The House of Representatives argued in a new court filing on Monday that it needs information from the secret grand jury used in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to help in its current impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
The filing is the first major argument the House has made in court invoking its Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry, which is still in its early days.
The filing comes in a case where the House Judiciary Committee seeks information in the Mueller report that is redacted because it came from secret grand jury proceedings. Grand jury confidentiality has a high bar for access, but in this case, the judge’s decision could come down to the needs of the House and Senate in a “judicial proceeding,” such as impeachment.
Details in the Mueller report about Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible efforts by the President to obstruct that investigation “may also be relevant to the House’s investigation of the President’s solicitation of Ukrainian interference in the 2020 election,” House lawyers wrote in the filing on Monday.
The House points out that some redacted grand jury details in the Mueller report relate to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s associations with Ukraine – of which he has many – and to Trump’s interest in WikiLeaks’ plans to release documents that could help his 2016 campaign.
Since the details of Trump’s overture to the Ukrainian prosecutor general to investigate Joe Biden became public last week, the President has come under even more scrutiny for telling top Russian officials in the Oval Office in 2017 that he was unconcerned with 2016 election interference by the Russians, according to the Washington Post.
If the House were to see details Mueller described addressing whether Trump was aware of, and encouraged, his campaign’s intended outreach to WikiLeaks in 2016, it could be another political bombshell.
Trump, in written answers to Mueller’s questions, wrote that he did not recall knowing of interactions between his top campaign officials and WikiLeaks, or recall conversations about what WikiLeaks might have on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, or the Democrats before it was released. He has long derided the investigation as a “witch hunt.”
It’s not clear why the House believes details that would illuminate this answer are hidden by grand jury proceedings.
The portion of the Mueller report about “contacts with the (Trump) campaign about WikiLeaks” is largely redacted because if made public, it could harm an ongoing matter. Fewer redactions in this section relate to the grand jury, though the House lawyers cite one footnote in Mueller’s obstruction of justice analysis regarding Manafort speaking to Trump after WikiLeaks released hacked documents in July 2016.
The details about the ongoing matter described in this section by Mueller could be revealed in or after the upcoming criminal trial of Trump adviser Roger Stone, who sought to reach WikiLeaks in 2016. Stone was indicted in January on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress during September 2017 testimony and witness tampering. He pleaded not guilty.
In this section of his report, Mueller describes a conversation between Trump and then-deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates where “Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming,” the Mueller report says.
Mueller also writes about how Manafort “recalled that Trump responded that Manafort should (REDACTED: Harm to Ongoing Matter) keep Trump updated,” after discussing the WikiLeaks release of hacked Democratic files in July 2016.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told Democrats on the Hill they should approach the impeachment inquiry as narrowly focused on Trump’s conversations with Ukraine – and not also focused on Mueller’s findings. Yet their court filing Monday describes how the impeachment inquiry and the Mueller investigation may intersect.