Politico

Supreme Court to rule on House access to Mueller grand jury secrets


The Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to consider whether the House of Representatives should be given permission to access grand jury secrets contained in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.

The justices’ decision to hear the case was included in a routine list of high court orders made public Thursday morning.

The Trump administration asked the justices to rule on the issue after a federal appeals court in Washington issued a ruling in March upholding a lower court order granting the House request to review grand jury information deleted from the public version of Mueller’s report, as well as the underlying testimony.

The high court’s decision to take the case was widely expected after the justices stepped in two months ago, agreeing to the Justice Department’s request to put the D.C. Circuit ruling on hold.

The latest announcement almost certainly means the information will be kept under wraps through the November election. The justices will likely hear arguments in the case sometime this fall and rule sometime in 2021. The dispute might even evaporate if Democrats win the White House and the Justice Department agrees to release the details sought by lawmakers.

Last July, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee asked a judge for access to information the Justice Department withheld when it made most of Mueller’s report public. Lawyers for the House said the committee needed the uncut report as part of its impeachment investigation of Trump, but that process eventually went forward without the House seeing the details it sought.

House Democrats also argued that they needed to see the hundreds of deletions and supporting testimony to compare statements witnesses made in the Mueller investigation with statements some of those same witnesses made to the House.

Most of the redactions related to the grand jury pertain to the portion of Mueller’s investigation that focused on alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller’s inquiry into alleged obstruction of justice by Trump was conducted almost entirely through voluntary interviews, rather than grand jury testimony or subpoenas.

The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, Beryl Howell, granted the committee’s access request in October, but the Justice Department appealed the decision.

In March, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit divided, 2-1, as it upheld Howell’s ruling.

The appeals court panel ruled that the House’s request for the information as part of the impeachment process was sufficient to qualify under an exception in court rules that permits disclosure of grand jury information as part of a judicial proceeding. Although Trump was acquitted by the Senate earlier this year, the judges accepted a House argument that the theoretical possibility of another impeachment was enough to qualify.

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