Former special adviser Robert Mueller testifies before the House Permanent Intelligence Select Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Melina Mara | The Washington Post | fake pictures
The Supreme Court said Thursday that it will hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a decision that would compel the Justice Department to turn over to Congress the grand jury materials produced in the investigation of former special adviser Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the election of 2016.
The move, announced in a notoriously dissenting order, effectively denies House Democrats the opportunity to review the documents before Election Day. The votes of four judges on the nine-member panel are required to hear one case.
The case is likely to be heard in the court period beginning in October, with a decision expected in late June. President Donald Trump faces re-election against alleged Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November, meaning the case may be decided after Trump leaves office, or even dismissed for being irrelevant.
The normally secret documents were requested by the House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, which has said it is conducting an investigation into possible indictable crimes.
A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ordered the Justice Department to release the records in March. The Supreme Court temporarily suspended the appeals court ruling in late May to consider the matter.
While grand jury materials are typically closely guarded, federal law allows them to be disclosed in connection with a “court proceeding.”
House Democrats contend that an impeachment investigation qualifies as such a proceeding. They have said they are considering whether to impeach the president on new charges for which Mueller’s materials could be relevant, despite Trump’s acquittal by the Senate in February on impeachment charges related to Ukraine.
The Justice Department has said that the removal does not qualify as a judicial proceeding. In documents filed with the superior court, Attorney General Noel Francisco argued that the Democrats’ position posed significant separation of powers issues. Francisco announced last month that he would be leaving the Justice Department starting Friday.
Urging judges not to review the matter, Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House Democrats, wrote that “the Justice Department has things turned upside down.”
“The only threat to Constitutional prerogatives of Congress comes from the new position of the Department of Justice, which would categorically deny Congress access to grand jury material for use in impeachment, thereby treating a fundamental constitutional function less favorable than routine civil and criminal litigation, “Letter wrote.
Representatives of the Judicial Committee and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is the Department of Justice v. Committee of the Chamber of the Judiciary, No. 19-1328.