Members of the House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit on Friday asking a federal judge to unseal evidence from the grand jury proceedings of Robert Mueller’s investigation, saying they need the documents because they are considering whether to recommend President Donald Trump be impeached. In the filing they mention variations of the word impeachment 85 times.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who has recently said Trump is “guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors,” reportedly wanted to begin drafting articles of impeachment immediately after Mueller’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea as premature, according to Politico. The speaker has been staunchly against impeaching the president so far, insisting the best way to get Trump out of office is to vote him out in 2020. But each week, an increasing number of members of the Democratic caucus have been coming out in support of starting impeachment proceedings.
In the suit, Congress requested to see the unredacted version of the Mueller report as well as grand jury testimony and exhibits related to Mueller’s investigation and
Nadler tried to play down the move in a news conference on Friday, saying the Judiciary has “in effect” begun looking into impeachment. “We are using our full Article I powers to investigate the conduct of the president and to consider what [Constitutional] remedies there are,” Nadler said. “Among other things we will consider are obviously recommending articles of impeachment.”
And freshman Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) said: “We’re now crossing a threshold with this filing, and we are now officially entering into an examination of whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment.”
Justifying their reasoning to the judge, House Democrats wrote in the filing, “Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions.”
The filing continued: “To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise all its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity—approval of articles of impeachment.”
The decision whether to release the documents will fall to Judge Beryl A. Howell, who oversaw the Mueller grand jury.
The committee argued that they have the right to see the testimony using the same legal basis that allowed Watergate investigators to access evidence. But Howell may reject their request because, unlike with Watergate, the House has not yet voted to approve a formal resolution to open an impeachment investigation. So far, around 100 members of Congress have voiced support for impeachment, slightly less than half of the Democrats on Capitol Hill.