Judge: No Court Has Adopted DOJ Position Barring Indictment Of Sitting President
A federal judge noted in a Friday ruling that the Justice Department position that a sitting president cannot be indicted "has never been adopted, sanctioned, or in any way approved by a court,” according to Politico.
Judge Beryl Howell handed two victories to Democrats this week when she ruled that the DOJ must hand over former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee and that the House’s impeachment inquiry is valid even without a formal vote.
Congressional Republicans have argued that the House’s impeachment inquiry violates process and is therefore invalid due to the lack of a formal vote.
"Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry," Howell determined.
Of the GOP’s assertions, the judge said, "These contentions are, at worst, red herrings and, at best, incorrect.”
Howell ordered "[a]ll portions of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election that were redacted pursuant to" grand jury restrictions to be provided to the House by October 30.
She also ordered that "any underlying transcripts or exhibits referenced in the portions of the Mueller Report that were redacted" pursuant to those restrictions, Politico noted.
Democrats have said they need the grand jury transcripts to determine whether President Donald Trump’s conduct revealed by the Mueller investigation warrant impeachment.
The Justice Department argued that Democrats’ assertion that impeachment proceedings are part of a “judicial” process, thereby granting them an exemption from standard grand jury secrecy requirements, is wrong.
But Howell called the DOJ’s argument “puzzling.”
“The Federalist Papers, the text of the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent all make clear — impeachment trials are judicial in nature and constitute judicial proceedings," she wrote.
Howell also took issue with the Justice Department’s claim that House Democrats have failed to exhaust all other options in trying to obtain the information they seek, short of receiving grand jury transcripts.
She cited the letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone earlier this month informing the House that they would block White House officials from cooperating with the impeachment inquiry.
“These arguments smack 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," Howell said. "The White House’s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure.”