Recent Articles

Federal Judge Rules Impeachment Inquiry Legal, Administration Must Cooperate

Judge Howell Speaking at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2016; Photo by Jeff Reed 
In a stern rebuke to the Trump Administration, a federal judge has both ruled that the Impeachment Inquiry in the House of Representatives is legal and that the Trump Administration must turn over documents from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Judge Beryl Howell did not accept, nor see merit, in nearly any of the President or DOJ's arguments against cooperating with the Inquiry, and did not accept the Administration's argument that the Inquiry is illegal in the first place.

Judge Howell explains:
DOJ and Representative Collins state that the “impeachments of Presidents Clinton and Andrew Johnson were investigated in multiple phases with each phase authorized by the House’s adoption of resolutions.” ...Even were this statement accurate, which it is not, the manner in which the House has chosen to conduct impeachment inquiries encompasses more than past Presidents and no sound legal or constitutional reason has been presented to distinguish the House’s exercise of impeachment authority for a President from the exercise of such authority more generally.

She states succinctly, "Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry."

The DOJ also argued that the House was not properly going about impeaching the President, which Judge Howell also rejected. She writes:
"Formulating a firm line on when, in the impeachment context, activities within the House meet the “preliminarily to” requirement to qualify for disclosure of grand jury material need not be drawn here, since this case is clear. Collectively, the record shows an evolving and deliberate investigation by HJC that has become focused on determining whether to impeach the President and thus has crossed the “preliminarily to” threshold.

And finally, on whether the Administration must turn over materials relating to Mueller, she ruled that the DOJ's argument that nothing should be turned over is decidedly too broad:
Additionally, DOJ’s position that no disclosure of grand jury information to a House impeachment inquiry is permitted under Rule 6(e), see DOJ Resp. at 13–19, would completely bar access to relevant grand jury materials. Such a blanket bar would have concrete repercussions on limiting the House’s access to investigative materials and thereby impermissibly impede the House’s ability to exercise its constitutional power of impeachment. The House, through the committees tasked with conducting an impeachment investigation, must develop a factual record supporting at least a good-faith basis for believing that the President has engaged in conduct meeting the constitutional requirement of a “high crime” or “misdemeanor” before voting in favor of articles of impeachment targeting such conduct.
Judge Howell further writes that any other argument made by the DOJ and Trump Administration is "easily dispatched" and are not based in law what-so-ever.

She concludes, "In sum, HJC has presented sufficient evidence that its investigation has the primary purpose of determining whether to recommend articles impeachment and thus has satisfied Rule 6(e)’s “preliminarily to . . . a judicial proceeding” requirement."

No comments