Federal judge: House impeachment inquiry of Trump is legal

By Sommer Brokaw
President Donald Trump speaks to the press outside of the White House in Washington, DC on Friday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI
President Donald Trump speaks to the press outside of the White House in Washington, DC on Friday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled that a House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump is legal.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in a 75-page opinion Friday that the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry was a legal judicial proceeding.


Howell's ruling was based on the Committee's application for an order authorizing release of grand jury evidence redacted from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigative findings earlier this year.

Howell also agreed with lawmakers petition in July that the grand jury testimony from witnesses in Mueller's Russia probe should be provided under the Watergate precedent where courts allowed lawmakers to see secret grand jury evidence in President Richard Nixon's impeachment inquiry.

The Committee's need for information "outweighs any interest in continued secrecy," Howell wrote.


The Department of Justice had argued that the impeachment inquiry was illegitimate based on a procedural issue. There had not been a formal House resolution to authorize the inquiry.

However, Howell said that such a resolution was not needed and ordered the DOJ to provide all portions of the Mueller report, including secret grand jury evidence, by Wednesday.

The DOJ and a Republican Rep. Doug Collins, D-Ga., a ranking member of the Committee, had cited the formal House vote for a resolution in impeachment inquiries of Nixon in 1974 and President Bill Clinton in 1998 as a precedent that resolution was needed.

Howell called precedent cited "cherry-picked and incomplete," with a lack of constitutional support.

Howell added the House has initiated impeachment inquiries of federal judges without a House resolution, and in the case of Nixon, the investigation started before the House passed a resolution.

"Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry," Howell wrote in the opinion.

Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Committee chairman, released a statement on the ruling.

"I am gratified that the federal district court has ordered that the Special Counsel's grand jury information must be turned over to the House's impeachment inquiry," the statement said. "The court's thoughtful ruling recognizes that our impeachment inquiry fully comports with the Constitution and thoroughly rejects the spurious White House claims to the contrary. This grand jury information that the Administration has tried to block the House from seeing will be critical to our work."


The White House was still trying to stop a key witness from testifying, invoking "constitutional immunity" for Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security advisor, who Democrats had subpoenaed to testify Monday.

Kupperman filed a lawsuit Friday asking a judge to rule on whether he can still cooperate and testify.

His lawyer, Charles Cooper, also represents John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, and may respond similarly to requests for his testimony.

On Saturday, Philip Reeker, the assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, arrived at the Capitol for his closed-door deposition as part of the House's impeachment inquiry.

Trump again posted on Twitter his displeasure with the impeachment inquiry.

"The Ukraine investigation is just as Corrupt and Fake as all of the other garbage that went on before it. Even Shifty Schiff got caught cheating when he made up what I said on the call!," Trump tweeted Saturday.

During a hearing, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he would be outlining "the essence of what the president communicates," not providing "the exact transcribed version of the call."

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