Do Democrats have to begin the process of impeaching President Donald Trump in order to access special counsel Robert Mueller’s secrets?
That legal debate began raging inside the House Judiciary Committee on Friday after a new federal court ruling suggested that Congress’ access to some confidential evidence — like the kind obtained by Mueller — hinges on lawmakers launching a “judicial proceeding.”
Republicans on the committee say the only “judicial proceeding” Congress can lead is an impeachment inquiry — a claim they say is backed up by legal precedent and history. Democrats would have to launch one against Trump if they want Mueller’s grand jury evidence, Republicans say.
That interpretation would be problematic for Democratic leaders in Congress, who have little interest in launching a politically explosive impeachment process at the moment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said it’s not worth the House’s time and other top Democrats have said it’s premature while they conduct their own investigations and await the details of Mueller’s findings.