WASHINGTON (CN) — Interlaced with 76 mentions of impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee asked a federal judge Friday to let them access secret grand jury material from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Democrats on the committee gave a press conference announcing the filing this afternoon, on the eve of what will be a month-long recess.
“We are now crossing a threshold with this filing and we are now officially entering into an examination of whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat, said at the conference.
The application filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia says it is up to Congress to hold President Donald Trump accountable because Justice Department policy prevents prosecutors from indicting a sitting president.
“To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — approval of articles of impeachment,” the 53-page filing states. “That duty falls in the first instance to the House Committee on the Judiciary.”
Mueller appeared Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Jerrold Nadler made clear today that the committee will continue investigating Trump through the August recess.
Attorney General William Barr holds the power to release the grand jury materials to the committee, precluding federal court proceedings. But Nadler said he expects Barr to oppose the committee’s filing.
Key witnesses in the special counsel’s investigation, including former White House counsel Donald McGahn, can expect subpoenas in the coming weeks, the New York congressman added.
“The committee’s request is consistent with numerous prior instances in which it has sought and obtained grand jury materials when evaluating allegations of misconduct by government officials, including allegations against a sitting President,” the application states.
It continues: “the full Mueller report provides an essential roadmap for the committee’s efforts to uncover all facts relevant to Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and to any attempts by the president to prevent Congress from learning the truth about those attacks along with their aftermath.”
The Democrats say Mueller’s testimony “removed all doubt” that President Donald Trump obstructed justice by trying to fire Mueller, while also shedding light on the repeated lies Trump told to cover up Russia’s assistance with his 2016 presidential campaign.
“[Trump] both welcomed and benefited from this attack on our country and he [Mueller] showed that the president repeatedly lied to cover that up,” Nadler said.
Despite Republicans claiming Mueller’s testimony as a victory further exonerating the president, the chairman said Mueller confirmed Trump could be indicted once he leaves office.
“If you didn’t believe you had a criminal act, why would you want to preserve the evidence?” Nadler said.