Congress scored a major victory in its efforts to obtain hidden information from the special counsel's final report on Russian interference.
A federal judge ruled Friday that the Justice Department must give Congress grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference, despite the Trump administration's insistence that the documents remain secret.
Judge Beryl Howell of the D.C. District Court said the Justice Department has until Oct. 30 to hand over the unredacted grand jury portions of Mueller's final report, made public in April, to the House Judiciary Committee. Howell also ordered the department to produce "any underlying transcripts or exhibits referenced in the portions of the Mueller Report that were redacted" pursuant to the grand jury restrictions, Politico reported.
The ruling rejected arguments by the DOJ that the House needs to pass a resolution to open an impeachment inquiry, declaring the argument "has no textual support in the U.S. Constitution, the governing rules of the House, or Rule 6(e), as interpreted in binding decisions."
The nearly two-year long Mueller probe focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election and culminated in a 400-plus page two-part report, which was lightly redacted due to secretive grand jury matters or ongoing external investigations. The first part of the report deals with Russian interference and Russia's attempts to both help Donald Trump and hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton. The second part of the report outlines at least 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump and his associates, as well as the Trump campaign's extensive ties to Russia.
The Trump administration declined to release the full Mueller report to Congress, even as Attorney General William Barr faced criticism for acting as Trump's personal lawyer rather than an impartial third party. House Democrats subsequently pushed for the redacted portions to be turned over and were eventually forced to take the Trump administration to court over the issue.
During an Oct. 8 court hearing, DOJ lawyers argued that even the current impeachment inquiry into Trump, over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden, was not a sufficient reason to hand over the documents. They further argued against the Supreme Court precedent from the Nixon era, regarding grand jury material being handed over to Congress during that impeachment inquiry, prompting Howell to exclaim simply, "Wow, OK."
The House Judiciary Committee demanded the documents as part of the broader impeachment inquiry into Trump's behavior with regard to Ukraine. In addition to asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into former Vice President Biden, Trump has been accused of withholding military aid to the country to secure such an investigation, as well as a probe into a long-debunked conspiracy about the DNC servers.
Fox News legal analyst and former New Jersey Superior Court judge Andrew Napolitano earlier this month called Trump's actions both "criminal" and "impeachable."
The Trump administration is likely to appeal Judge Howell's decision.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.