Nadler & Schiff Release Key Takeaways from Victorious Court Ruling on Mueller Grand Jury Material
Washington, DC, October 26, 2019
Tags: Government Oversight
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) released key takeaways from Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s favorable court ruling which ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to turn over redacted 6(e) grand jury material from Special Counsel Mueller’s report to the House Judiciary Committee by October 30, 2019.
The House Judiciary Committee petitioned the court in July for access to grand jury materials redacted from the Mueller Report and obtained by the Special Counsel’s office. The Committee argued that because it seeks these materials in connection with the House’s impeachment inquiry, it is entitled to them under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)’s exception allowing disclosures “preliminary to . . . a judicial proceeding.” The Judiciary Committee also informed the court that it would share any grand jury materials it receives with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), given HPSCI’s areas of expertise and its own investigative interests in the materials.
The Chairmen released the following statements on the ruling:
Chairman Nadler said, “I am gratified that the federal district court has ordered that the Special Counsel’s grand jury information must be turned over to the House's impeachment inquiry. The court’s thoughtful ruling recognizes that our impeachment inquiry fully comports with the Constitution and thoroughly rejects the spurious White House claims to the contrary. This grand jury information that the Administration has tried to block the House from seeing will be critical to our work.”
Chairman Schiff said, “Today, a federal judge ruled that as a part of the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry, the Trump Administration was required to disclose grand jury material underlying Mueller’s report. Indeed, as Judge Howell noted, the White House’s blanket refusal to accommodate the demands of a coequal branch of government, weighs heavily in favor of Congress’s right to the information needed to conduct oversight and the impeachment inquiry. The stonewall continues to crumble.”
Key Takeaways from Chief Judge Howell’s Ruling Granting Access to Grand Jury Materials
Holding: The court ruled for the House Judiciary Committee on every issue presented. It ordered prompt relief: DOJ is required to provide the Committee with “all portions of the Mueller Report that were redacted pursuant to Rule 6(e) and any underlying transcripts or exhibits” referred to in those portions of the Report by October 30.
First, the court held that a Senate trial is clearly a “judicial proceeding” for purposes of Rule 6(e). It rejected DOJ’s contrary arguments, which it described as “in service of the obvious goal of blocking Congress from accessing grand jury material for any purpose.” The court’s decision was based on an extensive discussion about the purpose and meaning of impeachment as envisioned by the Founders.
The court made clear that “a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry.” It said the notion that a full vote is required has “no textual support in the U.S. Constitution [or] the governing rules of the House.”
Third, the court held that the Judiciary Committee demonstrated a “compelling need” for access to the grand jury materials. It described particular portions of the Mueller Report redacted under Rule 6(e) that the Judiciary Committee has an obvious interest in reviewing—such as information that could reveal whether President Trump sought or obtained advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’s email disclosures.
More broadly, the court made clear that the House has a compelling interest in reaching its own judgments about the President’s conduct described in the Mueller Report—especially given the fact that DOJ policy prevented Special Counsel Mueller from pursuing charges. The court agreed with the Committee that “the House alone can hold the president accountable” for his misconduct.
The court observed that Special Counsel Mueller himself “signaled his view that Congress, as the federal branch of government tasked with presidential impeachment duty under the U.S. Constitution, was the appropriate body to resume where the Special Counsel left off.” The court stated that “Complete information about the evidence the Special Counsel gathered, from whom, and in what setting is indispensable to” the Committee.
Finally, the court soundly rejected the Administration’s argument that other types of evidence could be adequate substitutes. The court stated that DOJ’s claim that it had agreed to produce FBI interview reports to the Committee “smack[s] of farce. 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 court held that the “White House’s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure. Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a President is heightened when the Executive Branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”
The court ordered DOJ to produce (1) all of the grand jury material redacted in the Mueller Report and (2) all grand jury transcripts and exhibits referred to in the Mueller Report by October 30. It noted there could be limited exceptions if disclosure could harm ongoing law enforcement matters.
As envisioned in the Judiciary Committee’s rules for handling grand jury materials, the Committee anticipates working closely with HPSCI to review materials produced by DOJ.