WASHINGTON— The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily prevented the House of Representatives from obtaining secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The court’s unsigned order granted the Trump administration’s request to keep previously undisclosed details from the investigation out of the hands of Democratic lawmakers, at least until early summer. The court will decide then whether to extend its hold and schedule the case for arguments in the fall. If it does, it’s likely the administration will be able to put off the release of any materials until after Election Day.
For justices eager to avoid a definitive ruling, the delay could mean never having to decide the case, if either Trump loses or Republicans regain control of the House.
The federal appeals court ruled in March that the documents should be turned over because the House Judiciary Committee’s need for the material in its investigation of Trump outweighed the Justice Department’s interests in keeping the testimony secret.
Mueller’s 448-page report stopped short of reaching conclusions about Trump’s conduct, to avoid stepping on the House’s impeachment power, the appeals court said.
The committee was able to argue that it needed access to the grand jury material to make its own determinations about the president’s actions, the court said. The materials were sought last summer, but by the time the appeals court ruled in March, Trump had been impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate.
The Justice Department said in its Supreme Court filings that the court’s action was needed in part because the House hasn’t given any indication it “urgently needs these materials for any ongoing impeachment investigation.”