The Justice Department, in new court filings, sought to block congressional Democrats' bid for secret grand jury material from the Robert Mueller investigation by citing the confusion inside the caucus over whether or not they're pursuing an "impeachment investigation."
In the Friday court filing, the DOJ argued that the House Judiciary Committee clearly is not.
“The committee’s own description of its investigation makes clear that it is too far removed from any potential judicial proceeding to qualify,” the DOJ said.
After muddled messaging on the matter, committee Democrats last week argued that they are leading an impeachment investigation, as the panel took its first formal vote establishing the procedures for those proceedings and hearings.
The lawmakers, in a related case in court, are seeking the release of secret grand jury material from Mueller’s investigation. A small percentage of the report remains redacted, as grand jury material must remain secret according to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, with narrow exceptions. But in a recent court filing, the committee claimed their investigation of Trump’s possible wrongdoing falls under the exception for judicial proceedings, including impeachment proceedings.
But the DOJ countered that what Democrats are doing is hardly such an investigation.
The DOJ also quoted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., as once saying, “[a]n impeachment inquiry is when you consider only impeachment. That’s not what we’re doing.” Since then, Nadler has gone back and forth over whether or not his committee’s investigation is indeed an “impeachment inquiry.”
The developments come as President Trump on Monday accused the committee of botching their efforts. He then referred them to former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama’s deal with Netflix, and the Obamas’ book deal from 2017, as well as other deals made by lawmakers.
“House Judiciary has given up on the Mueller Report, sadly for them after two years and $40,000,000 spent - ZERO COLLUSION, ZERO OBSTRUCTION. So they say, OK, lets look at everything else, and all of the deals that ‘Trump’ has done over his lifetime. But it doesn’t work that way,” Trump tweeted Monday. “I have a better idea. Look at the Obama Book Deal, or the ridiculous Netflix deal. Then look at all the deals made by the Dems in Congress, the ‘Congressional Slush Fund,’ and lastly the IG Reports. Take a look at them. Those investigations would be over FAST!
The IG reports include recently released findings that former FBI Director James Comey violated policies with his handling of memos documenting conversations with Trump -- leaked to help bring about the appointment of a special counsel for the investigation of Trump campaign ties to Russian election interference efforts. Another report, expected to be released in the near future, will discuss whether the FBI acted improperly with regard to FISA warrant applications to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the early stages of the Russia probe. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz turned over a draft of his findings to Attorney General Bill Barr last week.
As for the Obamas, this isn’t the first time Trump implied that their book deal with Penguin Random House – which reportedly paid the former president and first lady more than $65 million for their memoirs – involved wrongdoing.
“We want to find out what happened with the last Democrat president,” Trump said in July. “Let’s look into Obama the way they’ve looked at me. From day one they’ve looked into everything that we’ve done. They could look into the book deal that President Obama made. Let’s subpoena all of his records.” The president did not elaborate on what such an investigation might find.
The "Congressional Slush Fund" Trump referred to is a Treasury Department fund that was used to pay millions of dollars in settlements to sexual harassment accusers.