Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.
Be very, very quiet. The House Judiciary Committee is walking softly toward its quarry. From The New York Times:
In a significant escalation, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Democratic chairman of the committee, said at a news conference that the application to the court would declare that the panel needs access to Mr. Mueller’s grand-jury evidence — such as witness testimony — to decide whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the president.
“Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions,” Mr. Nadler quoted the legal filing as telling the judge, Beryl A. Howell, who supervised Mr. Mueller’s grand jury. Referring to the part in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to impeach and remove a president, the application continues, he said: “To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise all its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — recommendation of articles of impeachment.”
Sorry, gang. It's not good television. It's not great optics. But it's a big turn of the screw. The House Judiciary Committee plans to represent to a court of competent jurisdiction that it is considering bringing forth articles of impeachment against the president*. It is couching its request in purely constitutional terms—namely, its Article I powers to recommend and to act upon such proposed measures. Once this is done, if it gets the evidence it seeks, the committee at least will have to launch an impeachment inquiry to test that evidence. If it doesn't, the committee will be guilty of misrepresenting itself to the courts, which the courts do not like at all.
Moreover, Nadler shrewdly roped in the Department of Justice under William Barr by telling the court that DOJ and White House stonewalling left him no other choice than to ask formally for the grand jury material.
“Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions.”
And it becomes even more intriguing with this wink-and-nod routine from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Democrats are seeking to enforce subpoenas in court for certain documents in their investigation, as well as testimony from witnesses, all of which the administration has not complied with. This includes requests for six years of the president's tax returns. “Everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way,” she said. “Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage.”
In combination, Nadler's motion and Pelosi's remarks strike me as the result of serious re-negotiations within the Democratic House caucus. Pelosi seems to have freed up Nadler to move on the grand jury material. Baby steps, people, but ones that are starting to echo.
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