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Mark Your Calendars. This Will Be The Biggest Day Yet For Impeachment Legal Fights

Kevin Daley on November 30, 2019

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear two impeachment-linked cases Jan. 3, touching House-led efforts to obtain evidence and testimony for its ongoing investigations of President Donald Trump.

Two three-judge panels will hear back-to-back arguments on two separate matters. The first is a dispute over a House Judiciary Committee subpoena for grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The second involves another House subpoena compelling the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn.

House Democrats prevailed before federal trials judges in both cases, prompting appeals to the D.C. Circuit. The Department of Justice is fighting both subpoenas. The D.C. Circuit temporarily halted release of the Mueller grand jury materials Oct. 29, just hours before their scheduled release. The judge in the McGahn case put her own ruling on hold for seven days, pursuant to an agreement between the Justice Department and House Democrats.

Whether either case will change the course of the impeachment inquiry is unclear. Top House Democrats are advancing toward a floor vote on articles of impeachment at a fast clip. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will send a report arguing for Trump’s impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee in the coming days. That panel will hold its own hearings on the impeachment inquiry shortly thereafter.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler gave the president until Dec. 6 to decide whether his attorneys will participate in those proceedings.

The administration could stall the inquiry through protracted court battles, but House Democrats say they will keep to their time-table whether those legal disputes are resolved or not.

“We view this as urgent,” Schiff told NBC on Nov. 24. “We have another election where the president is threatening more foreign interference. At the same time, there are still other witnesses, other documents that we’d like to obtain. But we are not willing to go the months and months and months of rope-a-dope in the courts, which the administration would love to do.”

Though Democrat-appointees have a majority on the D.C. Circuit, the three-judge panels in both cases will be friendly to the president. Republican-appointed judges will have a majority in each case. Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump-appointee who made waves when she dissented from a decision upholding a House subpoena for the president’s financial records, will hear the dispute over the Mueller grand jury materials.

The decisions in both cases can be appealed to the full D.C. Circuit or to the Supreme Court.

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