Top Democrat: Court ruling 'wipes out' GOP claim of 'fake' impeachment

The recent court decision requiring the Trump administration to give Congress documents related to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's investigation has demolished the GOP argument that the impeachment investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE is invalid, a top Democrat said Saturday.

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHouse Democrats launch probe into NIH and FBI suspecting Chinese Americans of espionage Barr to testify before House Judiciary panel The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders, Buttigieg do battle in New Hampshire MORE (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor, said Friday's ruling by a federal judge compelling the Justice Department to release grand jury material from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is the clearest indication yet that the Democrats' impeachment process is legally sound.

"Essentially what the court found is that we have the right to obtain the grand jury materials that Attorney General [William] Barr wanted to block from us. We have a right to define the impeachment process the way we want to define it. And there's nothing wrong with what we've done," Raskin told reporters in the Capitol.  

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"Our impeachment process is totally consistent with the rules of the House, with federal law and with the Constitution of the United States. So essentially Chief Judge Beryl Howell wiped out all of the arguments that the Republicans have been making," he added.

Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have said the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, announced by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez: Trump would 'never' say to her face some of the shots he takes at her on Twitter Oversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response MORE (D-Calif.) just over a month ago, is illegitimate because Democratic leaders have refused to stage a floor vote to launch the process formally — a step that was taken during the nation's last two impeachment proceedings, targeting former President's Nixon and Clinton.

Earlier this month, White House counsel Pat Cipollone informed Democrats that the administration would not comply with the impeachment inquiry, citing the lack of a formal vote authorizing it.

"The Ukraine investigation is just as Corrupt and Fake as all of the other garbage that went on before it," Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have adopted the same argument, accusing Democrats of conducting a "secret" closed-door investigation that denies the public a window into witness testimony and other information related to Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Last Wednesday, roughly two dozen Republicans stormed into the secure deposition room to protest the impeachment procedures — a demonstration that captivated Capitol Hill and stalled the testimony of a Pentagon official for more than five hours.

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“All of us already know that this is a sham process that the Democrats are using for the 2020 elections. It's Russian collusion 2.0, which was a total hoax,” said Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksRepublican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race MORE (R-Ala.), who participated in the sit-in.

Yet Friday's ruling by Howell, a D.C. District Court judge and an Obama appointee, validated the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, finding that there's no legal requirement to stage a formal vote to launch the process.

In seeking grand jury material and redacted information surrounding Mueller's investigation from the courts, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify MORE (D-N.Y.) had cited impeachment as the underlying justification for those requests. Howell ruled it legitimate.

"In carrying out the weighty constitutional duty of determining whether impeachment of the President is warranted, Congress need not redo the nearly two years of effort spent on the Special Counsel’s investigation, nor risk being misled by witnesses, who may have provided information to the grand jury and the Special Counsel that varies from what they tell [the House Judiciary Committee]," Howell wrote in her decision.

Raskin, a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, was in the Capitol on Saturday to participate in the latest deposition in the fast-moving impeachment inquiry. Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, is testifying on his knowledge of the administration's pressure campaign on Ukrainian leaders to launch investigations into Trump's political rivals.

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Raskin declined to comment on the substance of the testimony but hammered Republicans for focusing their criticisms on the impeachment process in lieu of the substance of the evidence that's emerged.

"President Donald Trump has conducted an effort to shake down a besieged foreign ally resisting Russian aggression in order to get dirt on a political opponent. It's unprecedented in American history, it's an outrage, it's a scandal, and our Republican colleagues want to talk about anything except for that," Raskin said. "And so they've been trying to distract America with a series of frivolous process complaints."

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Army says it isn't investigating Vindman | White House outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike | Service member dies in Africa Trump administration outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike Pompeo to testify on Iran in February MORE (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, also declined to weigh in on Reeker's message. But he cheered Howell's decision and vowed that Democrats will fight any GOP effort to stonewall the investigations moving forward.

"I don't know will happen, but I don't think we'll be impeded," Engel said. "We're going to make sure that we get to the bottom, get to the truth. And any attempt by the other side to prevent us from doing that is going to be resisted.

"We're not going to play those games," he added.