WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is asking the Supreme Court to put off upcoming arguments about whether Congress should have access to secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The House Judiciary Committee that takes office in January “will have to determine whether it wishes to continue pursuing the application for the grand-jury materials that gave rise to this case,” Douglas Letter, the top lawyer for the House, said in a written filing Tuesday. Letter noted that President Donald Trump's defeat in his bid for reelection could affect the committee's decision.
The case is scheduled to be argued on Dec. 2.
The news comes as President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, according to five people familiar with the discussions, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into Trump, his policies and members of his administration, NBC News reported Tuesday.
Democrats initially sought the Mueller probe materials in the summer of 2019 as part of the committee's investigation of possible misconduct by Trump, including whether he obstructed Mueller's investigation. Mueller’s 448-page report, issued in April 2019, “stopped short” of reaching conclusions about Trump’s conduct to avoid stepping on the House’s impeachment power, the federal appeals court in Washington said in March when it ruled that the materials should be turned over.
By the time of the appellate ruling, Trump had been impeached by the House for his efforts to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of Democrat Joe Biden, and acquitted by the Senate.
The Supreme Court effectively kept the grand jury documents secret through the election in a series of orders in the spring and early summer.
Now it's possible the justices might never have to reach a definitive ruling in a sensitive dispute between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Democrats had suggested that previously undisclosed details from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election could reveal new misconduct that could have potentially formed the basis of new articles of impeachment.
But it's unclear how many new, or incendiary, revelations might be contained in the grand jury transcripts. Mueller’s report, though redacted in parts, revealed significant information about the president’s efforts to choke off the investigation and raised substantial questions about whether he had committed obstruction of justice.