Analysis, Opinion And Speculation By Baish| On Wednesday, a Washington, D.C., federal judge shot down House Judiciary Committee Democrats‘ attempt to tie together their subpoena on former White House counsel Don McGahn to an entirely different request for “secret grand jury information from the Russia investigation after the Justice Department accused them of trying to ‘game the system,’” according to Fox News.
Normally cases are assigned to judges randomly, which the DOJ said is meant to keep parties from “attempting to game the system” by “shopping” for a judge they like. But in a Tuesday court filing, the department alleged the Democrat-controlled committee was trying to do exactly that by exploiting an exception that allows “related” cases to be heard by the same judge. In this case, the DOJ said the panel improperly sought to connect the McGahn case to the grand jury case simply because they’re both part of their investigation of President Trump.
D.C. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell wrote in the order rejecting the Democrats’ bid, “[A]t first blush, the House Judiciary Committee’s view that the related case rule applies is understandable. Nonetheless, closer examination demonstrates that these connections between the two cases are too superficial and attenuated for the instant McGahn Subpoena Case to qualify[.]”
Judge Howell has been assigned to the grand jury case. Howell sided with the Justice Department after hearing their argument that the “committee’s request to unseal secret grand jury information from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe has to do with the application of the law under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, while the McGahn case is a civil matter dealing with enforcing a subpoena where immunity has been asserted,” according to Fox.
“This later-filed, subpoena-enforcement suit involves no issues of fact or law common to the earlier Grand Jury application, nor does it focus on a common event or transaction such that the matters would be ‘related,’” the Justice Department explained in the court filing.
The House Judiciary Committee insisted that the cases should be linked together as they both have to do what they have labeled an “impeachment investigation” of President Donald Trump.
McGahn’s refusal to comply with a subpoena is the real “event or transaction” in this case, the DOJ said, “not the Committee’s asserted ‘impeachment investigation.’”
Howell also identified the legal issues in the grand jury case, pointing out that those issues “are entirely absent” from the McGahn case.
The Justice Department also countered the committee’s claim that linking the cases would make the judicial process more efficient by noting that while the committee knew about McGahn’s refusal to testify back in May, they waited until August – soon after filing the grand jury information case – to sue over it.
“Thus, any delay is the Committee’s doing at this point,” the DOJ said, questioning how getting around the random judge assignment process would help make things go faster.