The Supreme Court on Thursday ensured that grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion probe will not be released before the November election, announcing they’ll consider if the Justice Department has to turn over the material next term.
House Democrats had petitioned the courts last year for the documents, looking for damaging testimony against Mr. Trump despite the Muller’s team not finding Trump-Russia collusion after nearly three years of investigation.
By taking up the case, the earliest the high court could hear oral arguments in the matter is in October, making a decision in the case unlikely until months after the Nov. 3 election.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said Attorney General William Barr broke with precedent by not working with members of Congress conducting oversight of the administration. He called on the American people to vote the Trump administration out this year.
“Unfortunately, President Trump and Attorney General Barr are continuing to try to run out the clock on any and all accountability. While I am confident their legal arguments will fail, it is now all the more important for the American people to hold the president accountable at the ballot box in November,” Mr. Nadler said.
Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, said Democrats likely wanted to get the material to leak it ahead of November to influence the election.
“This is good news for Trump,” Mr. Levey told The Washington Times.
Daniel Goldberg, legal director from the progressive Alliance for Justice, called the court’s decision a “gift” to the president.
“By taking up this case and keeping the documents sealed, the Supreme Court is all but guaranteeing that the House — and thereby the public — will not learn the full details of the Mueller report before the election. It’s a gift to Trump that he won’t need to be held accountable for these pressing questions on the fate of our democracy before voters return to the ballot box,” Mr. Goldberg said.
If presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden were to win in November, the case could potentially be moot as a Biden administration would likely hand over the material.
If Mr. Trump wins another term and the justices decide to open the grand jury documents, Democrats could rifle through the material in search of grounds for impeachment 2.0.
The grand jury material at issue was part of the full report by the special counsel on the 2016 election and the unproven allegations of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The Justice Department published a redacted version of the Mueller report and gave the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees the opportunity to review the unredacted report sans grand jury material, saying the attorney general did not have the authority to disclose those records to Congress under the federal rules of criminal procedure.
House Democrats then sought to obtain the grand jury materials, arguing they are part of the lawmakers’ judicial proceeding, citing the impeachment of the president.
The district court in Washington, D.C., as well as the circuit court, sided with the lawmakers.
The Justice Department then petitioned the Supreme Court and was granted an injunction in May halting the disclosure of the information until the justices decided whether to hear the case.
The lawmakers argued to the high court that other judges had relied on judicial proceedings to allow an exemption from any withholding of grand jury material, citing in their court documents that grand jury records were used in the impeachment investigations of President Nixon and President Clinton. They said an impeachment trial should qualify as a judicial proceeding.
But on Thursday, the high court announced it would hear the legal battle, leaving the injunction in place until the case is decided.
The Justice Department argued an impeachment trial doesn’t qualify as a judicial proceeding, so the disclosure of grand jury testimony shouldn’t be required.
“Because Congress has not authorized courts to disclose grand-jury materials in connection with impeachment proceedings, no amount of prior mistaken Executive Branch acquiescence in such disclosure can overcome that lack of authorization,” the Justice Department argued in its petition.
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