The Justice Department has formally asked the Supreme Court to block a lower court order to turn over secret grand jury material from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to a House committee.
A lower federal court in March had ruled the material could be given to the House Judiciary Committee. The justices last month temporarily stayed that congressional Democrats’ request in order to give the Justice Department time to file its appeal.
“In light of the national prominence of this grand-jury investigation, the separation-of-powers concerns raised by the decision below, and the potential damage that decision could inflict on ‘the proper functioning of our grand jury system,’” said the Justice Department, “this Court’s review is warranted.”
The House committee was given until July 1 to respond with a brief of its own. The issue is not likely to be fully resolved before the Supreme Court begins its new term in October.
After impeachment proceedings months ago, the Trump administration has been reluctant to provide any further documents to the House regarding Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Trump DOJ has said it has turned over all relevant material. They cited grand jury secrecy rules for not providing unredacted material and said federal rules only allow the release of the material for a “judicial proceeding” – arguing the impeachment inquiry did not meet that definition.
The House Judiciary Committee last month urged the justices to resolve the matter quickly, arguing further delays are causing “grave irreparable injury” to its work.
“This substantial delay will seriously endanger the Committee’s ability to complete its impeachment investigation during the current Congress— which ends not long thereafter on January 3, 2021,” they claimed.
The DOJ argued that the committee no longer has a need for the materials, given that President Trump was already impeached and acquitted, but House Democrats responded by claiming that their impeachment investigation remains ongoing and that additional articles of impeachment remain a possibility.
Mueller’s report showed that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Trump’s 2016 campaign illegally worked with Russia. A subsequent DOJ Inspector General investigation showed that the FBI made several significant omissions and inaccurate statements in order to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early stages of the Russia probe.
The DOJ is conducting a separate internal review of the Russia investigation origins led by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham.