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Supreme Court Backs Trump, Keeps Mueller Material From House for Now
By Greg Stohr
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked House Democrats for now from getting access to confidential materials from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, granting a request from President Donald Trump’s administration.
The order, which came Wednesday without noted dissent, raises new doubts about whether Democrats will see the information anytime soon, if at all. The order applies until the court acts on an appeal the administration has promised to file.
The court gave the Trump administration until June 1 to file the appeal, putting the case on a fast track that will let the justices say by July whether they will take up the case. Arguments would likely be in October at the earliest, meaning any ruling would come too late to help Democrats in the November election.
Two lower courts had ordered Justice Department officials to turn over redacted parts of Mueller’s 448-page report, along with underlying grand jury transcripts and exhibits.
Democrats say the material 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.
The administration says 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. U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the Supreme Court to put that ruling on hold.
“The government will suffer irreparable harm absent a stay,” Francisco argued. “Once the government discloses the secret grand-jury records, their secrecy will irrevocably be lost.”
House General Counsel Douglas Letter countered that lawmakers had already waited more than a year for the information.
“The committee and the public continue to suffer grave and irreparable injury each additional day the district court’s order is prevented from going into effect,” Letter wrote. “The committee is being deprived of the information it needs to exercise its weighty constitutional responsibility.”
The Judiciary Committee sought the records as part of its impeachment inquiry last year. Trump was impeached on different grounds by the Democratic-controlled House but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The case is U.S. Department of Justice v. Committee on the Judiciary, 19A1035.
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