This is a very big deal. The NY Times reports that Impeachment Inquiry Is Legal, Judge Rules, Giving Democrats a Victory. The finding came in an order directing the Justice Department to hand over secret grand jury evidence from the Mueller investigation to House impeachment investigators.
In brief, the GOPlins in Congress have insisted that the ongoing investigation conducted by House committees is not legal absent a vote by the full House. The Dems countered by pointing to previous impeachment inquiries begun without such a vote - and there is no mandate for such a vote in the Constitution. The two important rulings are highlighted in bold below.
A federal judge handed a victory to House Democrats on Friday when she ruled that they were legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a decision that undercut President Trump’s arguments that the investigation is a sham.
The declaration came in a 75-page opinion by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington. She ruled that the House Judiciary Committee was entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Typically, Congress has no right to view such evidence. But in 1974, the courts permitted lawmakers to see such materials as they weighed whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon. The House is now immersed in the same process focused on Mr. Trump, Judge Howell ruled, and that easily outweighs any need to keep the information secret from lawmakers.
And in a rebuke to the Trump administration, she wrote that the White House strategy to stonewall the House had actually strengthened lawmakers’ case. She cited Mr. Trump’s vow to fight “all” congressional subpoenas and an extraordinary directive by his White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, that executive branch officials should not provide testimony or documents to impeachment investigators.
Judge Howell agreed with the Democrats, calling the Republican arguments “cherry-picked and incomplete” and lacking support from the Constitution, House rules or court precedents.
“Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry,” wrote Judge Howell, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
So the House is actually conducting an impeachment inquiry. Like I said, this is a very big deal.