The United States Law Week

High Court Accepts Trump Appeal, Keeps Mueller Materials Sealed

July 2, 2020, 6:00 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court all but guaranteed House Democrats won’t get pre-election access to confidential materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, agreeing to hear a Trump administration appeal likely to extend a legal fight into next year.

The justices said they will review a lower court order that would require the Justice Department to turn over redacted parts of Mueller’s 448-page report, along with underlying grand jury transcripts and exhibits. The Supreme Court will consider the case in the nine-month term that starts in October.

The House Judiciary Committee sought the records as part of its impeachment inquiry last year. President Donald Trump was impeached on different grounds by the Democratic-controlled House before being acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

Robert Mueller attends a House Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington in July 2019.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Democrats say the materials would help them determine whether Trump committed impeachable offenses by obstructing the FBI’s and Mueller’s investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller found 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice but stopped short of determining whether Trump had engaged in obstruction.

Trump and Attorney General William Barr “are continuing to try to run out the clock on any and all accountability,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York said in an emailed statement. “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.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Brianna Herlihy said the department is “pleased the court is hearing the case.” She declined to comment further.

The administration argues that a federal trial judge lacked power to unseal the information. Grand jury materials are normally sealed, but federal rules let a judge authorize disclosure for “judicial proceedings.” The key legal question is whether that includes House impeachment inquiries.

A federal appeals court ruled that impeachment proceedings qualified, saying courts had let lawmakers see grand jury materials during the impeachment inquiries of Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

The Supreme Court in May stopped the appeals court decision from taking effect until the justices decided how to handle the case. Thursday’s order extends that hold until the high court rules.

Had the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, as the Judiciary Committee urged, the materials could have become public before the November election. The Judiciary Committee can release any information it receives with a majority vote.

The case is Department of Justice v. House Committee on the Judiciary, 19-1328.

(Updates with Justice Department comment in sixth paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

Laurie Asséo, Elizabeth Wasserman

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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