Justices put off case over access to Russia probe grand jury

Remigio Civitarese
Novembre 22, 2020

The Supreme Court on Friday removed from its calendar oral arguments in a closely watched dispute over access to secret grand jury materials from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian-collusion probe.

The court granted a request from the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which asked in court papers for a postponement given that a new Congress will convene in the first week of January 2021 and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20. The case involves a lawsuit brought by the House Judiciary Committee, seeking to get documents related to Trump compiled by Mueller's special counsel team.

The judiciary committee has been fighting for the redacted grand jury materials since summer 2019 as part of its investigation into Russian electoral interference in the 2016 US presidential election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

Lawyers for the House judiciary committee had asked for a delay for the December 2 hearing until after the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Justice Department, which is representing the Trump administration, said in filing Thursday that it did not oppose the panel's request. "Once those events occur, the newly constituted committee will have to determine whether it wishes to continue pursuing the application for the grand-jury materials that gave rise to this case".

The Justice Department asked the court to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that said the congressional committee was entitled to see the documents.

In its 2-to-1 opinion, the D.C. Circuit said the House was legally engaged in the kind of judicial process that exempts Congress from secrecy rules typically shielding grand jury materials. But there are some exceptions. "The committee believes that postponing oral argument would be in the interest of the parties and the court and may conserve judicial resources".

The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller's report and said it would provide congressional leaders with the full report minus the grand jury materials.

For now, the Supreme Court case remains alive, but it will probably be dropped early next year.

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