The US House of Representatives’ top lawyer on Monday told a federal appeals court that the House is investigating whether US President Donald Trump lied to then-US special counsel Robert Mueller, and urged the judges to order the release of still-secret material from Mueller’s investigation.
Two of the three judges who heard arguments at the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit — Judith Rogers and Thomas Griffith — seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House to be turned over.
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 would 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.
The House Committee on the Judiciary is seeking grand jury testimony and other details redacted from the public version of Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Last month, a judge ordered the US Department of Justice to turn over the redacted material, but the Trump administration appealed.
Whatever the appeals panel decides, the case is likely headed to the US Supreme Court.
Griffith said that the House had a particular need for the material since the Mueller report ultimately left it to the US Congress to decide whether Trump had obstructed the Mueller probe.
However, a third judge, Trump appointee Neomi Rao, seemed more sympathetic to the department, and asked whether the courts should get involved in a dispute over impeachment between the legislative and executive branches.
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.
Meanwhile, an aide at the US embassy in Ukraine told congressional investigators that he “had never seen anything like” the mobile phone conversation between Trump and a top diplomat.
US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had called Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv in July.
The embassy aide, David Holmes, said he overheard the conversation and that the two men seemed to refer to Trump’s wish that Ukraine open an investigation of former US vice president Joe Biden, a Democratic rival.
“There’s just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly,” Holmes said in a transcript of his closed-door testimony to the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Transcripts of the testimony by Holmes and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale were released on Monday night, as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence public hearings were about to resume.
Holmes said that Trump spoke so loudly that Sondland held the phone away from his ear at first.
Sondland told Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “loves your ass,” Holmes said.
“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’” Holmes said. “Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that President Zelenskiy will “do anything you ask him to.’”
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