The House of Representatives’ top lawyer told a federal court on Monday that the House is investigating whether Donald Trump lied to the special counsel Robert Mueller, and the attorney urged the judges to order the release of still-secret material from Mueller’s investigation.
The president provided Mueller with written answers to some of the special counsel’s questions but refused to sit for an interview with his team. Mueller also wrote in his final report that he considered some of Trump’s answers to be incomplete or imprecise.
House General Counsel Douglas Letter told the judges that the need for the still-secret material redacted from the Mueller report is “immense” because it will help House members answer the question: “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” in his written responses to the probe.
Letter said people connected to the investigation have already been convicted of lying to Congress about issues related to what Mueller was investigating. So, he said, it’s far from a stretch for Congress to investigate whether Trump lied.
“There is evidence, very sadly, that the president might have provided untruthful answers. This, therefore, is obviously a key part of a possible impeachment inquiry.”
He said the House impeachment inquiry is proceeding on two tracks: the “Ukraine matter” as well as “the Mueller report’s discussion: Did the president carry out obstruction of justice and related bad acts?”
The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony and other details redacted from the public version of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Lawyers for the House suggested in a previous court filing that the grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation could help them determine whether Trump was truthful in his answers to the special counsel.
“Not only could those materials demonstrate the president’s motives for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation, they also could reveal that Trump was aware of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks,” the lawyer’s wrote in the late September filing.
They added, “Those materials therefore have direct bearing on whether the president was untruthful, and further obstructed the special counsel’s investigation, when in providing written responses to the special counsel’s questions he denied being aware of any communications between his campaign and WikiLeaks.”
Two of the three judges who heard arguments on Monday seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House to be turned over.
Democrats’ articles of impeachment are likely to focus mostly on Ukraine, though they haven’t ruled out wrapping in additional investigations. Any mentions of Mueller would be more likely to fall under articles on obstruction of Congress or obstruction of justice.
The questions about whether Trump lied in his written testimony to Mueller come as Trump tweeted Monday he might be willing to offer written testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry.
Other redactions cited in the court papers relate to contacts members of the Trump campaign met with Ukrainian officials “and therefore may be relevant to the House’s examination of whether the president committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 presidential election.”
At the court hearing Monday, Griffith asked Letter whether the material sought was still relevant, given the apparent recent focus on Ukraine as opposed to the Mueller report.
“Don’t believe everything you’ve read in the press,” Letter responded.