Congress, Justice Department face off over impeachment-related lawsuits


drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A panel of federal appeals court judges in Washington is hearing arguments Friday in two high-profile disputes between the legislative and executive branches over testimony and documents congressional Democrats pursued as part of their impeachment inquiry. The Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee brought both lawsuits. In one, the committee is seeking access to secret grand jury material collected during special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The other is part of an effort to compel the testimony of former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who has refused to comply with a subpoena.Both cases illustrate ongoing separation-of-power disputes over matters relevant to President Donald Trump’s impeachment. Congressional Democrats have accused the Trump administration of obstructing their efforts to gather information, while the Justice Department has repeatedly argued the House overstepped its authority to demand testimony and records.While both matters trace their roots to the special counsel’s Russia probe, House Democrats have argued that the merits of each case remain relevant in light of ongoing — and perhaps future — impeachment proceedings. In court documents submitted to the appeals court on Dec. 23, a lawyer for House Democrats suggested the Judiciary Committee would consider drafting additional articles of impeachment if new information comes to light.In both matters, federal district judges have already ruled in favor of Congress.U.S. Judge Beryl Howell ruled in October that the Justice Department must turn certain portions of Mueller’s grand jury evidence over to the committee. In November, U.S. Judge Kentanji Brown ruled that McGahn must comply with a subpoena for his testimony, accusing the White House of “openly stonewalling the House’s efforts to get information by subpoena.” The Justice Department appealed both rulings and are presenting their argument for reversals on Friday. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.