The Justice Department on Friday pushed back hard against the House Democrats’ quest to gain the secret grand jury material underlying former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Accusing Democrats of a “vague, overbroad” fishing expedition, the Justice Department said the House Judiciary Committee has “come nowhere close to demonstrating a particularized need” for the material.
“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 interference,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in a Washington, D.C., federal court filing.
House Democrats, led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York, filed the lawsuit in July shortly after Mr. Mueller testified on Capitol Hill.
Democrats have asked the court to release the unreacted Mueller report and transcripts of grand jury testimony.
Grand jury testimony, often called “6E” information because of the section of federal criminal procedure rules that governs it, is usually shielded from disclosure — though there’s a debate about the exceptions to that one.
One clear exception is impeachment, but Democrats are reluctant to take the political heat that would follow from announcing impeachment proceedings.
Democrats have insisted they are in the early stages of an impeachment inquiry and need the grand jury materials to decide if they want to move forward.
The Justice Department slammed that argument, saying “hypothetical” impeachment plans are “not judicial proceedings.”
“The committee’s own description of its investigation makes clear that it is too far removed from any potential judicial proceeding to qualify,” department attorneys wrote.
Department attorneys also cited June comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, that the House was “not even close” to an impeachment inquiry.
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