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SCOTUS Blocks House Democrats from Getting Their Hands on Robert Mueller’s Grand Jury Materials


The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday granted the Department of Justice’s request for a stay of a lower court’s mandate, meaning that former special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury materials will not be heading to the House Judiciary Committee—for now.

The order of the Court:

The application for stay of the mandate presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted. The issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, case No. 19-5288, is stayed pending the filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari, if such petition is filed on or before June 1, 2020, by 5 p.m. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the issuance of the judgment of this Court. If no petition for a writ of certiorari is filed on or before June 1, 2020, by 5 p.m., the stay shall terminate.

In March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the DOJ must release documents long desired by House Democrats, whose lawyers have time and again raised the prospect of impeaching President Donald Trump for a second time. U.S. Circuit Judge Judith Rogers authored the decision—which was joined by retiring Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith. Trump-appointed Circuit Judge Neomi Rao authored the dissent.

In April, the DOJ asked the D.C. Circuit to stay the mandate for a “reasonable time to permit the Solicitor General to apply for a stay from the Supreme Court.” On May 1, the D.C. Circuit denied the request to stay the mandate, saying it would go into effect in 10 days. From there, the DOJ asked for and received the assistance or the Supreme Court.

On May 7, DOJ argued in a Supreme Court brief that an order to provide the grand jury materials to House Democrats would cause the department to “suffer irreparable harm.” The next day, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary stay preventing the disclosure of the grand jury materials.

Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee shot back on May 18, arguing that it was actually they who would be the ones irreparably and gravely harmed by “each additional day the district court’s order is prevented from going into effect.” Why? Because the “Committee is being deprived of the information it needs to exercise its weighty constitutional responsibility,” namely the consideration of a second impeachment.

The latest order means the Mueller’s grand jury materials will remain under lock and key for the foreseeable future. A petition for writ of certiorari will presumably be filed by the June 1 deadline. If and when SCOTUS grants that petition, the stay of the mandate could only be lifted by the ensuing judgment of the high court.

[Image via House Judiciary Committee]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.