impeachment is akin to a judiciary proceeding, one of the rare circumstances in which grand jury materials can be unsealed. But lawyers said that’s not enough to persuade a judge.

Sam Dewey, a lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery who used to lead congressional investigations, said that’s probably not good enough.

“They can’t have one member stand at a press conference and say, ‘This is an impeachment inquiry,’” Mr. Dewey told the Times last week. “I just don’t see that. They have to do something beyond that.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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