WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee escalated its investigation into President Donald Trump on Friday by asking a federal court to unseal secret grand jury materials in the Mueller report to help it weigh whether to impeach the president.
In a news conference two days after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before the committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), the Judiciary chairman, and other members said the committee is taking the next step down the road in the investigation.
“We are telling the court that we are doing this not just as part of normal oversight, but also because it’s part of our Article 1 authority and responsibility to consider all remedies, including [the] possibility of articles of impeachment,” Nadler said.
Nadler thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for help with that lawsuit and another to be filed next week to force former White House counsel and key Mueller witness Don McGahn to testify, over Trump’s objections.
Nadler denied he had “real divisions” with Pelosi, who has pushed back against a rush to impeachment. “We must make the strongest possible case both to our colleagues and to the American public. On that, we're in total agreement,” he said, referring to her comments Friday.
At her own news conference, Pelosi denied she was trying to “run out the clock” on impeachment, and said, “We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner.”
Pelosi also denied she had to “bury the hatchet” in a meeting with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) on Friday morning. “We just had a meeting to clear the air,” she said, after she and Ocasio-Cortez publicly traded shots at each other the past few weeks.
Nadler quoted the legal filing the Judiciary Democrats later filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., which refers to the Article I of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to remove the president through impeachment.
“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,” Nadler said, quoting the filing.
“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 — recommendation of articles of impeachment,” he read.
After Mueller’s appearance failed to bring his report to life, as Democrats had hoped, and before a six-week recess that will limit publicity, Nadler announced the grand jury information request and a court action next week to force McGahn to testify.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top committee Republican, issued a statement that said Democrats’ bid for the grand jury material would fail, adding "Democrats want to convince their base they’re still wedded to impeachment even after this week’s hearing.”
Trump accused Democrats of "fishing" for wrongdoing and called it "a disgrace."
Democrats hailed Mueller’s testimony. “If you showed up expecting a Broadway show, sure, you may have been disappointed,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). “But if you listened to what he said,” he added, you would have heard a “cut and dry” case against Trump.
Asked if he had opened an impeachment inquiry, Nadler said people are making too much of the term. Most people think of that term as “a formal House vote to direct the committee to hold an inquiry,” he said, which has not happened. He added an inquiry focuses solely on whether to impeach or not, but the committee is considering all remedies.
“There's no formal constitutional or statutory or even House rule for how an impeachment inquiry is to begin. And so it means different things to different people,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). “I would say we’re in an impeachment investigation.”